Weekly Gem #259, "I've got a great idea! Hold my beer."

Published 7/10/21

Location: This Hidden Gem is located at the southern end of Old Fort Benton, in Fort Benton, MT (see the Clue Me! Map). 

In 1865, Fort Benton was a rootin'-tootin' western town with the reputation for always being just one fuse away from a free-for-all. It was known as one of the toughest towns in the West, in part because the Civil War was over, and Americans were flocking westward. Fort Benton was the last stop for riverboats rushing up the Missouri River from St. Louis. And gold(!) had been found nearby.

Fort Benton also happened to be home to the Indian Agency for the Blackfoot, which was the U.S. government office that ‘managed’ the Blackfoot tribe, and made sure they abided by their treaty requirements. There was to be a Treaty Council in town because with so many people pouring in, and with some of the gold they were after being on the hunting grounds already promised to the Blackfoot, the treaty was no longer convenient, and 'needed' to be re-negotiated. 

Everyone converged in Fort Benton … U.S. Army, fancy civilians, adventurers and fortune seekers, and U.S. Government and Indian dignitaries. It was a real who's who as Treaty Councils go.

Among the bystanders was a mule train carrying supplies to a fort on the Mullan Road. Somebody noticed one particular mule, and thought that animal could be used to demonstrate the Army's mental prowess and fire-power! So they took that mule ... the one with the cannon barrel strapped to its back ... and prepared to impress. They loaded the cannon with grape shot, and aimed it away from everyone.

When the fuse was lit, the mule turned to investigate the odd sound coming from behind. The cannon was now aimed at the crowd. Everyone panicked, including the mule! It started twisting, turning, bucking, and jumping, aiming the cannon at everyone and their brother! Pandemonium ensued, with everyone within range diving for cover. Nobody looked dignified anymore.

Nobody, except for the Indians (who weren't familiar with this new fizzing mule). They stood watching with curiosity as everybody else hightailed it into hiding places.

Seconds later the cannon fired, grape shot missing everyone!

It's probably no surprise that the Indians ended up with the short end of the stick at the Treaty Council, even though they were the most dignified people there. 


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Run for cover


A cannon at Fort Benton

Why It's Interesting

This is like the cannon that was strapped to the back of a mule, and then lit to impress the Native Americans with the fire power of the Army. The mule turned to see what the fizzing sound was from the fuse, and chaos ensued.

Related Gems