Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
Riverside Park
Everyone in our community should be familiar with that tract of land at the west end of Main Street which is called Riverside Park. Not many of the present generation, however, were aware of the manner in which the city acquired title to this tract until the story was told on one of our broadcasts recently. For the benefit of those who did not hear the broadcasts, and who enjoy early-day Miles City history, this story is being published. When Fort Keogh was set aside as a military reservation, it was approximately ten miles square, and the east line of the reservation on the east side of Tongue river was what is commonly called "Haynes Avenue," and as it extends on south down Becker Lane to the river. This reservation was set up by the government after the battle of the Little Big Horn on July 25, 1876, when General Custer and his troops were annihilated by the Indians. Colonel Nelson A. Miles and his troops were ordered west to put down the Indian uprising and were instructed to build a fort near the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Tongue rivers. He set up a cantonment just west of the present site of the Range Riders' Museum, where his troops were camped until Fort Keogh was built. At the same time that the cantonment was set up, a civilian settlement sprang up on the banks of the Yellowstone, about a mile and a half northeast of the present business district of Miles City. This settlement was called the "Town of Miles" or "Miles Town" but later on mostly referred to as "Old Town." After the fort was built, through army and political influence, that portion of the reservation east of Tongue river was withdrawn from military control and thrown open to settlement with the exception of a tract of land designated on the survey approved February 25, 1879, as "ferry boat landing." It was then that "Old Town" moved closer to Fort Keogh--occupying land to the north, east, and south of the ferry boat landing. The lands surrounding the ferry boat landing on the north, east and south were claimed under squatters' rights by different citizens of the community, the principal claim being made by John Chinnick, who, together with one or two other claimants, formed a company known as the "Miles City Townsite Company" and platted the land claimed by them into lots and blocks. Under the title derived from the townsite company, there were business houses erected along the present Main Street for several blocks and also along the entire length of Fifth Street from Main Street to the Northern Pacific right-of-way, all facing this ferry boat landing. Fifth Street at that time was called Park Street. The Northern Pacific Railroad Company upset the claim of the Miles City Townsite Company when it filed its plat to this land on August 27, 1881, claiming title under the act of Congress approved July 2, 1864 whereby it was granted every other section of land on each side of the railroad line, these being the odd numbered sections in the township. Inasmuch as that portion of Miles City was in Section 33, Township 8 North, Range 47 East, it was claimed by the Northern Pacific and platted by it. In the certificate of survey on the plat filed by the Northern Pacific, the land platted was described as "all the surveyed portion in said Section 33". Referring to the plat of the survey of Section 33, one learns that there was a certain portion of it which was not surveyed, and that is what is referred to above as the "ferry boat landing". For a while, even this ferry boat landing was actually "squatted on" as there was a rumor rife about town one morning that someone had seen an order on the adjutant's desk at Keogh that the tract was to be thrown open to settlement. There was a great rush for sites. Frontier custom was that when a man laid four logs in a square on an otherwise unclaimed piece of land, it was his, and the act was accepted as his having built a house. As the report spread, there was a general foray for logs. As those were the days of log construction, building logs were reasonably plentiful and soon the park frontage was about all taken up in 25 foot building lots. That was as much as custom would allow, and even at that, some were forced to go without. But it was found that the rumor was a hoax after all. Vacation of the park was not contemplated, and when the military heard of the "invasion", as they did during the course of the afternoon, a squad was sent down from the fort, and the "invaders" hustled off with scant ceremony.

No one had paid particular attention as to how the city obtained its title to Riverside Park until Farnham Denson was elected Mayor, and one of his first acts, after taking office, was to endeavor to ascertain how and when the city got its title to the park. No information was available in the city records as to the origin of the title. The author of these stories checked the records and advised the Mayor that there was nothing of record in the county records to show the city's title. There the matter might have ended had it not been for "Shade Tree Bill" who has been around these parts for more than seventy years. "Shade Tree" recollected that Sam Gordon wrote in his "Recollections of Old Miles Town" that Tom Carter, who was at one time United States Senator from Montana was instrumental in passing a bill through Congress granting the land in question to the City of Miles City for park purposes. After exhausting all local means of obtaining the information as to the city's title to the park, the author of these stories made inquiry of Congressman Orvin Fjare, giving him the information he had obtained and requested him to have his Research Department check on Sam Gordon's statement concerning the act of Congress passed in the nineties. Mr. Fjare obtained information from the American Law Division of the Library of Congress that on July 30, 1890 an act of Congress was passed which provided that

"All that portion of the Fort Keogh Military Reservation
lying east of Tongue River, in the State of Montana, be,
and the same is hereby withdrawn from military control,
and granted to the City of Miles City, Montana, for the
perpetual use and benefits of the said Miles City and the
inhabitants thereof as a public park, subject to the right
hereby reserved in the United States to use as much of said
granted land as may be necessary in operating a ferry or
constructing a bridge across Tongue River and approaches
to such ferry or bridge."

The information was also conveyed that the bill was introduced by Representative Carter who was later elected Senator from Montana.

Usually, when a tract of land is granted by the United States Government, a patent to the land is issued by the General Land Office or Bureau of Land Management, as it is now called. No such patent appearing of record, the author of these stories again contacted Congressman Fjare, requesting him to ascertain if such a patent had been issued, and if not, why one had not been issued. The Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management in Washington advised Mr. Fjare that the act itself is a grant of the land to the city for the purposes set out in the act and further that the act did not provide for the issuance of a patent and that one had not been issued because it was not required. Thus, the author of these stories learned how the city obtained title to the tract of land which was then called the "ferry boat landing" and which is now Riverside Park. But there was still no evidence of title on record in the County Clerk and Recorder's office. The Bureau of Land Management was then requested to furnish such evidence which could be placed of record to show that the city owned this land. The Bureau indicated that a certified copy of the letter to Mr. Fjare, properly recorded in the Recorder's office, would complete the record that the city had title to this tract of land. So, through the efforts of the author, a certified copy of this letter was obtained and filed for record on January 30, 1956, end is duly recorded in Book 90 of Deeds, at page 112, in the County Clerk and Recorder's office. This recorded evidence of the title to the park was presented to the "City Fathers" at a recent council meeting and the residents of Miles City can now sit back, breathe easy, and feel that no one is going to file a squatter's claim on Riverside Park.