Whitefish Schools (More)

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

The first children in the Whitefish area went to school in Columbia Falls, driven there usually by ox team, sometimes by horse or sleigh. The children were few, because pioneers tended to be young men, single or newly married, and both women and children were scarce in the earliest years.

In January, 1904, a school was operating with public funds for a trial period of three months in the church on the hill north of the railroad tracks (the Presbyterian church). Its teacher was a Miss L. M. Light of Spokane. Board members were W. S. Dodge, John E. Skyles, and R. I. Oliver, Charles Bayha was clerk.

When the Great Northern required a few months later that all trainmen baring their families to the new division point, the Whitefish school situation for September, 1904, became critical. A contract for $2,387 was let to W. I. Miller to construct a school beside the Whitefish River at Railway Street. Two rooms only were ready and occupied in the fall of 1904; about sixty children attended, E. M. Hutchinson and Miss Nellie Monk were teachers. Although the plans called for an additional room, a basement, and a hot-air heating plant, these were not ready the first year.

A third room was added in 1905 by conversion of the janitor’s room into a classroom. As families grew, the building was added to repeatedly until it had eight rooms. It was used until 1913, when new schools were opened. It was finally town down April 4, 1936, by Walter Kaber, who had bought it from the school board.

The first school principal was E. M. Hutchinson. He was followed by B. F. Maiden in 1906, J. W. Wheat, Bert E. Gibson, and H. L. Gloyde, who was the first given the title of superintendent. Gloyde was followed by Harry L. Hayden, who served from 1911 to 1923, except for one year in Polson, when he feared rumors that the division point would leave Whitefish might be true. Hayden followed by E. A. Hinderman, who served thirty years, retiring in 1953. After “Hindy” came W. S. Mikel (1953-57, Winton W. Wetzel (1957-60, and Lloyd Muldown (1960-71), Russell Giesy, who had been high school principal for many years, became superintendent when “Mullie” retired.

Most of our information about the first years of Whitefish schools comes from the Minutes of the Board of Trustees between September 12, 1905, and May 15, 1912, a book lost for many years, but found under the rafters in the wall when the upstairs balcony of Central School was remodeled and made into a classroom in 1965. Eldon Lee, a member of the board and clerk from 1942 to 1967, found the book and turned it over to the Whitefish library. It makes fascinating reading, sometimes sketchy, but always reflecting the diligence and dedication to education of these early Whitefish citizens.

The school board in 1905 was made up of R. L. Oliver, W. F. Doonan, and J. A. Monk. C. A. Matthews was clerk. Regular board meetings were held quarterly.

The board was directly concerned with the hiring of teachers in those days, and they hired Miss Frances Mahan in 1906 for $70 a month, Miss Marie Shoaf in 1908 and Miss Olivia Forcum in 1910, “providing she has the proper credentials.” Evidently she did, for Miss Olivia taught school in Whitefish from 1910 until 1940, when she retired at the age of seventy-four. In February, 1956, the entire community celebrated her ninetieth birthday. E. A. Hinderman, under whom she taught for many years, once said that whereas many teachers were too old to teach at sixty, he would have kept Olivia Forcum on into her eighties if he could.

The early school board was responsible for raising all moneys needed by the schools; there were no state or federal handouts in those days. Perhaps for the reason, board members kept their eyes carefully focused on the taxpayers’ purses and did not waste pennies.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorWhitefish Schools (More)

Whitefish Schools

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

At a school board meeting on November 6, 1920, the board solemnly resolved that “girls coming to school with artificial complexions must remove same with soap and water as a condition of entering classes.” School dances were forbidden, a ruling that was said to have increased attendance considerably in public dance halls.

By 1925 there were 21 grade school teachers in the Whitefish school system and 1,035 elementary school children. There were 175 students in the high school.

A new gymnasium was built in 1927-by a two-year mill levy raising $34,000. It was formally opened December 9, 1927. A marker twelve feet high reading WHITEFISH was placed on the gym roof to help airplanes. It had an arrow pointing north. Unfortunately the arrow did not point true north, and a second arrow had to be added.

By this time, of course, Hayden had left Whitefish and been replaced in 1923 by E. A. Hinderman (“Hindy”) as superintendent. Hindy brought a lot of changes. Excerpts from an article written by Dorothy Johnson at the time of his retirement in 1953 help to explain the man;

“…It’s hard to imagine him as retired-he is wired for high voltage. His curly hair is white, and sometimes he limps a little, but he gives the impression that he could still make the winning touchdown.”

Hindy was born in Reichenweier, Alsace, Germany.

“He and his roommate, Vic Cassidy, had set themselves a goal – $100,000 apiece by the time they reached 40. Cassidy made it, but not in teaching school.”

Hindy came west in 1911, worked at many odd jobs, was principal at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.

“In 1923 he started his work at Whitefish, not guessing that the job would last for 30 years. He made athletics hum and kept a lot of boys going to school because they couldn’t play football if they didn’t. Education wasn’t popular 30 years ago in
Whitefish –it was all right for girls, who weren’t good for much anyway, but a boy could fib a little about his age and get a job on the railroad. E. A. Hinderman changed that.

“By 1928, Whitefish had the best high school gym in Montana. It had a good band the year before and was one of the first schools in western Montana to make visual education part of the program. Hindy had the first movie projector for school use in the western part of the state, took his own movies and showed them by invitation at a lot of other schools.

“He coached all sports his first three years and kept on with football until ten years ago Whitefish won the football district championship three times under the tough tough old system in which big and little schools competed on an equal basis-and Whitefish was a little school. But the Bulldogs chalked up victories over Missoula, Havre, Great Falls, Butte Central, and Flathead High in Kalispell.

“In 1938 Superintendent Hinderman faced a problem that kids, but not school Superintendents sometimes pray for. The school started to fall down.

“The old central plant, opened about 1912, was built of defective brick and without sound supporting beams. An earthquake shock weakened it, bowing one wall so that it was noticeably out of true. Part of the school was still safe, but the main part had to be rebuilt at once, and school had to keep anyway Hindy made plans to hold classes in the school gym and church basements. But the condition was hideous, with groups of students in the bleachers and on the gym floor, and parents said the church basement couldn’t be heated property.

“Hindy went to see the local division superintendent of the Great Northern Railway…who…telephoned headquarters in St. Paul and in fifteen minutes had permission to set out passenger coaches for classrooms. Next day men started laying track to a point just west of the school gymnasium. And in a week, the kids started going to school, two classes to a coach. Men faculty provided heat for the temporary schoolrooms. A threshing machine engine made steam alongside, with a 40-foot culvert upended for a smokestack.

“After all his efforts, Hindy amost didn’t live to see a new school building completed. Two floors of the old building, which was being demolished, collapsed thirty seconds after he had walked under the spot where they tumbled into ruins.

“Hindy never did get rich. He gave up the idea. But a few years ago Vic Cassidy, who did (in California peach land and the newspaper business) came through Whitefish and met part of the Hinderman family-the Missus and Dan and Marcia. His comment was, ‘Dutch, I’d trade with you any time!”

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorWhitefish Schools

The Schools

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

At their meeting of June 30, 1911, the board for the first time discussed the need for a new building on a new site. The eight existing rooms were inadequate and could hardly be expanded further, the fear of drownings was constant.

The chairman of the board appointed Messrs. Crum, Cremans, and Ferguson to investigate a new site for a school, and a bond issue was determined upon. An election was set for December 2, 1911, which would authorize the board to “issue coupon bonds to the amount of $124,000, $8,000 of which shall be used for a Lakeside school and $16000 for a city high school.” The bonds were to earn not more than 6%. Results of the election were:

City High School bonds… Yes 213 votes
No 91 votes
Lakeside School Bonds…Yes 233 votes
No 85 votes

In 1912 the bonds were issued and sold, the lots were bought from the Whitefish Townsite Company, and contractor B. B. Gilliland and architect M. B. Riffo, both of Kalispell, were selected. An annual report of the clerk covering finances from May 1, 1911, through April 20 1912, showed total income and disbursements of $25,384.11 for the operation of the school, including a total teachers’ salaries item of $6,276.34. This included the superintendent, some six to eight teachers, and substitutes!

Proceeds from the sale of bonds was listed as $25,200, and it was anticipated that this would purchase two building sites and build two schoolhouses, an elementary school in Lakeside and an elementary and high school combined in Whitefish proper. Both were completed in 1913. The old riverside school and its site were put up for sale. For the first time in January, 1913, no school bell rang: “We will miss the Dear Old Bell,” wrote the Pilot editor.”

During all the years covered by the Minutes found by Mr. Lee-that is, from 1905 through 1912-the school operated on a mill levy of five mills, though regularly ½ mill was added for an interest and sinking fund, and sometimes there was 1 mill added to the levies for building. Occasionally the need to be extremely Scotch with the taxpayers’ money did lead to regrettable results. Unfortunately the first central and the Lakeside school built in
Built in 1912-13 did not last well. The Lakeside school was abandoned in 1940. The central school had to be renovated, added to, practically rebuilt in 1938.

The first graduating class from the new high school consisted of one graduate, Dorcas Ferguson, in 1914. Montana H.V. No. 129, when it became law in 1913, made it legal for a district high school (Whitefish, for example) to be established independent of a county high school (Flathead, for example). Consequently Whitefish was no longer required to pay for support of the county high school. Whitefish had reportedly been paying approximately $4,000 a year in tax moneys for the county high school, yet had never had more than two students attending there. The new central school opened on March 13, 1913, and the high school met in one room of it. To be accredited as a high school, Whitefish High School had to have at least one graduate. Dorcas was it. Board Chairman J. A. Monk gave her graduation address; William Bugg and Vera Pottle were her proud teachers. In addition to Dorcas, there were in high school in 1914 one junior, five sophomores, and fourteen freshmen. The school building continued also eight elementary grades. Lakeside school had the first four grades only.

During the next years, references to the schools in the Pilot are infrequent and few other records have been found. In June, 1915, the school board voted to build a portable stable for students’ horses. Night school classes commenced, commercial courses were offered at a charge of $5 a month; and whenever there were as many as five registered for a class, courses in dressmaking, cooking, and languages could also be arranged.

In 1916 the Whitefish High School debating team placed third in the Northwest Montana interscholastic. In the same year a new domestic science building was set up, and this would serve many community interests during succeeding years, serving as a hospital during epidemic and as a headquarters for adult education and other projects. By September, 1919, the Pilot’s new editor was complaining of overcrowding in the schools. “Housing of School Children Serious Local Problem.”

In October, 1919, a 20-mill levy to provide $16,000 for additional facilities was passed, and Archibald G. Riggs of Spokane was appointed architect to plan for two new wings and a centralized school system. The general contract was awarded to Frank Pival of Libby for $51,365 and the plumbing and heating contract went to Whitefish Sheet Metal and Plumbing for $25,450. The school on Second Street was given two new wings and a temporary gymnasium. Lakeside school was still in use.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorThe Schools

Japanese in Whitefish – Part 3

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

Maurice Cusick of Whitefish, long with the Montana State Forestry Department, tells the story of one Japanese who lived in the Whitefish area up to 1918:

“The China Basin, approximately one mile north of Werner Peak was named for a Japanese trapper who died there during the flu-epidemic in 1918. To (many of the) oldtimers all Orientals were ‘chinamen’ so the China Basin.”

“The trapper was Ichinojo Skurai, a native of Hatsubara, Japan. He had trapped for several years along the Whitefish Divide from Canada in Whitefish.

“On October 26, 1918, he left Olney to start trapping on Werner Peak. Some days later his dogs came back to Olney. The local Japanese immediately started a search. They employed B ill Murphy to go to the cabin near Werner and search the area. There had been a fall blizzard which had covered all sign, so the search was laid aside until the following spring. The Japanese offered a sizeable reward to anyone finding the body.

“On approximately June 9, 1919, Bill Murphy found the body a few hundred yards from the cabin under an alpine fir tree. He evidently had become exhausted and took shelter there. Some say that he was sick when he left Olney.

“The coroner, J.E. Waggener, was at a loss as to what to do with the body which was approximately 22 miles from the nearest road. At Peter DeGroot’s suggestion he decided to let the Japanese take care of the remains.

“On June 11, 1919, J. E. Waggener, Bill Murphy and several Japanese from Olney and Whitefish went to the China Basin. The Japanese held a ceremony, built a large bonfire and cremated the remains. They gathered the ashes and later returned them to Japan.

“Those who knew Ishinojo Sakurai believed him to be a Japanese soldier and I believe that they were right”

Around 1927 special services at the Presbyterian Church in Whitefish were held for the Japanese several times by the Reverend V. G. Murphy of Seattle, a missionary to Japan who spoke Japanese “like a native.” The Japanese who remain in Whitefish today remember him with appreciation. They also remember Mars. Elizabeth Peck, who taught English to over 400 Japanese residents of Whitefish during a fifteen-year period.” In her memory there is a stained glass window in the Presbyterian Church of Whitefish, put there “by the Japanese”. Mrs. R. H. Pond aided both Japanese and other foreigners to study for U.S. naturalization. The American Legion Auxiliary and Mrs. Roy Arnold continued this work into the 50’s.

Today the Horis and Masuokas, the Shiomis and Hatsukanos and Kusumotos have disappeared from Whitefish, The old folks have died, gone to retirement homes, or returned to Japan. The young people have moved away, many of them to Spokane or Seattle, for better opportunities. Remaining a re only the Muraokas, the Sakaharas, the Kajiwaras, Don Suga, and one railroad retiree, named Niki Kikuo, who lives alone in the old Samson block building.

The Chinese, rather than the Japanese, bore the full brunt of Whitefish prejudice. As already mentioned, in January, 1904, all Chinese were being escorted out of town in the direction of Kalispell or Columbia Falls. By October of the same year.

“The Chinks are getting a strong foothold in Whitefish and are making an effort to corral the restaurant business. Ten-Day Jimmy, when he saw a yellow invasion threatened, concluded to change his base. The Caucasians are to blame…Lack of reliable white help in the kitchens is responsible…for the presence of John and his cousins.”

Chinese “noodle joints” were repeatedly described by the Pilot in derogatory style. The Chinese New Year-celebrated for two full weeks in the Chinese settlement-was treated in facetious mood. The Chinese and their eating establishments either were, or were considered to be, often unsanitary, “dirty.” A Whitefish woman remembers being asked. “But would you like to sit on the train next to a Chink?”

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorJapanese in Whitefish – Part 3

That Memorable Year, 1910

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

By 1910, after five years as an incorporated town, Whitefish had 1479 people, a business district primarily along Central Avenue and Second Street, a water system, a light and power plant, telephones, some wooden sidewalks and a couple of crosswalks, some graded streets, some filled gullies. Sewers were under discussion, though not yet approved.

The parking problem on Central Avenue had been discussed. “How can hitching of horses on Central Avenue be discourages?” Progress, improvement, beautification were the style, for the first time citizens were sure that their town had a future, and they were in the mood to build for permanency. By March, 1911, the council would have adopted a resolution making Whitefish “a city of the third class,” i.e. over 1,000 population.

The year 1910 is worth special attention. In that year Whitefish, in a sense, became “modern,” or at least established the directions in which future development and a glorious future, and a willingness to work for what lay ahead. Lawns were planted and trees brought in from the woods and from “outside.” H.T. Mayfield became mayor and a very active mayor he was.

Because this is, then, a critical year, week-by-week notes from the files of the Whitefish Pilot seem in order. They give both the major events of the year and the “flavor” of the period.

A non-advertiser known to have been in operation at this time was the Club Bo9wling Alleys, Deeringer and Coffey, proprietors. The Whitefish Steam Laundry, George Midzutani proprietor, was about to start operation, but had not yet opened.

Headlines, items, and stories from the Whitefish Pilots of 1910 follow, together with further information on such stories as the forest fires of 1910, Carrie Nation’s visit to Whitefish, and the general interest in Halley’s comet.

January 13-Headlines:

“lst National Bank to Erect New Building-Stability of Town Firmly Established-Biggest Roost Whitefish Ever Had-Substantial 2-storey Brick ‘Building-Architect Riffo of Kalispell.”

January 20:

The Somers Lumber Company lets contracts for 8 to 9 million feet of logs before spring.

There is a complete new heating plant for the roundhouse.

Two companies are making plans for electric railway lines. One is the Whitefish and Polson Electric Railway Company. (For over two years, this company proceeded to survey, plan, finance, even hire workers for an interurban service between Polson and Whitefish. There was considerable excitement about it, as it was considered a big step forward for Whitefish to be the north terminal of such a line. But the reader knows what happened nationwide to electric interurbans! The second company never got very far even with its plans.)

J.H. McCabe prominent businessman and long-time citizen of Whitefish moved to Spokane. He had already sold his store to Jaqueth and Johns.

January 27:

Enginemen will no longer have seniority rights outside their own divisions.

Destructive land and snow slides owing to warm weather and rains are occurring along the Great Northern. There is much resulting loss of property and demoralized traffic over the entire system. Two slides at Highgate (near the Summit) resulted in deaths. In the first, four men are buried in the snow, and only two get out alive. The second slide kills a third man. There are also serious slides at Paola and Highland.

Whitefish loses both its popular band director, A.P. Sheridan, and its fine violinist, Dennis Kelley. Both move away.

E.M. Hutchinson, Whitefish representative in the last legislature in Helena, is to run for the Senate.

At the Chamber of Commerce meeting, urgent need for sewers tables the lesser need for a library.

Mrs. Jemima Duncan announces that she plans to build a new brick building on Second Street.

February 3:

Conductor Ollie Fisher is “blown from his train at Midvale.” He is in the hospital, but is doing all right.

Brakeman McKenzie has to jump from a coal chute during the blizzard at Browning. He was pulling some cars on the chute. He was bruised badly, but fortunately not killed.

L.W. Hill, GN President, announces plans for establishing experimental farms.

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorThat Memorable Year, 1910

The Fourth of July in Whitefish, Montana

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

Until 1908, celebration of the Fourth had been well intentioned, but disorganized. Families had picnics, there were sometimes fireworks, there were bands and patriotic speeches in the ball park. In 1906 the band marched from town to the lake, and a six-mile gasoline launch cup race was won by Judge Joseph Reed and J. A. Tillett. In 1907, however, nothing had been planned, and many actually traveled to Kalispell to get any celebration at all. This disappointed many and hurt their pride as well. In 1908 the town decided on a “real” celebration. It lasted three glorious days!

log rolling

Log Rolling at City beach, 4th of July, 1923

Whitefish Pilots of the time, edited then by E. A. Southwick and C. E. Clemens, ran banner headlines beginning June 19, and according to their after-the-event issue of July 10, everybody had one whale of a good time. This is evidenced also by the fact that when contacted only a few years ago, some Whitefish oldtimers still remembered it as one of the memorable events of their long lifetimes.

Festivities were opened by the city’s band and patriotic speeches in the ballpark, which was then on the “outskirts” of town at Columbia Avenue and Second Street. The rest of Saturday was primarily for children and athletes. The Columbia Falls baseball team failed to show for the scheduled game in the morning, so kids’ races and competitions of all kinds for all ages were held then, with prizes for all winners. There was also a tug-of-war between railroad firemen and brakemen. By four o’clock the Columbia Falls team had arrived, so the game commenced, and Whitefish joyfully clobbered Columbia Falls
19 to 8.

The next day, with similar joy, Whitefish beat Libby 10 to 1.

Most of Sunday, however, was spent at Point of Pines, where there were boat races, swimming, dancing, and family picnics. The only semi-failure of the entire day’s festivities was that the crowd wanting to go to Point of Pines had been underestimated, so that boats going there were too few and badly over-crowded. Many citizens had to cool their heels on Whitefish dock for some time before catching a ride, and many a sandwich was surreptitiously sneaked from a picnic basket before ever boarding a boat.

The biggest and most memorable day was the last one, Monday, the sixth. All arrangements for this day had been turned over to the Japanese contingent in town, and they “went all out”. Japanese athletes were brought into town from the length of the Great Northern railroad tracks, where they were working as laborers, and there were wrestling matches between those who came from east of Whitefish and those who came from the west. There were also expert jiu jitsu demonstrations. In the evening there was a “pyrotechnic” parade with 250 Japanese lanterns and gifts for everybody. Afterwards it came out that this one day’s events had cost $750, and the Japanese footed almost the entire bill.

In fact, expense was the main reason that the big event was not repeated the following year, when the celebration was limited to one day and a display of fireworks-which had to be called off because of rain! In 1910 emphasis was on a “sane” (and economical) Fourth instead of a memorable (and expensive) one.

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorThe Fourth of July in Whitefish, Montana

Japanese in Whitefish – Part 2

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

There were dormitories for the “Jap boys” who worked on the railroad. In 1919 some of these “Jap boys” bought a tract of land south of the railroad roundhouse. There was a large building on the land, which they converted into a dormitory.

Later Japanese families built several homes here, and it became the center of a Japanese community. Before World War II a Japanese dormitory was maintained for Oriental contractors and laborers where Duff’s Chevrolet used car lot is today, and there were often as many as seventy single, male, Japanese railroad laborers housed there in bachelor rooms without baths. At this same time, four Japanese families were living in the houses south of the roundhouse.

In July, 1941, the Japanese dormitory was the scene of a murder that was at least partially responsible for razing of the building the following November. S. (Toto) Takahashi, roundhouse boss, was shot five time on July 23, 1941, by H. (Sam) Kimura. Takahashi had been in Whitefish for ten years, was married to but separated from a white wife living in Havre. Kimura was quiet, reserved, but there had been bad feeling between him and his boss, Takahashi, for some time. Sympathy seemed to lie with Kimura. He readily admitted the murder and was found guilty of second degree murder, given twenty yars in the state penitentiary. Takahashi’s wife appeared in Whitefish to attend the funeral and claim his estate. In this she was refused. When the matter was taken to court, the verdict was that since interracial marriage was illegal in Montana, her marriage was not valid, and the only heirs were Takahashi’s father and family in Japan.

Japanese boys whitefish history

Japanese snow gang at triple divide, BN Wood Coach ca, 1920’s

After the war, and no doubt as a result of the war, this kind of situation swiftly changed. In the early 50’s one of the most attractive and popular girls in Whitefish High School, Peggy Spink, who was white, fell in love with and insisted on being married to Heloshi Kusomoto, who was Japanese. Interracial marriage was still illegal in Montana. Teachers and parents pointed out obstacles to the marriage, but were over-ruled. The young people were married in Coeurd’Alene, Idaho, about 1950, and eventually earned the respect of their home town, even though they chose not to live in it. Today they live in Kailui, Hawaii, where Kusomoto is GS13 and second in-command in the Bureau of Public Roads.

When the United States entered World War II, the Suga family published the following notice in the Pilot of December 19, 1941:

“To All Our Good Friends:

“The thing that Japanese-American citizens have feared has come unexpectedly and swiftly, and the time has arrived for us Japanese Americans to show our loyalty which we have professed so long.

We want all of our American friends and neighbors to know that ‘we shall serve the United States of America, Our Country, the Country we love, to the best of our ability’. “Lena Suga, Ben Suga, Don Suga”

At the same time Tom Hatsukano, age 19, enlisted and left for Missoula. Ted Kusumoto and Ben Suga were already in the army.

All enemy aliens were required to turn in radios, cameras, and guns by January, 1942, but no Whitefish Japanese were sent to camps, as their compatriots were in California. For a time in February, 1942, it seemed a camp for coastal Japanese might be established in the Flathead, but it never was. The Great Northern discontinued its policy of hiring Japanese laborers in Montana, but once during a wartime emergency it brought thirty American-born Japanese to Flathead County, with the consent of Kalispell and Whitefish officials, to shovel snow at Essex. They made clear that these workmen were under guard at all times and would be replaced with white labor as soon as possible.

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorJapanese in Whitefish – Part 2

Japanese in Whitefish – Part 1

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

If life was hard and dangerous for the general citizenry of Whitefish during the early years, it was more difficult for minority groups, and there were at least three of these: The Italians, The Japanese, and the Chinese –all of them originally laborers on the railroad—and their families. All settled first in small sections of Whitefish near the railroad tracks. The early Pilots carry a number of articles and editorials tinged-or crammed-with prejudice.

The Japanese were accepted earlier and more readily than the other two groups. This seems to have been the result of several factors.

The course of the Russo-Japanese was of 1904-5, for one thing, was followed closely in Whitefish, and sympathy lay with the Japanese. Every week’s newspaper carried a story about the progress of the war. When young Japanese in Whitefish returned to Japan to fight for their country, they were seen off with celebration by the entire town. When Japanese diplomats, led by Baron Komura, went through on their Great Northern trip from Tokyo to Washington during the war they were given a celebration at the depot that included Japanese flags and emblems, fireworks, the Kalispell band, a large crowd of both Japanese and whites. Baron Okado and President Theodore Roosevelt later stopped at Whitefish during peace negotiations, and were given an enthusiastic welcome. The Baron would not get out of bed, but “Teddy” came out on the platform in a nightshirt and overcoat, made a friendly little talk, and was wildly cheered.

Also, the Japanese undeniably contributed to the town, specifically at the Fourth of July celebration of 1908, but at many other times too. They were successful and cooperative businessmen. In the early years Japanese managers for the Oriental Trading Company were enterprising and respected. And then M. M. (“Swede”) Hori, who had been a houseboy for the Conrad family, Kalispell financiers, was given ten acres of Whitefish land by his employer and moved to Whitefish. He opened the Hori Café and Hotel, and in 1919 turned it into a $50,000 building extending from the present Pastime to the Toggery. It was the most popular eating place in town, and in the lobby of the hotel were renowned heads of elk, buffalo, and deer, prepared by the local taxidermy. Hori operated this business until his death in 1931, and Mrs. Hori continued its operation fifteen years longer. During her ownership Mrs. Hori, who had come to Seattle from Japan in 1911 and married Hori in 1915, is said to have fed all transients who came to her. Some chopped wood in return, but she fed everybody regardless of payment. Her dairy and truck farm were operated for her by the Sakahara family while she ran the café.

Tom Hatsukano

Tom Hatsukano High School photo ca 1941

The Hori Gardens east of town were a matter of pride to the Japanese and the whole town. Their potatoes, celery, and other truck garden vegetables were widely known and won many prizes at fairs throughout the Northwest. Large quantities of Hori vegetables were purchased by the Great Northern dining service, by whom they were widely advertised. The ranch also had a prize herd of Holsteins and operated a dairy. Mrs. Hori, later Mrs. Jiro Masuoka, gave important gifts of money and city lots to the town, and there is a plaque commemorating these on the stairway of City Hall, which reads: “In tribute to Mr. & Mrs. M. M. Hori, in recognition of and appreciation for their community interests, support, and generous gift of real estate to the city of Whitefish.”

Although the Horis were the most successful Japanese business people of Whitefish, they were not the only ones. The Shiomis operated a successful laundry for many years, which they expanded in 1926 by buying out their major competitor, the Whitefish Steam Laundry. Mr. Hatsukano, who operated a candy store on Second Street next to Pacific Power, was familiar to all school children of the time and their parents, partly because of his wide smile and long, white beard.

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorJapanese in Whitefish – Part 1

Early Health Care Challenges

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

Hospital at 4th and Spokane ca. 1907

Hospital at 4th and Spokane ca. 1907

In the days before penicillin, when inoculations were something new, there were frequent epidemics and people were in continuous fear of them.

In 1904 smallpox was most feared, and for many years there was a 10 foot by 12 foot “pest house” set up about where the Whitefish Lake Golf course is today. It was “an awful place” according to those who remember it, and “lots of money” was paid for drugs for it by the city. As late as 1917 the city council was paying bills for antitoxin for the pest house, and in November, 1917, a proposal to move the pest house to the old jail was defeated because such a house could not legally be located within the city limits.

There is a story about one J. Cook from the railroad camp who became sick in town. The local druggist, W.S. Dodge, took him to the timber south of town to await the health officer, who took him to the pest house. It was pointed out that there was no cause for worry over contamination or contagion because “his blankets had been stolen”

In 1904 also, Dick Willoughby, recently of Kalispell, was found to have a mild case of smallpox and was sent back to Kalispell. At this time guards were put on the trails to railroad camps to prevent men from coming to town or returning to camp pending vaccination. Notices in large type were posted stating that Whitefish was under smallpox quarantine. Businessmen of Whitefish put out denial notices, claiming that “the knockers on the outside are doing all they can to injure Whitefish” by the quarantine notices. By a state ruling in 1909 no more general quarantines were allowed, though signs were still put on afflicted houses. This move was to spur protection by vaccination rather than by quarantine. In December, 1909, there were seven known cases in Columbia Falls, and the Governor of Montana was investigating complaints against the non-quarantine ruling. However, the ruling stood, and with vaccination, fear of the disease rapidly lessened.

By 1910 during times of known smallpox danger, Whitefish school children who had no been inoculated were barred from school. The last serious smallpox “scares” was in 1916, 1921, 1923, and 1935. In June 1923, there were more than a dozen cases in Whitefish.

Scarlet fever closed the schools at least once in the early years and again in 1936.

In 1916 there was panic when a leper was discovered in the Japanese settlement of the town. He was Y. Honda, a railroad laborer who had lived in Whitefish two or three years in a shack near the river west of the tracks. Attempts were made to return him to Japan, but whether these were successful or not are uncertain. At any rate, he was removed from Whitefish and consequently disappeared from the pages of the Pilot.

In 1917, and probably in other years, there were short-lived scares because of deaths in the state from spotted fever and infantile paralysis. There were deaths from infantile paralysis in Whitefish itself, but the disease did not reach epidemic proportions here.

Tuberculosis was greatly feared throughout all the early years, and it was considered highly contagious and generally fatal.

Flu epidemics hit many times, and of course “Spanish flu” was particularly virulent in 1918 in Whitefish as over the country. Schools were closed for a protracted period. For a time so were all churches, saloons, theatres, and other meeting places. All social gatherings were cancelled. Articles on methods of combating flue-handling, nursing, and preventing it-appeared regularly in newspapers. The Masonic Temple and the school’s home economics building were used as stop-gap hospitals. Teachers and others helped with nursing, among them teachers Ida Murphy, Helen Stevenson, Tillie C. Thompson, Jessica Reed, and Mable F. DeWoody, Reverend A. N. Sanford, George Winans, Roy Koehler, and Mrs. C. M. Martinson.

Twenty-eight persons, the majority young men, died in Whitefish of flue in just seven weeks in the fall of 1918. Then cases were reported on a single day, November 7.

Other flu epidemics in 1919, 1920, and 1928 were prepared for thoroughly in advance, but all were much less serious. In 1920 the Booster Club organized the town, but though many were ill, only one death was attributed to flu. The 1928 epidemic was a long drawn-out affair, lasting through the winter and into April, when a school field meet was cancelled because of it, but there were no fatalities. The Pilot of December 14, 1928, highlights a side-issue when it states;

In 1919 thousands of emergency liquor prescriptions were written (for flue patients), Doctors were besieging O.K. Nickerson, Assistant Administrator of the District Prohibition Office in charge of permits in Helena for increased allowances of liquor. In 1928, however, no special liquor permits were issued unless the National Red Cross Director declared it necessary.”

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorEarly Health Care Challenges

Stump Town to Ski Town

By Jill Evans, Administrator of the Stumptown Historical Society

Whitefish has entered its second century and it’s important to be study the history of its first century. Although Whitefish was incorporated in 1905, important events of the nineteenth century created the foundation on which our town grew.

“In the 1880’s the northwest end of the Flathead Valley was uninhabited, though bands of Indians roamed it frequently. They came to hunt and fish and some of then camped regularly at the outlet of Whitefish Lake into the Whitefish River.”

The water flow out of Whitefish Lake was a fast flowing creek that the Indians built brush weirs across to catch the native “whitefish” so named because of the color of its flesh. That is where the name of the lake and subsequently the town came from. Whitefish was never called “Stumptown”. It’s a nickname you’ll find out about in later columns.

In 1883 John Morton built a cabin at the rivers’ mouth where an ancient Indian campground had been.

1890 The Hutchinson brothers, loggers from Michigan arrive and build near the lake; they also start a saw mill located about ¼ miles east of our current train Depot.



1891 the Butte and Montana commercial Company built a Dam at the outlet of the whitefish river to create a boom for floating logs to the saw mills at the new town of Kalispell the south.

In 1892 C.E. Ramsey builds a hotel just west of the river outlet for sportsmen and women who came in by horseback or on foot over the Columbia Falls and Kalispell trails. He featured fishing, dancing, boating and croquet.

In 1887 a trapper named Rudolph Werner (Joe Bush) homesteads at the head of Whitefish Lake. There are many stories about him to come. Here’s a taste from a letter found after his death, written in 1923. “Came to the Flathead in 1887, and have lived here ever since at the head of Whitefish Lake for 36 years….I is getting $10.00 a month Old Age Pension…august 22, 1934, Joe committed suicide. Want to know how and why?

1889 The first of the five Baker brothers arrive. They are also loggers from Michigan and are an important part of the early days in Whitefish. Baker Street is named after them.

Both the Hutchinson and Baker brothers became permanent Whitefish citizens and started families. They not only cleared the virgin forest for the town site, they built much of the city with their hands and their hearts.

See more of their story in the Whitefish museum, located in the Train Depot.

Note: The quoted material is taken from Stump Town to Ski Town, by Betty Schafer and Mable Engelter, written in 1972 and reprinted by the Stumptown Historical Society in 2003. It is available for sale in the Whitefish Museum located in the Train Depot.

CuratorStump Town to Ski Town