Yesterdays: The real story behind the name, ‘Columbia Falls’

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Square dancing on Nucleus Avenue during Progress days, Aug. 13, 1956.

70 years ago

Nov. 7, 1947

The Guy F. Atkinson Co. was set to begin construction of the diversion tunnel for the South Fork of the Flathead so the Hungry Horse Dam could be built. The tunnel would be 1,100 feet long and 36 feet in diameter. The contract was for $643,000. Total employment was expected to be between 75 and 100, mostly miners and muckers. The Hungry Horse News building was almost complete and expected to be open by mid-December. The building would have two heating units that could keep the press area 90 degrees during any weather ­— founder Mel Ruder said the heat made for better photo reproduction on the press.

60 years ago

Nov. 4, 1957

The story of Columbia Falls’ name goes like this: In May, 1891, town founder Frank Langford asked postmaster James Kennedy to apply for the name Columbia. The Post Office Department replied that there was already a Columbus, Montana. So Langford suggested to Kennedy to add the word “Falls.” And there you have it. The name has nothing to do with the small falls on Columbia Mountain.

50 years ago

Nov. 10, 1967

Robert Gilmore, 46, of Torrance, California was mauled by a grizzly bear while hunting elk up the North Fork at Home Ranch Bottoms. Hunting companion Charlie Ritter shot the bear twice while it was still on top of Gilmore from about 15 feet away in a spruce thicket. Ritter shot it two more times and it turned around and ran toward him. He shot it twice again and it died about 12 feet away. Ritter then shot the bear twice more with a pistol for good measure.

40 years ago

Nov. 10, 1977

Author Doug Chadwick wrote a story about the Giefer grizzly for Reader’s Digest magazine. The bear was notorious for breaking into cabins up the North Fork and eluding traps. Biologist Robert A. Riggs was studying bighorn sheep in Many Glacier. The Park’s sheep population was in good shape. He noted they favored habitat that had burned in the 1936 Heaven’s Peak Fire.

30 years ago

Nov. 11, 1987

Photographer Tom Ulrich of Blankenship won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for a photo of two polar bears he took touching heads in Churchill, Manitoba. Ulrich was awarded 250 English pounds for the prize. With an El Nino winter, Glacier Park’s Logan Pass was snow free and open to the public.

20 years ago

Nov. 6, 1997

A Wisconsin man was charged with shooting an elk decoy in Glacier National Park. Park rangers put the decoy up in an attempt to nab poachers. Lester Moen, 59, paid of $250 fine for shooting the stuffed elk, which was well inside Park boundaries and clearly marked.

10 years ago

Nov. 8, 2007

A man was bitten — again — at a bear park in Coram. Brock Hopkins was feeding and watering one of the bears when it bit him several times. This was the second time Hopkins had been bitten. The first was in 2004.

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