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Montana's Enduring Frontier
Small Town Bound
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John Clayton's new book, published in May 2013, is "Stories from Montana's Enduring Frontier: Exploring an Untamed Legacy."
The book collects 27 of John's essays on Montana history, composed over a 20-year timespan. Several of the essays were first published in
magazines such as Montana Magazine and The Montana Quarterly. Others are available for the first time. The book also includes more than 30 illustrations.
From the back cover:
At the turn of the twentieth century, Montana started emerging from its rugged past. Permanent towns and cities, powered by mining, tourism, and trade, replaced ramshackle outposts. Yet Montana's frontier endured, both in remote pockets and in the wider cultural imagination. The frontier thus played a continuing role in Montanans' lives, often in fascinating ways. Author John Clayton has written extensively on these shifts in Montana history, chronicling the breadth of the frontier's legacy with this diverse collection of stories. Explore the remnants of Montana's frontier through stories of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Beartooth Highway, and the lost mining camp of Swift Current -- and through legendary characters such as Charlie Russell, Haydie Yates, and "Liver-Eating" Johnston.
From the introduction:
When it comes to the history of Montana and the American West, I say enough with the Indian fights, vigilantes, and cattle drives. What I find compelling is when places start actually filling up with people, such that those activities necessarily fade. In this phase, like a teenager coming to grips with what kind of person he or she is going to be, the region starts developing a personality -- one that shapes its future.
As Montana's frontier faded, Montanans started building communities. Of course, there had always been communities in the vaguer sense of the word: links among groups of Native Americans, trappers, soldiers, prospectors, or far-flung ranchers. But physical communities -- towns and cities each with an economic and social and architectural structure -- could arise only when there were enough people to both need and create them. So what did that process look like in Montana? What dreams did the state's natural splendor inspire? How often did those dreams succeed, how often were they further elevated into myth, and how often did they collide with hardscrabble reality to hone the character of everyone involved? That's what I'm always writing about.
Montana didn't run out of frontier all at once. Along the Butte-Miles City railroad corridor (see p. 12), it was vanishing in the 1890s. In the imagined metropolis of Mossmain (see p. 30), the post-frontier age was going to arrive about 1914, but then evaporated. And when I visited a particular spot in the wilderness outside Yellowstone National Park in 2002 (see p. 44), the frontier there seemed to be cantankerously thriving.
"The book chronicles how Montana's frontier image endured, even as permanent towns powered by new industries sprang up. Clayton examines that shifts in the state's legacy with a diverse collection of stories, on such subjects as the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Beartooth Highway, and the lost mining camp of Swift Current and such legendary characters as Charlie Russell, Haydie Yates, and "Liver-eating" Johnston." --Billings Gazette
"When it comes to digging up obscure Montana history, and best of all taking it somewhere, Clayton is like a divining rod. For him the digging 'doesn't seem difficult.'" --Alastair Baker, Carbon County News
The book is published by The History Press. Its ISBN is 978-1626190160. It's available through
all traditional and online booksellers -- all you need is that number or the title.
You can order through the publisher here: https://historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Stories-from-Montana%27s-Enduring-Frontier/9781626190160.
If you prefer amazon.com, the book's page is here: Stories from Montana's Enduring Frontier: Exploring an Untamed Legacy. Or you could support one of the author's favorite independent bookstores, Bozeman's Country Bookshelf.
To join the book's Facebook community, and thus get updates on events and follow-up conversations, please visit this page. (You can also connect with the author via social media as