Montana State Capitol, Montana


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Freezing in the snow

After walking around the city and coming across its nice citizens, Long and I headed back to the car. But we first decided to look at the State Capitol just in case it was open. We walked through the snow pavements and passed by a statue of a man in front of the Capitol.

It was still snowing and under 30 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were greeted by this bronze statue on a horse and we read the inscription underneath the monument. Here is a brief history of the former governor.

Thomas Francis Meagher

“Thomas Francis Meagher, Irish revolutionary leader and orator who served as a Union officer during the American Civil War (1861–65).


Meagher became a member of the Young Ireland Party in 1845 and in 1847 was one of the founders of the Irish Confederation, dedicated to Irish independence. In 1848 he was involved, with William Smith O’Brien, in an abortive attempt to mount an insurrection against English rule. Arrested for high treason, he was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

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Statue in front of the State Capitol

He escaped in 1852 and made his way to the United States. After a speaking tour of U.S. cities, he settled in New York City, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1855. He soon became a leader of the Irish in New York and, from 1856, edited the Irish News.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Meagher became a captain of New York volunteers and fought at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861). He then organized the Irish Brigade, and in February 1862 was elevated to the rank of brigadier general. After his brigade was decimated at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863), Meagher resigned his commission, but in December he returned to command the military district of Etowah, with headquarters at Chattanooga, Tenn.

At the close of the war, he was appointed secretary of Montana Territory, where in the absence of a territorial governor he served as acting governor until his accidental death by drowning in the Missouri River.”

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 After that brief moment with the colorful governor we hurriedly went inside of the capitol for the warmth of the building. We entered through under the main stairs which seemed to be the basement. The ceilings were low and the whole hall was empty. But there were information about the capitol on the walls and on the middle of the corridors. Here is the history of the capitol.

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“A design competition for the building was conducted in 1896. The commission selected a design by George R. Mann as the winner. In 1897, after it was found that the Commission was planning to scam money from the building project, it was disbanded and a second Capitol Commission was convened. The new Commission abandoned Mann’s plan as being too costly, and had a second design competition, won by Charles Emlen Bell and John Hackett Kent, of Bell & Kent of Council Bluffs, Iowa. In order to have their design built, Bell & Kent relocated their office to Helena.

While Mann’s building was never built in Montana, it was selected later as the basic design for the Arkansas State Capitol.

The winning design by Bell & Kent had been altered already during the construction phase, when in 1901 the commission asked for the structure to be made more imposing by increasing the height of the dome. Kent opposed the changes, as his original low spherical dome was meant to be “pure Greek”, but Bell advocated the commission’s request.

Between 1909 and 1912, the building was extended by the addition of two new wings on the eastern and western sides. This work was executed by Link & Haire, architects of Butte, with F. M. Andrews & Company of New York as consulting architects.”

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The State Capitol

We walked up the grand stairs and still the building was still empty.  Up the stairs was a huge window overlooking the outside and a bench with two statues of a man and a woman on each side. Long went to sit while I looked at the information about those people. First I looked at the man on the left.

Wilbur Fisk Sanders (1834-1905)

Born in rural New York in 1834, Wilbur Fisk Sanders taught school in New York and Ohio before studying law. In 1863 Sanders moved to Bannack, Idaho Territory-soon to become Montana Territory-with his uncle, Sidney Edgerton, the territory’s newly appointed chief justice.

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Mr. Sanders

A lawyer, a Mason, and a Union veteran of the Civil War, Sanders is best remembered as an early prosecuting attorney and one of the organizers of the Vigilantes. Inscribed at the base of his statue is “Men Do Your Duty,” the words used to order the hanging of mad agent. George Ives, prosecuted by Sanders and convicted of murder by a miners’ court in 1863.

Keenly aware of the need to document Montana’s early history. Sanders helped found the Historical Society of Montana in 1865, the year after Montana Territory was established. A Republican Party activist surrounded by Democrats, Sanders was a perennially unsuccessful candidate for territorial representative. In 1889 the Montana legislature selected him to serve as one of Montana’s first United States senators. He served as senator from 1890 to 1893, returning to Helena after running unsuccessfully for a second term. He died in Helena in 1905.”

Then I looked at the statue of the woman on the right.

Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)

Jeannette Rankin was born near Missoula in Montana Territory in 1880. She graduated from the newly formed state university in Missoula in 1902. After studying social work at the New York School of Philanthropy, Rankin joined the campaign for woman’s suffrage, lecturing and organizing in New York, Washington, California and Montana.

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Ms. Rankin

Montanans gave women the right to vote in 1914 and elected Rankin to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. She was the first woman democratically elected to any national legislative body. Rankin’s first vote in the House was against America’s entry into World War I. Defeated in her bid for reelection, Rankin purchased a home in Georgia and continued to work for world peace and women’s rights.

Rankin divided her time between Georgia and Montana until 1940, when she returned to Montana to run once again for Congress. Elected to the House, she cast a lone dissenting vote against the United States’ entry into World War II. That vote destroyed her political career, however, her commitment to nonviolence never faded. In 1967 the 87 year-old activist led the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, named in her honor, in a protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C, She died in California in 1971.”

Then we went up another stairs and to the rotunda which was so big and beautiful. There were four circular paintings surrounding it. Each one was unique and represents the people of Montana. We walk around the rotunda and took plenty of pictures. It was an amazing sign to behold to know more about the history of the rotunda here it is.

“These paintings, painted for the Capitol opening in 1902 by the firm of F. Pedretti’s Sons, depict four important archetypes of people of Montana’s early history: a native American (intended to be of Chief Charlo), an explorer and fur trapper (Jim Bridger), a gold miner (Henry Finnis Edgar, one of the discoverers of gold at Alder Gulch), and a cowboy (unidentified, but said to be inspired by the works of C.M. Russell). The Pendretti brothers provided additional commissioned artwork in the Senate and Old Supreme Court Chambers.”

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Husband and wife

Amazing and beautiful I tend to linger around and just look at the paintings. One of the most unique things I saw in my entire life. We walk around and saw a limited edition bronze plaque of the “Lewis and Clark: We Proceeded On.”

Another is the historic bell in which in Montana’s 100th birthday on November 8, 1989 at 10:40am, was from a church in St. Ignatious area. Donated by the Brent Bliss Family of Great Falls and Dutton in memory of Elmer B. Bliss, Power-area farmer, who collected historic bells.

Then we left and went on our way. I heard there was a tour of the capitol at a certain times but it was almost time for closing so Me and Long head out. We went on the same way we went in and the whole place was still empty. We went back to the parking lot and start on our journey back to Butte and down to Idaho. A fun experience in the capitol and I will say it again it was beautiful.

Here is the link for the tours:

Here are the links for more information:

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Say Cheez!

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