From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
By Catherine Mathis
In 1848, a rough, stormy sea was sailed by the small vessel that brought the John Gibb family to America from Scotland. The captain warned that they could go down, and young Johnny couldn't understand why his mother needed her shoes on, just to drown. John Gibb and his wife, Janet Stevenson Gibb, with a daughter Isabel and son Johnny emigrated to the freedom of America and settled in Lonaconing, Md., as miners. As the west developed and mines opened up they journeyed by the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers to Fairbury, 111. This was in 1863 and the family had grown to ten. Here in 1867, Johnny Gibb (1843 to 1921) married a childhood sweetheart, also from Scotland, Anna Ireland (1846 to 1923). She was the daughter of William and Catherine Black Ireland. These families came to this country at the same time as the Gibbs. Catherine Ireland came to Montana with her daughter and son-in-law and was known as "Grandmother Ireland." She was loved by many and lived here the rest of her 90 years.
The Judge John Gibb family came to Miles City in 1882. This was the end of the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, as far as John Gibb could get from his relatives. John, Anna and their four children. John, William Arthur, Robert Burns and Daisy Bud, made their first overland journey to Montana. Their first home was near old Fallon on the banks of the Yellowstone. The venture ended when a sheriff on the way to Milestown stopped overnight with his prisoner, a murderer. John's wife Anna and their children spent the night on the front steps. The next day they beat their visitors to old Milestown and stayed.
They were glad to call home a log house with a dirt floor and a loft for the boys to sleep in. As a result of this move John went back to what he knew, coal mining and law. He operated a mine at Signal Butte and then at City Butte, afterwards called Carbon Hill. After four or five years, they closed the mine. Anna had dreamed that the mine caved in, and asked her husband not to return, but he did, and that same day it did. No one was hurt but Carbon Hill still has a flat side.
Folks then bought their groceries from Leighton and Jordan. They banked at the First National Bank. They shopped for boots and shoes at C. W. Towers and Co. L. A. Huffman took their pictures and William F. Schmalsle was always on deck to supply food and lodging. Ashley was the jeweler, and Savage and Sons sold dry goods and furniture. The hardware came from Miles and Strevell. Charlie Brown's Auction Mart sold cattle and horses. There were four churches; The Baptist, the Catholic, the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian, and everyone read the "Yellowstone Journal." There were other businesses for Milestown was a thriving community and well on its way to becoming Miles City.
In 1886, John was elected Sheriff of Custer County and in 1887 he was elected Justice of the Peace and later, Police Judge.
The oldest son, John Jr., became a printer and in later life he published a small paper known as "The Shoestring." He lived in Miles City throughout his life with the exception of a job or two on papers throughout the state. The other two boys, Bob and Will, both wanted to be doctors. One was to work to educate the other and that one would then educate the other. They flipped for it, Will got the work and Bob got the education as a surgeon. Yes, you guessed itWill put himself through school, too, in dentistry. He was an assistant postmaster when he met Maude Cressler, a teacher, and she helped him to fulfill his ambition.
Maude Cressler (1871 to 1955) was born and lived near Hagerstown, Md., on a plantation called "Paradise." She was the sixth child of seven born to George Adam and Kate Cleyer Cressler. She was graduated at 16 and was too young for a state teacher's certificate. At this time the majority of school teachers were men, but with Maude's ability and the need for teachers she was immediately given a school. After she received her teacher's certificate, her mother died and she was broken-hearted. Her eldest brother, David, suggested that she go west to new fields to find new interests. As a result she rode the red plush seats to Miles City. Here she taught in the old Washington School.
The teachers at the turn of the century lived at the old Leighton Hotel, now the Olive. There they had their dinners and it was very special when Sam Hotchkiss shared his New England oysters with them. They wore dust ruffles and ironed their hankies on the windowpane. Teachers ate their lunch with the Aldersons down on the corner of Palmer and 11th Streets. For a Sunday excursion they walked to the river.
The roller rink down on west Pleasant Street was the hangout for young people. With fiddle and accordion they had a hey-day.
Will took a night job to help pay off the expenses of his schooling at the University of Kentucky. He became a night policeman, and all red-headed 5 foot, 5 inches of him did a good job.
Will came back to his hometown as a dentist in 1905. His first office was over the Kelly building, and later he moved across to Andrus-Garberson Clinic building. He continued practice here in Miles City until his death and Dr. W. A. Gibb counted many country people among his patients and friends.
There were two Gibb children, Catherine Clever and William Cressler, or Bill as he was better known. Bill did not marry. He earned his degree at Baker University in Kansas and has lived in Miles City all his life. He operated coal trucks and later worked for the Milwaukee. Coal has played a large part in the Gibb lives. Bill now works part time for Regans.
Bill remembers so many of the old stories that Grandfather and Dad told him about the Old West: When the suitcase flew open as Grandfather jumped off the train and out flew a wee, steel revolver. The men at the station, wearing Colt 44's, were waiting for the train, a great pastime, and were quick to laugh and ask what that was for. "Why?" asked John Gibb. "Well," was the answer, "out here we use them for taking pills." When the Indians set fire to main street, the saloon keepers put kegs of beer, supplied with dippers, outside, so the firefighters could refresh themselves.
After Dad saved a boy from drowning in the Yellowstone river, the boy's mother gave him a velvet suit as a reward, and he had to wear it home, his most embarrassing moment.
Dad ranched for a time on the Tongue river. He rode an Appaloosa horse. At the end of the summer he had a horse. a saddle and a new pair of boots and he came to town to stay.
There was "Uncle Jim" Perrington, who had come to Fort Keogh with his child Cebe from Covington, Ga. Then there was the old broom man who appeared every fall to sell his brooms. We didn't know where he came from, and we often wonder what happened to him.
Ecumenical relations are not new. It must have been in about 1920 when Rev. J. Forsythe Smith, the Presbyterian minister and Father O'Carroll of the Roman Catholic Church, used to ride their bicycles hatted in derby and homburg with their coattails flying out the back, and visiting spiritedly with each other.
Dr. J. R. Mathis, better known as "Doe Mathis," came to Miles City in 1928 to practice as an osteopathic physician and to marry Catherine Clever Gibb. He was born and reared in south Georgia and as he came to Montana he found a likeness between the hospitality of the south and the western state, where friendliness is at its very best. Catherine and J. R. have a shared interest in riding horses and registered Hereford cattle. These are raised on the Mathis meadows by Carbon Hill and pastured at Signal Butte. Small world, isn't it?
Catherine has lived her life in Miles City, after her "horning" in Kentucky, kind of a graduation gift for her father, earning his D.D.S. Katie's interests hark back to her grandfather, Judge John Gibb, one of the instigators of the Caledonian Society and the speaker at the first Robert Burns celebration in the old roller rink. She teaches Scottish Highland dancing and is interested in perpetuating the true Scottish customs, her thanks to her great-great grandfather, who sought freedom in America, to believe as he chose.
We are all glad that the Range Riders and the Reps are compiling this book of the Big Sky Country, on our part, and we are happy to have a part in it. In retrospect, most of us have not realized that we have lived so long and through such changes, many recollections for folks long unnamed and thought of. This is true of many, I know. There could be another, a later book.