The announcement of a new book, “The ‘Sneakin’est’ Man That Ever Was: Headline Stories of Montana’s Early Days – Harmon’s Histories Vol. 1,” which includes dozens of stories from Montana’s early days written by Missoula Current history columnist Jim Harmon was made last week by Stoneydale Press of Stevensville. Jim Harmon is a retired journalist whose near-fifty-year career included three decades in Missoula as a TV reporter, news anchor and weather forecaster. In retirement, the Montana native is a history buff who’s spent a decade researching fascinating stories from Montana’s past.
The stories are based on actual newspaper accounts from the latter 19th century in Missoula’s Western Democrat, Weekly Missoulian and Weekly Gazette as well as Stevensville’s Northwest Tribune and Ravalli Republican plus the Anaconda Standard and other papers. Other tales were passed along from families and friends.
Stories such as “Coyote Bill,” the old guy who lived up Missoula’s Rattlesnake Valley. Some thought he was mad. Others thought he was “the sneakin’est man that ever was.” He certainly wasn’t very friendly. The story of K. F. W. Beeskove (a.k.a. “Coyote Bill”) is just one of the nearly lost gems of history documented by the newspaper reporters of early-day Montana.
The quill-drivers of those days saw it all — the swell-set entertaining lavishly, enjoying Herr Daniel Bandmann’s Shakespearean productions at the opera house, while the saloons and houses of Missoula’s “Midway Plaisance” gave the city a reputation as one of the worst places in the state for drug-related crime and murder.
You’ll meet characters like Libby’s Dunn Creek Nell. You’ll read about visiting celebrities Al Jolson and Mark Twain. You’ll likely be both impressed and troubled by accounts of progress and prejudices, while being delighted by quirky accounts of a kangaroo in St. Regis and chicken fanciers in Missoula.
Harmon was always curious about early journalists, having been in the same career, but he was particularly interested in their subject matter and their writing styles. “It quickly became a passion, I started transferring the microfilm to digital files, cataloging the stories and sharing them with friends. In 2016, I began sharing them more widely through a weekly column in the Missoula Current. Many readers encouraged me to put some of these ‘long-lost gems’ into a book. So here you are – 46 stories from Montana’s early days.”
Harmon’s new book, “The ‘Sneakin’est’ Man That Ever Was: Headline Stories of Montana’s Early Days – Harmon’s Histories Vol. 1,” was issued in 6×9-inch softcover format, has 184 pages, features numerous black and white photographs and historic newspaper articles, and retails for $19.95. Release date is October 31, 2020 and is available at harmonshistories.com.
The book can also be purchased direct from Stoneydale Press at 523 Main Street, Stevensville, MT 59870, 406-777-2729, and at many retailers throughout the Bitterroot valley and in Missoula.