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New history books use photos to tell towns' stories
By Staff Writer   - 08/11/2009

Arcadia Publishing

More Info on This Book: Fort Benton

Though just a few months passed between when he signed the contract and when his book was sent to the publisher, Ken Robison has really been working on his Fort Benton history book for years.

For the past seven years, Robison has been the Overholser Historical Research Center curator. The job provided the opportunity to peruse thousands of historical photos and facts.

Robison said he also was able to lean on other Fort Benton historians, Jack Lepley and Joe Overholser both of whom have their own books about the birthplace of Montana.
For "Fort Benton," part of Arcadia Publishing's postcard history series, Robison amassed 220 photos. Each is chosen because it tells a different story about Chouteau County's long history.

The book ends in the Homestead Era, when many of the state's cities got their start.

Robison began with the Missouri River and the Native Americans who relied on it. The photos then evolve into the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the fur trade, the steamboat era and the cattle boom that came with the development of the railroad.

At the start of each chapter, Robison wrote an introduction and each photo is accompanied by a historical tale and facts.

"You can have enough words to tell short anecdotes and a get a flow of history through the words and the photos," Robison said.

Some of the photos have never been seen before, including pictures of the inside of the famous Chouteau House. Others were chosen to tell little-known stories about Fort Benton's past, including the important roles played by black and Chinese workers.

Robison signed books for two hours this past weekend at Hastings and will be at Barnes and Noble in Great Falls on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. The book can be purchased at both bookstores and in Fort Benton at The River Press, the bookstore or any museum.

In September, he'll be giving a presentation at the Great Falls Public Library and in October, he'll be talking to the Chouteau County Friends of the Library.

Hill Co. History
HAVRE Emily Ann Mayer, a descendent of one of Havre's founding families, also has authored a photo history book for Arcadia Publishing.

Images new and old fill the 127-page book, which relies on photos in the Earl Clack Museum and the MSU-Northern archives.

Havre's history begins with the construction of Fort Assiniboine in 1879. Mayer served on the Fort Assiniboine Board, once managed the Clack Museum and founded the local preservation commission.

The book highlights Havre's boom during prohibition when its proximity to Canada made it the place for booze to flow and made money for those willing to take risks trafficking it.

Another author
CONRAD Comfortable writing for adults, Patrick Shannon had to change gears to pen his latest book, "Viva Cisco," a tale about parrots aimed at 'tweens.

The Conrad man is used to changing gears, spending 33 years working for an oil company before finding joy in retirement as a writer.

As a child, Shannon watched Disney animators, including his uncle, as they illustrated their way through the process.

Their work influenced him as he wrote the story inspired by the street he lived on in Albuquerque, N.M., Parrot Run.
In the tradition of fantastical stories like "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wind in the Willows," the book shares three adventures of a parrot named Cisco, who is trying to learn a skill that will bring him fame.

Before publishing his tome, Shannon first had a 13-year-old read it and make suggestions, which included expanding the vocabulary.

"Viva Cisco" is available at the Conrad Public Library and the Utterback Middle School library. It is available for order online at www.outskirtspress.com/vivacisco.

Buy It Now: Fort Benton $21.99

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