Sunday, April 24, 2005

Joseph Herbert Sherburne

(This material is copied from a big “State of Montana” biography book at the Montana Historical Society. The books were created by itinerant biographers, bound by a private publisher, and sold back to the citizens. The subjects of the biographies collaborated in providing facts.)

Joseph Herbert Sherburne was born December 12, 1851, in Philips, Maine. The early years of Joseph’s life were spent in the Maine woods where his father owned fifteen thousand acres of timber land. At the age of fifteen he left school to work with his uncle on the new railroad extending westward from Minnesota. Later, he went into business at Arkansas City, Kansas, which led to contact with the Indians.

In 1876 he moved to Ponca to establish his own business, an Indian trading post under a Federal license. During his trips between the Indian Territory and Arkansas City he met Gertrude Lockley, the daughter of Frederick and Agnes Hill Lockley. Gertrude was born in Albany, New York. In 1878, when she went to Arkansas City, she became acquainted with J.H. Sherburne and married him on September 24, 1879. The children of Joseph and Gertrude were Joseph Lockley VIII, Frank Ponca, Hazel, Arthur, Agnes and Theodosia.

At Ponca he leased land from the Indians and brought cattle from Texas. During the early spring, there was a severe spell of winter and then heavy rains drenched the country. When the hot weather came, the remaining cattle were stricken with Texas Fever and the entire herd was lost. To pay off his obligation for these cattle, he moved to Arkansas City where he had a real estate and insurance business.

He returned to Ponca to sell his cattle ranch to George Miller, a big rancher in that part of the country. This ranch became known as the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch. After selling his ranch, he contracted with the Miller Brothers to furnish dressed beef to sell to the various Indian agencies.

During the time Mr. Sherburne was located in this area, the Nez Perce War was taking place in the West. After Chief Joseph and his little band were taken prisoners in the Sweet Grass Hills [incorrect -- it was the Bear Paw’s Hills.] near the Canadian border, they were shipped by train and boat to the Indian Territory, about nine miles from the trading post. These prisoners became friends with Mr. Sherburne and traded at his trading post often. When Chief Joseph and his little band left, he gave Mr. Sherburne his stirrups, which his wife had made for him before he left on his war-like trip across the country. They were rawhide stretched over green wood. After Mr. Sherburne’s death, these stirrups were placed in the Museum of History in Helena, as a memento of the Nez Perce War.

After the Nez Perce War and several other outbreaks between the Indians and the white people, the government made a decision to allot to the individual Indians on the several reservations a half section to be his own. Miss Helen P. Clark, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was instrumental in completing the allotting. It was her influence which took Mr. Sherburne to Montana later.

Mr. Sherburne worked with the Indians to set up a means of disposing of the things they could collect. Buffalo bones were gathered for beads, bracelets and breast plates, which were shipped to a New York manufacturer. He bought Indian beadwork of every kind and description for outside markets. He also bought and sold Indian ponies.

His next move was southward to Pawnee Indian Agency, where he remained for a couple of years. From here, he decided to make his move westward to Montana. That spring he shipped a few horses, wagons, harnesses, household goods and merchandise to Browning.

When Mr. Sherburne arrived, construction started immediately on a store and home. The family came in June and lived temporarily in a dwelling leased from the Indian Agency.

Until then, Joseph Kipp, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, had operated a small store which went out of business just before Mr. Sherburne arrived. The Sherburne Mercantile became a meeting place as well as a business center, open from early morning until midnight.

Along with her duties as housewife and mother and ardent worker in the Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Sherburne organized the first Red Cross unit in Montana in 1917, known as the Blackfeet Reservation Chapter, which is still in existence. She remained active in such organizations until the time of her death on May 4, 1935.

Since no school facilities were available, an upstairs room of the Sherburne home was used, and Mr. Sherburne’s nephew, Alter Shepard, come from Oregon to Browning to teach the family and several employee’s children and reservation children.

Mr. Sherburne was an energetic worker in the community and in his own business. From a small stock of a few thousand dollars he built his store inventory to around seventy thousand dollars, carrying everything from Indian beads, sewing silk, and clothes to groceries, medicine, farm implements, wagons, buggies and lumber.

Along with the operation of his store, Mr. Sherburne participated indirectly in the prospecting for copper and silver in the Glacier Park area. He set up “grub stakes” for some who wished to do assessment work on claims they staked out in the Swift Current Valley.

Following this, oil was discovered in the area and numerous stock companies were formed. In this instance, Mr. Sherburne and his company, The Swift Current Oil, Land and Power Company, made the first oil discovery in Montana. Samples of this were displayed at an early Montana State Fair.

Soon after Mr. Sherburne’s arrival at Browning, the railroad established a depot about two miles south of town. Mr. Sherburne built the first telephone line on the reservation to the depot. Later, he and other local associates built telephone lines from Browning to Babb and to the Canadian line, north of Browning. This became the St. Mary’s International Telephone Company, the first commercial company to install telephones on the reservation and within Glacier County.

The Sherburne Mercantile business expanded to a branch store at Babb and one at Glacier Park. Store operations included the purchase of hay from the Indians, which was shipped as far west as Seattle and as far east as Havre, Montana. Meat was purchased from the Indians and was sold to the public in the butcher shop, shipped to hotels and cafes along the Great Northern Railway and to construction camps in Glacier Park. He also bought and sold furs and bead work. Horses were bought and sold to homesteaders.

With the growth of the small loan service in the store, Mr. Sherburne established the First National Bank in 1917. This is still the only bank on the Blackfeet Reservation.

At a party given on his eighty-fifth birthday, the guests also honored his twentieth anniversary as president of the First National Bank and his fortieth anniversary as president of the Sherburne Mercantile Company. Mr. Sherburne was an ardent Republican, a Mason and member of the Zurah Temple in Minneapolis, and a member of the Presbyterian Church.

[J.H. Sherburne had six children: Joseph Lockley; Frank Ponca who adopted Herb and Betsy; Hazel who married Clarence Frisbee and gave birth to Selden (a lawyer in Cut Bank); Arthur who died in the flu epidemic; Agnes, a fine artist who died of Alzheimers and who had married the head of the music program for the Seattle School System; and Theodosia, who married a lawyer and lived in Pasadena.]


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Anonymous said...

Dear Mary,

I often read your blogg. I was wondering why Joe Kipp is said to have been a Blackfeet. I always remember your hospitality in Valier. Best regards.


prairie mary said...

Blanca, Tribal affiliations might be described by where the person lives as much as by what their parents' affiliations were. Joe Kipp mostly lived on Blackfeet territory.

Prairie Mary