This collection of eight oral history interviews about the Milltown, Montana area were conducted by Caitlin DeSilvey and Minie Smith in fall 2007. The interviewees discuss topics such as: Northwestern Energy and the company acquisition of Milltown Dam, life in Milltown-Bonner, working for the Anaconda Mill, moving to West Riverside, growing up in the area and the changes that have occurred in the community, memories of Clark Mill, and the relationship between Milltown and Interstate 90. The original interviews are held as Oral History collection OH-419 at Archives & Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana.
This collection includes 8 interviews.
Bill Scarborough and Mike Haenke
OH419-01: Bill Scarborough was hired as foreman by Northwestern Energy in 2002 to handle the hydro operations and maintenance of the Milltown Dam. When Northwestern took over the Montana Power Company’s 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 Bill previously and was hired in 2004 by Northwestern to assist Bill in carrying out the dam operations. The interview covers 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.
Dennis E. Pleasant
OH419-04: Dennis Pleasant, known as “Lefty” lived most of his life in Bonner (house #36) until he and his wife built a house near Turah in 1961. Much of the interview discusses his childhood in Bonner and the types of activities he participated in. He has memories of 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. He gives his opinions on the changes in Bonner and Milltown over the last 50 years.
OH419-08: Emmett Smith was the manager of the Milltown Dam (Milltown MT) for Montana Power Company from 1971-1984. He and his family lived at the dam in one of the four company houses there. The interview describes not only his life at the dam, but also the early history of the dam after it was built by William Clark in 1908. He also discusses the relation of the dam to the Anaconda Mill, which after 1972 was owned by Champion International. He also discusses what use the public made of the dam property for fishing and boating and how the winter ice jams affected the dam and its operation.
OH419-03: Ilona Hangas, the daughter of Rudy Ruana, founder of the Ruana Knifeworks, moved with her family to the West Riverside area from North Dakota when she was two months old. The interview discusses 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. Most striking is that she feels she is the only fully Finnish person living there today when once there were so many that Milltown was called Finntown.
John W. Price
OH419-07: John Price worked for Anaconda Operations in Butte 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.
Leo Dufresne and Theola Dufresne
OH419-06: Leo Dufresne was born in Milltown, 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 and the Bonner School. His father worked for the Western Mill and then moved over to the Anaconda mill in the 1920s. The interview discusses not only his life growing up but that of their children in Milltown. They also express opinions on the changes that have occurred in Milltown.
Mike Nelson and Linda Schultz Nelson
OH419-05: Mike Nelson was born in Milltown, as were his parents. His grandfather and father worked at the Anaconda mill. Mike worked only one year at the mill; 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 he grew up in. Most of the interview concerns his early life in Milltown and his extensive knowledge of the people and businesses in Milltown. For Milltown the biggest change was the coming of the Interstate, and the interview discusses the effects that had.
Wilfred V. Thibodeau
OH419-02: Wilfred Thibodeau, Known as “Fritz,” moved to the Milltown 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 went to work 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 Dept. of the mill for 6 years, but left when they put him in the lumber yard. He would return to the mill in the purchasing department, eventually becoming the purchasing agent until he retired. Shortly after he was elected a Missoula County Commissioner in 1974 and served one 6 year term. The interview discusses his life in Milltown-Bonner and the changes he has observed, as well as his experiences raising a family in Pine Grove.