Milltown oral history project , 2006-2007  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Milltown oral history project
2006-2007 (inclusive)
8 interviews
Collection Number
OH 419
The eight interviewees, recorded for the Milltown Oral History Project by interviewers Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith in 2006 and 2007, describe working at the Milltown Dam, the Anaconda Mill, the Champion Mill and the Clark Mill as well as living in Bonner and Milltown, Montana, from as early as the 1920s into the 2000s.
University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
University of Montana
32 Campus Dr. #9936
Missoula, MT
Telephone: 406-243-2053
Fax: 406-243-4067
Access Restrictions

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana-Missoula.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Around 1886 the town of Bonner, Montana, was founded to provide housing for sawmill employees and their families. The town grew to include a company store, a post office, a school that also served as a Masonic Lodge, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, St. Ann's Catholic Church, the showplace Margaret's Hotel, and, by the mid-fifties, a thriving George's Cafe.

The original mill and town property had been purchased by the Montana Improvement Company, later called the Blackfoot Milling Company, in 1884. By 1910 the Anaconda Copper Company purchased the site and mill, and renamed it Anaconda Forest Products. In 1972 the Anaconda Company sold their lumber operations in Bonner.

Located one-half mile from Bonner, Milltown was established a few years before the Bonner Mill was built in 1886. In 1910-1911 the Western Lumber Company of Lothrop, Montana, relocated in Milltown. They sold to the Anaconda Company in 1928. Milltown, an ethnically diverse community, grew to include a library, butcher shop, pool hall, saloons, beauty parlors, a grocery store, and service stations.

The Milltown Dam was located about seven miles east of Missoula, Montana, at the confluence of the Blackfoot River with the Clark Fork River. Copper mining tycoon William A. Clark financed construction of the dam from 1904-1908 to supply hydroelectricity to his sawmills in Bonner. The Milltown Dam had only been completed a few months when a record flood on the Clark Fork River washed a ton of toxic mining sediment downstream, where it settled at the base of the dam. Originally the power produced by the dam was used by the mills; the communities of Bonner, Milltown, and Missoula; the street car; and even some areas in the Bitterroot Valley. In 1929 ownership transferred to the Montana Power Company. Montana Power Company was purchased by NorthWestern Energy in 2000.

Forgotten for years, by the late twentieth century the toxic mining pollution gained the attention of area residents, recreation enthusiasts, environmentalists, the EPA, and financially responsible entities. Different solutions were suggested and finally, almost a century after the flood, remediation, including the removal of the dam was initiated.

The History and Culture Committee of the Milltown Redevelopment Working Group has worked to preserve the history of the area including the towns of Milltown, Bonner and West Riverside. The Milltown Oral History Project is part of that preservation effort.

These interviews were funded by the Mathew Hansen Endowment through the Wilderness Institute of The University of Montana, and conducted by Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The eight interviewees recorded for the Milltown Oral History Project by interviewers Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith in 2006 and 2007 describe working at the Milltown Dam, the Anaconda Mill, the Champion Mill and the Clark Mill as well as living in Bonner and Milltown, Montana, from as early as the 1920s into the 2000s.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright transferred to The University of Montana-Missoula.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph number], OH 419, Milltown Oral History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Custodial History

Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith held the interviews until their donation to Archives and Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Caitlin DeSilvey, Minie Smith and each interviewee, 2006-2007.

Processing Note

Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith recorded the interviews with digital equipment. Archives staff downloaded the interviews to the Archives & Special Collections server, made CD use copies, and transcribed the interviews.

Related Materials

The Mansfield Library's Archives and Special Collections department also holds OH 428, the David Brooks Milltown Oral History Project, and other interviews regarding aspects of Milltown, the Milltown Dam, and Bonner, Montana.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Description Dates
OH 419-01: Interview with Bill Scarborough and Mike Haenke
Sound Recording, digital, 531 MB, Wav
Transcript, 16 leaves
Bill Scarborough was hired as foreman by Northwestern Energy in 2002 to handle the hydro operations and maintenance of the Milltown Dam, Milltown, Montana. When Northwestern took over the Montana Power Company’s (MPC) operations, they had no hydro staff. They sold all MPC dams to PPL (Pennsylvania Power and Light) with the exception of Milltown Dam. Mike Haenke had worked with Scarborough previously and was hired in 2004 by Northwestern to assist him in carrying out the dam operations. They describe the recent history of Milltown Dam after the takeover by Northwestern. They provide descriptions of the day-to-day operation of the turbines and generators. In addition, they discuss the preparation for and the activities beginning the decommissioning of the dam.
2007 August 21
OH 419-02: Interview with Wilfred V. Thibodeau
Sound Recording, digital, 663 MB, Wav
Transcript, 16 leaves
Wilfred Thibodeau, known as “Fritz,” moved to the Milltown, Montana, area in 1928 after his father had died to be near his mother’s family who had settled near Frenchtown. His brothers worked at the Anaconda Mill, but initially Fritz worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the quartermaster’s office. He was then hired as a civilian employee of the Army in purchasing for 10 years (at Fort Missoula and San Francisco). He returned to the area and worked in the purchasing department of the mill for 6 years, but left when they put him in the lumber yard. He returned to the mill in the purchasing department, eventually becoming the purchasing agent until he retired. Shortly after, he was elected as a Missoula County Commissioner in 1974 and served one 6 year term. He discusses his life in the Milltown and Bonner area and the changes he has observed, as well as his experiences raising a family in Pine Grove.
2007 August 27
OH 419-03: Interview with Ilona (Ruana) Hangas
Sound Recording, digital, 392 MB, Wav
Transcript, 11 leaves
Ilona Hangas, the daughter of Rudy Ruana, founder of the Ruana Knifeworks, moved with her family to the West Riverside area in Montana from North Dakota when she was two months old. She describes the development of her father’s business as well as her experiences growing up in the area, including school and recreational activities. She continues to live in West Riverside today. She also discusses the changes that have occurred in the communities. She feels she is the only fully Finnish person living there today when once there were so many that Milltown was called Finntown.
2007 September 4
OH 419-04: Interview with Dennis E. Pleasant
Sound Recording, digital, 392 MB, Wav
Transcript, 24 leaves
Dennis Pleasant, known as “Lefty,” lived most of his life in Bonner (house #36), Montana, until he and his wife built a house near Turah in 1961. He discusses his childhood in Bonner and the types of activities he participated in. He remembers the Clark Mill before it was demolished as well as the Anaconda Mill where both his father and he worked. He describes his various jobs at the mill, ending as a supervisor. Pleasant offers his opinions on the changes in Bonner and Milltown over the last 50 years.
2007 September 14
OH 419-05: Interview with Mike Nelson and Linda (Schultz) Nelson
Sound Recording, digital, 543 MB, Wav
Transcript, 40 leaves
Mike Nelson was born in Milltown, Montana, as were his parents. His grandfather and father worked at the Anaconda Mill. Nelson worked only one year at the mill and then for most of his life he worked for the Montana Highway Department. Except for a few months in Alaska, he lived all his life in Milltown until he and his wife moved to East Missoula in 1972. He still owns the house in Milltown that he grew up in. Nelson describes his early life in Milltown and the people and businesses in Milltown at length. For Milltown the biggest change was the coming of the Interstate, and Nelson describes that impact.
2007 October 1
OH 419-06: Interview with Leo Dufresne and Theola Dufresne
Sound Recording, digital, 553 MB, Wav
Transcript, 43 leaves
Leo Dufresne was born in Milltown, Montana, two doors down from the house where he currently resides along the Blackfoot River. He and his wife met in high school in Missoula and were married in 1945 after he came back from the service. Leo worked at the Anaconda Mill in various positions, then for Champion Mill and the Bonner School. His father worked for the Western Mill and then moved over to the Anaconda Mill in the 1920s. The Dufresnes descibe their early life and those of their children in Milltown. They also express opinions on the changes that have occurred in Milltown.
2007 October 26
OH 419-07: Interview with John W. Price
Sound Recording, digital, 464 MB, Wav
Transcript, 22 leaves
John Price worked for Anaconda Operations in Butte, Montana, before moving to Bonner with his family in 1962 as a draftsman for the Anaconda Products Plant. They lived in the Bonner housing. He also managed the Bonner and Milltown properties for Anaconda and later Champion. He worked for Champion in the engineering department until he retired in 1993. He discusses the houses and how they were maintained. His relates his experiences bringing up a family in Bonner and later West Riverside where they moved in 1993. The interview touches on a number of subjects including the Milltown Dam, the coming of the Interstate, and the lack of change in the Bonner community. He also discusses the current wood supply situation of the Stimpson Mill.
2007 November 7
OH 419-08: Interview with Emmett Smith
Sound Recording, digital, 731 MB, Wav
Transcript, 30 leaves
Emmett Smith was the manager of the Milltown Dam in Milltown, Montana, for Montana Power Company from 1971-1984. He and his family lived at the dam in one of the four company houses there. He describes his life at the dam, and the early history of the dam after it was built by William Clark in 1908. Smith also discusses the relation of the dam to the Anaconda Mill, which after 1972 was owned by Champion International. He explains public use of the dam property for fishing and boating and how the winter ice jams affected the dam and its operation.
2006 June 26

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Community life--Montana--Bonner
  • Community life--Montana--Milltown
  • Dams--Montana--Milltown
  • Dams--Montana--Missoula County
  • Hazardous waste sites--Montana--Milltown
  • Lumber trade--Montana
  • Sedimentation and deposition--Clark Fork (Mont. and Idaho)
  • Water--Pollution--Montana--Milltown
  • Corporate Names :
  • Northwestern Energy--Employees--Interviews
  • Champion International Corporation
  • Geographical Names :
  • Anaconda Mill (Mont.)--History
  • Bonner Dam (Mont.)--Maintenance and repair
  • Bonner (Mont.)--History
  • Milltown (Mont.)--History
  • Milltown Dam (Mont.)--History
  • Pine Grove (Mont.)--History
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Interviews--Montana
  • Oral histories--Montana
  • Sound Recording
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Clark, William
    • DeSilvey, Caitlin, interviewer (interviewer)
    • Dufresne, Leo, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Dufresne, Theola, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Haenke, Mike, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Hangas, Ilona, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Nelson, Michael B., interviewee (interviewee)
    • Nelson, Linda Schultz, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Pleasant, Dennis E., interviewee (interviewee)
    • Scarborough, Bill, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Smith, Emmett, interviewee (interviewee)
    • Smith, Minie, interviewer (interviewer)
    • Thibodeau, Wilfred V., interviewee (interviewee)
    • Corporate Names :
    • Ruana Knifeworks