News for an Empire

In after years Brown was tight-lipped about his war experiences but at the time he headed for the Far West he must have had vivid recollections of the Georgia campaign, the flaring campfires, the gorging on hams and turkeys from Southern farms, the desperate fight and flight for life in the darkness when Wheeler’s forces suddenly attacked on a night when Kilpatrick, as the men in gray knew, was sleeping away from his troops.

Brown received a gunshot wound in the knee at Greenville, in eastern Tennessee, but served to the close of the war, though he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He was mustered out at Lansing (or Jackson), Michigan, in November, 1865.

Somewhere in Ohio he entered into partnership with his former employer, James Maze, but in April, 1867 (or possibly a year earlier), he left for Fort Benton, Montana Territory, up the Missouri River. The trip took two months. Reaching the fort, he rode on for another 250 miles or so, following the rough wagon road which climbed up the foothills of the Tobacco Mountains to the gold gulch town of Virginia City, 5,778 feet above sea level. That was a place and time when it was said that “no man considered himself safe without a brace of six-shooters strapped about his person and a bowie knife in his bootleg’ It may be assumed that twenty-three-year-old Horace Brown was so equipped and would have known how to use his weapons in an emergency. In a six weeks’ period from December, 1863, to February, 1864, twenty-four road agents had been hanged by Virginia City vigilantes, but life there was still perilous. Indicating the dangers of travel between that lofty mining camp and the outside world was this item in the September 15, 1866, issue of the Montana Post:

Trains arrived. During the week the following trains arrived in Virginia City: Twenty-three wagons for Tootle, Leach & Co., which left Platts Mouth on May 26. We regret to learn that the wagon master, Thos. Dillon, was murdered by the Indians on July 23. Eight wagons for Cyrenus Beers and Vaile & Robinson.

At the Big Horn the Indians stole forty mules from Mr. Beers’ train and thirty from Vaile & Robinson.

Virginia City was the county seat of Madison County, Montana. In the five years following the discovery of gold at that point in 1863, the yield of this mining camp was $40,000,000. The wealth from the camp built Montana Territory from 1863 to 1866 and attracted twenty thousand persons to the vicinity in a two-year period. In 1864 there were five thousand people in Virginia City and on August 27, 1864, the Montana Post, Montana’s first newspaper (except for the short-lived News Letter at Bannack), was started in the cellar of a log cabin. Horace Brown secured employment on and set type for the Montana Post and, later, for the Democrat, Montana’s second newspaper, founded in Virginia City in November, 1865.

On the Post Brown worked under James H. Mills, its third editor, with whom his association continued for many years. Mills became known as the “Nestor of Montana journalism.” He had served during the four years of the Civil War with the Fortieth Pennsylvania Infantry, in which he rose from private to brevet lieutenant colonel through personal bravery on the battlefield.

In 1868 Horace Brown moved to Helena, some 126 miles distant, to work on the Herald. That job proved temporary and before long he was setting type for the New Northwest, which his former chief, James Mills, was conducting in Deer Lodge. While there he married Mary E. Rose. By midyear, 1874, he was back in Virginia City, this time as manager of the Alontanian, started there four years before and currently edited by Henry M. Blake.

But another Montana mining town, Butte City, was attracting attention. His good friend, James Mills, with Harry Kessler, planned to start a paper at that camp and they wanted Brown to go in with them. He agreed and again moved westward. These three men, Kessler, Mills, and Brown, established the Butte Miner, first newspaper in Butte, Vol. I, No. 1 being dated June 1, 1876. Then a fourpage, six-column triweekly, it became a weekly three months later, a daily and weekly August 5, 1879. On November 1, 1881, the Miner Publishing Company was incorporated with Joseph A. Hyde, president; H. T. Brown, vice-president; J. R. Clark, treasurer; and Daniel Searles, secretary. It was capitalized for $14,000. H. T. Brown was elected a member of the executive committee of the Territorial Press Association at its first meeting in Helena, February 10, 1885.