United States Federal Power Commission Records, 1821-1950  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

United States. Federal Power Commission
United States Federal Power Commission Records
1821-1950 (inclusive)
3.5 linear feet of shelf space
Collection Number
MC 13 (1:2-1)
These U.S. Federal Power Commission records consist of hearing materials in a case involving the failure of the Montana Power Company to apply for a license to operate its hydroelectric dams on the Missouri River and tributaries. Exhibits in the case (including steamboat logs, diaries, articles, clippings, etc.) sought to document whether the Missouri River was navigable above Fort Benton. [FPC Docket #IT-5840.]
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
Access Restrictions

Collection open for research.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Between the years 1898 and 1930, the Montana Power Company, and its predecessors, constructed a series of seven developments on the Missouri River upstream from Fort Benton, Montana. These projects, which include dams, reservoirs, and powerhouses, are the Morony, Ryan, Rainbow, Black Eagle, Holter, Hauser, and Canyon Ferry hydroelectric projects. In addition, two other developments were constructed on the Madison River, the Madison and the Hebgen projects. In December 1937, the Federal Power Commission began an investigation to determine whether the maintenance and operation of these nine unlicensed hydroelectric developments in Montana constituted a violation of the Federal Power Act. The act, passed in 1935, required licensing from the Federal Power Commission for all developments located in streams over which the U.S. Congress had jurisdiction. As a result of its investigation, the Commission requested that the Montana Power Company apply for licenses for its Missouri and Madison rivers hydroelectric developments. When this was not done, the Commission ordered a public hearing (Docket No. IT-5840) to be held before an examiner at Helena beginning November 18, 1946. The fundamental issue involved throughout the hearing was the determination of the navigability of the Missouri River. If the river was a "navigable water" of the U.S., then it was " . . . illegal for any person, state, or municipality to construct or operate a dam or reservoir for the purpose of developing electric power across, along, or in . . ." the Missouri River without a license. The Commission's case was based upon the fact that the Missouri was indeed navigable above Fort Benton and in order to prove it, diaries, articles, journals, clippings, and logs from early expeditions and steamboat travels involving the transportation of persons and property were presented. The Montana Power Company countered the Commission's case from the premise that all nine of its developments were constructed, operated, and maintained before passage of the 1935 Federal Power Act. Also, the company contended that the Great Falls prevented the Missouri River from forming a continuous interstate highway, commercial travel having never gone above Fort Benton which was below the hydroelectric development farthest downstream (Morony). However, more important in the eyes of the company was the fact that if these developments had to be licensed by the Federal Power Commission, the U.S. would then have an option to make all Montana Power Company property, including transmission lines, federal property. Joining forces with the company were the governments of the Montana counties of Lewis and Clark, Gallatin, and Cascade. These counties feared loss of considerable tax revenue from Montana Power Company for the transmission lines, dams, and other property. Also, each county had constructed bridges across the Missouri and felt the expense of licensing these bridges would be prohibitive if the river was determined to be a navigable waterway of the U.S. The examiner's decision (Opinion No. 170) came on September 30, 1947, stating that all nine of the Missouri-Madison developments occupy, "without authority a 'navigable water' or public lands, or both, and since all effect the navigable capacity of the 'navigable water,' the Commission has authority under the Act to require that they be operated and maintained only if licensed." This decision was the start of a long legal battle between the Federal Power Commission and the Montana Power Company.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The bulk of the collection consists of the official record from the public hearing held in Helena from November 18 through December 7, 1946, and the exhibits presented to the examiner by both sides during the hearing. There was a total of 176 exhibits (index in Box 4), including maps, graphs, charts, photographs, letters, journals, articles, logs, newsclippings, court records, and legal documents dating from 1821 dealing with the issue of the navigability of the Missouri River. The collection contains only a portion of the numbered exhibits: all those presented by the Federal Power Commission, but only a selected few of those which were presented by the Montana Power Company. In addition to the numbered exhibits, there are miscellaneous materials of a similar nature at the end of the collection. All of the materials in the collection are photocopies of the originals.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of the Montana Historical Society. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collection. In some cases permission for use may require additional authorization from the copyright owners. For more information contact an archivist.

Preferred Citation

item description and date. Collection Title. Collection Number. Box and Folder numbers. Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives, Helena, Montana.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Arranged by series.

Location of Collection


Acquisition Information

Acquisition Information:

available upon request

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection

Court Papers Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 1-8
Official stenographers' report, p. 1-927
November 18-26, 1946
2 / 1-6
Official stenographers' report, p. 928-1800
November 28- December 5, 1946
3 / 1-2
Official stenographers' report, p. 1801-2084
December 5-7, 1946
3 / 3
Official stenographers' report, p. 2085-2273: oral agreement
February 16, 1947
3 / 4
Respondent's reply brief on its motion to reverse rulings of the presiding officer
February 14, 1947
3 / 5
Respondent's reply to main brief of staff counsel
July 10, 1947
3 / 6
Answer brief of respondent to rebuttal brief of staff counsel
September 8, 1947
3 / 7
Exceptions of staff counsel to initial decision
December 29, 1947
3 / 8
Opinion no. 170
December 7, 1948
4 / 1
List of case exhibits
August 1948
4 / 2
Exhibit #1: map of Canyon Ferry Dam area
4 / 3
Exhibit #2: map and blue prints of Hauser Dam and Lake
4 / 4
Exhibit #3: map of Hebgen Dam area
4 / 5
Exhibit #4: tabulation of lands occupied
4 / 6
Exhibit #5: materials re Canyon Ferry Dam
4 / 7
Exhibit #6: materials re Holter Dam
4 / 8
Exhibit #7: materials re Hauser Dam
4 / 9
Exhibit #8: materials re Hebgen Dam
4 / 10-12
Exhibits #9a-c: maps of Hebgen Reservoir (#1274-2,3,4)
4 / 13-14
Exhibits #10a-b: maps of Madison Reservoir (#1274-5,6)
4 / 15
Exhibits #11a-c: maps of Holter Reservoir
4 / 16
Exhibit #12: correspondence re Hebgen Dam (correspondents include Montana Reservoir and Irrigation Company, E.W. Kramer, F.A. Silcox, Max Hebgen, H.H. Cochran, R.H. Rutledge, U.S. Forest Service)
4 / 17
Exhibit #13: General Land Office report on Montana Reservoir and Irrigation Company and Hebgen Dam by E.C. Galbraith
4 / 18
Exhibit #14a-b: highway right of easement and map
5 / 1
Exhibit #15a-c: highway right of easement and map
5 / 2
Exhibit #16a-c: highway right of easement and map
5 / 3-5
Exhibit #17a-c: abstracts from Annual report of the Chief of Engineers re Missouri River
6 / 1
Exhibit #18: Helena Gazette clipping including ads for steamboat travel
Sept. 1866
6 / 2
Exhibit #19: "Description of the keel boats and mackinaw boats used in early days on the Upper Missouri"
6 / 3
Exhibit #20: Report of a reconnaissance on the Missouri River in 1872
6 / 4-5
Exhibit #21: newspaper clippings (re Upper Missouri River, navigation south of Great Falls, local industries, etc.)
6 / 6
Exhibit #22: "Souvenir of the City of Great Falls" booklet
6 / 7
Exhibit #23: map of perspective of Great Falls
6 / 8
Exhibit #24: excerpts from Original journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806 edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites
6 / 9
Exhibit #25a-b: Reports of Committees, 1893-94 U.S. House of Representatives (re authorization for "Dam Across the Missouri River" by Missouri River Power Company)
7 / 1
Exhibit #26a: Letter from the Secretary of War (transmitting report of Lewis A. Pick on flood control on Lower Missouri River: "Pick Plan")
7 / 2
Exhibit #26b: Conservation, Control, and Use of Water Resources of the Missouri River Basin... (re Sloan Plan)
7 / 3
Exhibit #26c: Report of a Committee of two Representatives each from the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, and Bureau of Reclamation...for the Comprehensive Development of the Missouri River Basin (Pick-Sloan Plan)
7 / 4
Exhibit #27: map of approved reservoir and power projects (including tables) [additional material in OVERSIZE FOLDER]
7 / 5
Exhibit #28: "Montana Power Company" (brochure)
7 / 6
Exhibit #29: "The Upper Missouri and the Great Falls" from The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine
7 / 7
Exhibit #30: advertisement for steam yacht Minnie
7 / 8
Exhibit #31: excerpts from History of Washington, Idaho and Montana, by Hubert Howe Bancroft
7 / 9-10
Exhibits #32a-b: "Steamboat arrivals at Fort Benton, Montana and vicinity," Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana, vol. 1, vol. 3
1876, 1900
7 / 11
Exhibit #33: certificate of inspection for steamboat Rose of Helena
7 / 12
Exhibit #34: Nicholas Hilger's master of steam vessels certificate
7 / 13
Exhibit #35: articles of incorporation for Montana Steam Navigation Company
7 / 14
Exhibits #36a-b: material re steamboat Rose of Helena
7 / 15
Exhibit #37: "River navigation: a history of the Missouri River", by Phil E. Chappell, Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, vol. 9
7 / 16
Exhibit #38: "A trip down the Missouri River", editorial from Helena Independent, reproduced in Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana, vol. 4
7 / 17
Exhibit #39: excerpt from "The Founding of Great Falls and Some of its Early Records," by Paris Gibson
7 / 18
Exhibit #40: excerpts from "The Great Northern Country" (re Giant Springs and Helena)
7 / 19
Exhibit #41: excerpt from "The New Northwest, Montana: Helena: its past, present and future"
7 / 20
Exhibit #42: excerpts from Montana Illustrated article (re Montana Brewing Company and B. and M. Commercial Company)
7 / 21
Exhibit #43: excerpt from Great Falls Tribune annual number (re Great Falls Lumber Company and Holter Lumber Company)
7 / 22
Exhibit #44: The Benton Record article: "Steamboat Navigation on the Upper Missouri"
June 1875
7 / 23
Exhibit #45: excerpt from Securities and Exchange Commission registration statement of Montana Power Company
8 / 1
Exhibit #46: Montana Legislative Assembly "An Act to incorporate the Missouri River Portage and Railroad Company"
8 / 2
Exhibit #47: Montana Legislative Assembly "An Act to authorize Robert Tingley and John Kennedy and their associates to construct a wagon road around the falls of the Missouri River"
8 / 3
Exhibit #48: Montana Legislative Assembly "House Joint Memorial asking [Congress] for additional improvements on the Yellowstone and Upper Missouri Rivers"
8 / 4
Exhibit #49: Montana Legislative Assembly resolution asking Congress for Missouri River improvements
8 / 5
Exhibit #50: Montana Legislative Assembly "Joint Memorial in relation to the improvement of the navigable waters of the Territory of Montana"
8 / 6
Exhibit #51: Montana Legislative Assembly "House Joint Resolution concerning obstructions in the Upper Missouri River"
8 / 7
Exhibit #52: Montana Legislative Assembly "A Resolution memorializing Congress to relinquish and cease to exercise its jurisdiction over the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in the State of Montana"
8 / 8
Exhibit #53: Montana Legislative Assembly "A Memorial to Congress: relating to the navigation of the Missouri River"
8 / 9
Exhibit #54: Montana Legislative Assembly "An Act defining the navigable public waters of the State and authorizing anglers to go along such waters for the purpose of fishing therein"
8 / 10
Exhibit #54a: Montana Legislative Assembly resolution for bridge construction at Culbertson, Power Plant, and Lismas
8 / 11
Exhibit #55: Montana Legislative Assembly "A Resolution memorializing Congress ... to enact legislation to facilitate the transportation of products of Montana and adjacent states by construction of dams and other facilities to make navigable the Missouri River from its mouth to Fort Benton, Montana"
8 / 12
Exhibit #56: Montana Legislative Assembly "A Senate Joint Memorial...requesting the declaration of the recognition of Fort Benton as a place of prominence in the history of the State of Montana"
8 / 13
Exhibit #57: John W. Hopkins vs. Butte and Montana Commercial Company (re floating logs down Deep Creek to Great Falls)
8 / 14
Exhibit #58: Calvin L. Allen vs. Holter Lumber Company (re floating logs down Smith River)
8 / 15
Exhibit #59: Morgan Cornelius vs. Jay D. Taylor (re mooring dock at Great Falls for pleasure boat "Minnie")
8 / 16
Exhibit #60: Gallagher and Vaughn vs. J.W. Cornelius (re construction of Great Falls 6th Street sewer)
8 / 17
Exhibit #61: Three years among the Indians and Mexicans by Thomas James [excerpts]
8 / 18
Exhibit #62: "The Fort Benton journal" by James Bradley, published in Contributions to the Montana Historical Society [excerpts]
187_, 1940
Oversize Folder
Exhibits #63a-b: maps of Upper Missouri River Basin
Exhibit #64: map of profiles of Upper Missouri River and Madison River
Exhibit #65: map of principal electric facilities on Missouri River
9 / 1
Exhibit #66: Federal Power Commission power system statement of Montana Power Company
9 / 2
Exhibit #67: Securities and Exchange Commission registration statement of Montana Power Company
9 / 3
Exhibit #68: table of mean monthly water flow of Missouri River at Fort Benton
9 / 4-5
Exhibits #70-71: photographs of small recreational boat at Fort Benton
9 / 6
Exhibit #72: graph of water flow gage record at Fort Benton
July 1946
9 / 7
Exhibit #73: graph of water flow gage record at Loma
July 1946
9 / 8
Exhibit #74: "Steamboat Arrivals at Fort Benton; Stream Flow and Gage Heights," (compiled from various sources)
9 / 9
Exhibit #75: graph of Upper Missouri River stages (re water flow gage levels at several gauging stations from Morony Dam to Fort Peck Reservoir)
July 1936
9 / 10
Exhibits 85a-c: photos of ruins of sawmill (no location)
July 1946
9 / 11
Exhibit 86: photo of sawmill at Stickney Creek
9 / 12
Exhibit 87: "Statement on the production, transmission, and utilization of electric energy for the years 1934, 1935, and 1936 made by the Montana Power Company" to Federal Power Commission
9 / 13
Exhibit 163: excerpts from Lewis and Clark Expedition Journal, 1804-1806 edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites
9 / 14
Exhibit 171: permit by Secretary of War and U.S. Forest Service for Helena Power Transmission Company to build Hauser Dam and to flood forest reserve land
9 / 15
Exhibit 175: excerpts from "The Missouri River", Nebraska History Magazine (re wrecks of steamboats on Missouri River in Nebraska)
9 / 16
Exhibit 176: "Documents in relation to the claim of James Johnson for transportation on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers"

Miscellany Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
9 / 17
"Origin of the Coulson Line" (includes detailed descriptions of steamboats "Far West", "Rosebud", and "Montana")
9 / 18
"The Amalgamated Copper Company: a closed chapter in corporation finance," by F. Ernest Richter, Quarterly Journal of Economics
9 / 19
Excerpt from "Historical sketch and essay on the resources of Montana..." (re navigability of Missouri River between Great Falls and Gallatin City)
9 / 20
Excerpts from "History of Montana, 1739-1885" (re falls on Missouri River and navigability of Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers)
9 / 21
Excerpts from The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway... edited by Milo M. Quaife
9 / 22
"Logbook of Steamer W.S. Lewis," 1866; "Continuation of the Ida Fulton's Log," 1866; "Log of Steamer Scarred Wolf, sometimes called Bertha," 1868; "Log of Steamer Bertha from Sioux City, Iowa, to Fort Benton, Montana," 1868; "Statement of Steamers that left St. Louis for Fort Benton..." from Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, vol. 2
9 / 23
"The Log of the Henry M. Shreve to Fort Benton in 1869" edited by William J. Petersen, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 31, No. 4
10 / 1
"The Purpose of the Lewis and Clark Expedition", by Ralph B. Guinness, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 20, No. 1
10 / 2
Profile of the Fox River, Wisconsin
10 / 3
Louis Dietrich vs. Steam Dredge and Amalgamator (re wages and other payments owed by Montana Mining, Land and Investment Company for work done by various people on the company's dredge on Jefferson River)
10 / 4
Montana Power Company vs. Federal Power Commission (re appeal of Commission's requirement that Company apply for a license for nine hydroelectric dams)
10 / 5
U.S. vs. The Steamer Montello (re failure to comply with regulations concerning inspection of passenger steamers)
10 / 6
"Diary of James Henry Morley in Montana," transcribed by Mrs. James Henry Morley [same as SC 533]
10 / 7
Excerpt from diary of Mrs. W.F. Sanders [same as MC 53, Box 3, Folder 15]
10 / 8
U.S. Congress, "An Act making appropriations for the construction, repair, and preservation of certain public works on rivers and harbors..."; "An Act to authorize the Capital City Improvement Company, of Helena, Montana, to construct a dam across the Missouri River"
1896, 1906
10 / 9
"Articles of agreement between the Great Falls Power Company and the United States granting rights of way over public lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior"
10 / 10
U.S. Congress "An Act to repeal timber-culture laws..."; "An Act to authorize the Missouri River Power Company of Montana to construct a dam across the Missouri River"
1891, 1894
10 / 11-12
Thomas Jefferson letters to Meriwether Lewis re planned expedition [photocopy barely legible]
10 / 13
Meriwether Lewis letter to Thomas Jefferson announcing successful completion of expedition [photocopy]
10 / 14
Lists of departures of steamers from Fort Benton
10 / 15
"Steamboat navigation on the Missouri River with special reference to Yankton and vicinity," by R.E. Nichol, University of South Dakota [same in Library collections]

Clippings Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
10 / 16
The Benton Record (re steamer arrivals)
10 / 17
Great Falls Tribune (re recreational boating on Missouri River)
10 / 18
Helena Daily Herald (re travel on Missouri River)
1867, 1882, 1886
10 / 19
Helena Daily Independent (re Townsend-based steamboat Ferm)
10 / 20
The River Press Fort Benton (re steamboat arrivals and departures)
10 / 21
The River Press Fort Benton (navigation special edition: includes many articles on history of steamboating on Missouri River)
June 1937

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Electric Power--Montana
  • Electric Utilities--Law and Legislation--Montana
  • Missouri River-- Commerce
  • Missouri River-- Description and Travel
  • Public Utilities--Regulation--Montana
  • Steamboat Travel--Missouri River
  • Steamboats--Missouri River

Corporate Names

  • United States. Federal Power Commission (creator)

Geographical Names

  • Black Eagle Dam (Mont.)
  • Canyon Ferry (Mont.)
  • Canyon Ferry Dam (Mont.) [1ST: 1896-1949]
  • Canyon Ferry Dam (Mont.) [2ND: 1949- ]
  • Cascade County (Mont.)
  • Gallatin County (Mont.)
  • Great Falls (Mont.)
  • Hauser Dam (Mont.)
  • Hebgen Lake (Mont.)
  • Holter Dam (Mont.)
  • Lewis and Clark County (Mont.)
  • Madison Dam (Mont.)
  • Missouri River--Barrages
  • Morony Dam (Mont.)
  • Rainbow Dam (Mont.)
  • Ryan Dam (Cascade County, Mont.)
  • Upper Missouri River