Hamilton, Montana

And boy howdy yes I care. A look at Dr. Asa Lee Davison’s 1861 diary.

Mildred gave us a tour of Hamilton in the late morning. On this vacation nothing is happening in the early morning. We drove by the Rocky Mountain Labs, the federal governments chemical/bio weapons plant. It’s lined with guards and a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. The sleepy town of Hamilton seems an usual place to base such a research facility except that it began as a medical research center to cure the tick-borne disease of Rocky Mountain spotted fever prevalent in the area. At what point it more firmly came under military control, I do not know. As one might expect, however, many in the community are less than happy about having one of the nation’s bio weapons research centers in their back yard (in some cases, literally), but there is no question that the center adds a number of high paying jobs to the town of 3,700.

In the afternoon the temperature topped 100 degrees, so we stayed indoors at Mildred’s and talked genealogy. Mildred is my first cousin twice removed, Asa Lee Davison being our common ancestor. More specifically, Asa Lee’s kids Quincy (my grandfather) and Ivy (Mildred’s mother) were brother and sister. Mildred had a number of very interesting old family photos and, find of finds, Asa Lee’s 1861 diary. There were a great many uneventful entries. He was a farmer at the time, and I lost count of the number days where “shucked corn” was the only entry. But sometimes he had more intriguing things to say and reading a Civil War-era primary source document was itself thrilling. I typed up what I could from the work, but eventually I’ll probably need to find some way to spend a few hours with the source material again or to make a copy of it. Regardless, what a marvellous read!

We returned to the air-conditioned Holiday Inn Express (hereafter HIE) after dinner. Hamilton boasts four motels, the HIE being in my opinion the best of the lot. There is little need for me to describe what the HIE was like. Like Holiday Inns themselves, if you’ve seen one Express, you’ve seen ’em all. The hot tub was under repair, but otherwise our stay was pleasant, uneventful, and at or above expectations. If you’re ever staying in Hamilton—not a bad place to visit whether you have relatives there or not—you could do worse than renting a room at HIE.