A member of the H. Earl Clack Museum board, who is also president of the Fort Assinniboine Preservation Association, told the museum board this week that several historical items about the fort have been trickling in, with more on the way, to be transferred to the museum once displays are prepared.
Board member Gary Wilson said this morning that several items have been coming in, from as far away as Australia.
A woman in Australia called him unexpectedly, asking if he wanted her to send a pass in her possession written to a soldier at the fort, he said, adding that calls like that happen from time to time.
The pass is simply a piece of paper, cut in half with a knife - "They didn't even use a ruler," Wilson said - with the name of the soldier and the approving signature on it.
The fort is prominent in the history of this region. It was was established in 1879 following the defeat of George Armstrong Custer's forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn and the surrender of Chief Joseph the Younger and the Nez Perce at the Battle of the Bear Paws.
Fort Assinniboine was one of the largest military installations west of the Mississippi River. In its heyday, before being decommissioned in 1911, the fort had 104 buildings and was contained within a 700-acre military reservation. It housed the "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 10th Cavalry that went on to fame in the Spanish-American War, including John "Black Jack" Pershing, who went on to become the leader of Allied forces in World War I.
After the fort was decommissioned, it was approved to house a college in north-central Montana, but that was never funded. The college, Northern Montana College that became Montana State University-Northern, later was established in Havre, and the Northern Agricultural Research Center was established in the fort buildings and on part of the former military land in 1915.
Wilson said that as displays to show and protect the items are crafted, the preservation association will transfer items to the H. Earl Clack Museum, including a lantern given by the Havre Volunteer Fire Department to its assistant chief, Carroll McCulloch, on his retirement.
Wilson said McCulloch was part of the Broadwater-McCulloch trading post at Fort Assinniboine and that he has been working with the McCulloch family for some 10 years collecting artifacts from the fort.
The lantern was given to McCulloch when he married and left his position with the fire department and eventually will be displayed in the museum, Wilson said.
Another McCulloch artifact is a quilt given to Carroll McCulloch by his young wife, valued at $45,000, Wilson said.
As soon as a display case is ready, the family will donate that quilt to the association, which will transfer it to the museum for display, he said.