Calendar Of Events » High Noon Lecture Series » High Noon Speaker Series - Past Programs

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"My Duties... Are not So Clearly Laid Down...": Fort Ellis and The Problems of Command on the Montana Frontier

June 15, 2017 — Noon

by Tom Rust

Established in 1867 in the Gallatin Valley of Montana, Fort Ellis played a key role in the development of the Montana frontier. From post commanders attacking the town to restoring order when riotous mobs got out of control, explore the ambivalent, albeit contentious, relationship from 1867 to 1886 between civilians and soldiers in whimsical but dramatic fashion. Competing visions of economic and military conditions on the frontier led to a complex relationship that has all the drama of a Hollywood western. Join MSU-Billings history professor Dr. Thomas C. Rust as he examines the fort’s impact on the social and economic development of early Bozeman, the problems of military command, and the dynamics of the soldier-civilian interaction on Montana’s frontier.

Sponsored by: Anonymous

The Beartooth Highway: A History of America’s Most Beautiful Drive

May 18, 2017 — Noon

by Jon Axline

Traversing the spectacular Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming is an unforgettable experience. The unspoiled mountain scenery along the highway inspired famed news correspondent Charles Kuralt to label it "America's most beautiful drive," yet the story behind this engineering marvel is largely unknown. It is an epic account of man versus nature to construct a road through unforgiving wilderness. Built during the height of the Great Depression and rising 10,947 feet above sea level, the Beartooth Highway sparked an economic boom in Red Lodge, Cooke City and Yellowstone National Park. Understandably, it continues to leave a profound impression on people privileged to drive it. Historian Jon Axline tells the exciting and colorful narrative behind the origins and construction of the Beartooth Highway.

Sponsored by: Bill and Anne Cole

Historic Restaurants of Billings

April 20, 2017 — Noon

by Stella Fong

Billings exploded when the railroad arrived, and good food was here to stay. Montana Avenue anchored the first establishments serving oysters, chop suey and steaks. Modern comfort arrived with the Northern Hotel and never left. Locals sipped, savored and swung at the Skyline, Bella Vista, Elmo and Windmill Supper Clubs from the 1930s to the 1960s. Entrepreneurs debuted the Level 3 Tea Room, La Toque, Bruno’s and New Moon Cafe. Beef still reigns at the Rex, Jake’s and Bistecca at the Granary. Writer Stella Fong testifies why names like Yegen, McCormick, Schaer and Honaker have persisted throughout Billings’ culinary history.

Sponsored by: WHC Volunteers in memory of Guy Liautaud

Montana Fireball: The Wild Ride of Billings’ Mayor Willard Fraser

March 16, 2017 — Noon

by Darrell Ehrlick

Former Billings Mayor lost more elections than he ever won, and yet no mayor before or after probably did more to create a legacy Billings continues to enjoy. While most people knew Willard for a handful of eccentricities and stories, few have given him credit for what he achieved. And, though he made people mad in the moment, he died with virtually no enemies. Come find out about the man who prided himself on turning a jail into a museum, considered Billings city limits to extend 300 miles in all directions and who caned a fellow city council member for mocking him.

Sponsored by: Anonymous

Holiday Greetings from the Western Heritage Center

By Kevin Kooistra; Thursday, December 15

Get ready to be filled with Christmas cheer!  Enjoy a mix of modern holiday traditions, stories about Christmas in Montana, and a slide show of historic holiday greeting cards from the Western Heritage Center collection. Music will fill the air and the season’s greetings will bring you “a return home to the days of youthful happiness.”

Understanding the 1988 Yellowstone Fires

By John Clayton; Thursday, November 17

To many people in this area, the 1988 Yellowstone fires felt like a watershed event. In the 28 years since that memorable summer, we’ve learned a lot about fire ecology and wildfire management. But did the fires change the way people think about America’s iconic landscape and first national park? What did they mean for the culture at large? Journalist and historian John Clayton takes a look.

Briskly Venture, Briskly Roam: The Legend of Yellowstone Kelly

By Bill Cole; Thursday, September 15

After serving the Union in the Civil War, Luther Sage “Yellowstone” Kelly came out west to hunt, trap, and explore the Northern Plains. His knowledge of the indigenous peoples and the landscapes of eastern Montana prompted him into military service as an army scout during the end of the Indian Wars. The exhibit explores the cultural diversity of eastern Montana, key to understanding Kelly’s role as an Indian scout.  At that time (1870s), he became a nationally recognized figure on the western frontier. Yellowstone Kelly’s restless spirit next led him to guiding in Colorado and Alaska, serving in the Philippine-American conflict, acting as Indian agent in Arizona, and retiring to a fruit farm in California. His last request was to be buried in Montana, the home to his fondest memories.

Profiles of African American Montanans

By Ellen Baumler; Thursday, August 18

African Americans, small in numbers in Montana, nevertheless have a rich and varied history that has been largely unexplored. This program introduces more than twenty African American families and individuals through historic photographs, headlines, art, and architecture. Focusing on personal stories, struggles and accomplishments, the program also touches upon the legacy of slavery, segregation and integration of schools, other laws relating to minorities, and social activities of this ethnic group. With her knack for storytelling and making history personal, Baumler offers a compelling introduction to this overlooked area of Montana history.

Houses of Ill Fame: A History of Prostitution in Billings, 1882-1940

By Kevin Kooistra; Thursday, June 16

The local parlors and cribs of Minnesota Avenue’s “Restricted District” gained notoriety as the focal point of prostitution in early Billings. The women and men of the sex trade often moved from town to town and usually were kept on the fringe of the local society making it difficult to find their stories. Using state-wide newspaper accounts, local court dockets, and scholarly works, this program provides a snapshot into the life of the women and men who lived and worked the 2300-2600 blocks of Minnesota Avenue before World War II. 

Forgotten Pioneers: The Chinese in Montana 1862-1943

By Ellen Baumler; Thursday, April 21

Chinese pioneers have been neglected in Montana's written record, even though in 1870 they comprised 10 percent of the population. By the 1950s, very few remained. Chinese homes and businesses fell victim to urban renewal programs. Time erased their remote mining and railroad camps. Traces of their culture disappeared, and their stories have become obscured in myth and legend. What happened to these pioneers and where did they go? Historian and award-winning author Baumler explores Montana's urban and remote Chinese settlements through archaeological sites, artifacts, and rare remaining landmarks, recalling the contributions of Montana's Chinese residents and the cultural footprints they left behind. 

Cities of the Dead: A History of Billings' Early Cemeteries

By Elisabeth DeGrenier; Thursday, March 17

Have you ever thought about why our cemeteries are located on the edge of town? Or where we bury those who can’t afford a burial plot? We’ll look at these questions and more while exploring the histories of our local Billings, Riverside, and Mountview cemeteries. With a focus on the period from 1882 to the 1920s, we’ll also examine how broad American movements, such as industrialization or the development of city parks, influenced the cemeteries’ designs and layouts.

Montana Inspiration Project: Designing Innovators

By David North; October 16, 2014