Sons & Daughters of the Montana Pioneers (Est. 1884)

The Society of Montana Pioneers was organized in Helena on September 10, 1884. Just 8 years later, on August 18, 1892, the junior society, The Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers, was formed. The account in the Helena Herald read as follows: "About 40 young people of both sexes met in the district courtroom, department two, in pursuance of a published call for the purpose of forming a society of the sons and daughters of Montana pioneers. These gentlemen and ladies represent, in measure, the flower of the state's youth, talent, and beauty. Thirty-nine names were enrolled at this, their first meeting. It was decided that the society shall hereafter meet with the pioneers each year."

That first meeting was called to order by General C.D. Curtis, the father of the movement. A quote taken from the minutes reads as follows: "That it is the object of this meeting that, to perpetuate the sacrifices and heroic virtues of our parents who blazed the trail into this country, we do here and now organize a Society to be called the Society of the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers.”

The date of December 31, 1868, was chosen by the Montana Pioneers to determine eligibility for people to become members of the Society of Montana Pioneers, thereby also determining the date for membership into the Society of the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers. An interesting fact is that the Pioneers wrote into their by-laws that should anyone make a motion to change the date for eligibility into the Society, the presiding officer would declare them out of order: "To suspend, amend or repeal this article shall forever be out of order and shall be so declared by the officer presiding for the time being, whether the point of order is made by a member or not."

At the eighth annual meeting of the Sons & Daughters, on September 8, 1900, a motion was made to adopt as the Society’s official emblem the design of the gold pan with the pick and shovel crossed upon it and appropriately lettered.

A log cabin was built on the State Fairgrounds (Lewis & Clark County) in 1917, as a meeting place for the Montana Pioneers to rest and visit with one another during the fair. This cabin burned to the ground and William Andrews Clark donated $500 for its replacement. The cabin stood until the 1960s, when it was dismantled.

After receiving approval from the Montana Pioneers, a motion was made at the 23rd annual meeting of the Sons & Daughters, in 1917, to amend the group’s constitution and eliminate the age limit for Sons & Daughters and to add all grandchildren and direct descendants as entitled to join the society.

The Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers became incorporated in 1935, through the efforts of two attorneys, Leon Bulen and Lester H. Loble. The group purchased 63 lots adjacent to the State Capitol in Helena in 1941, and made a gift of that land in 1955, to the State of Montana with the assurance that it be used for future generations a place where historic documents and records, artifacts and relics and art of historic import could be preserved and maintained; and also that the land provide a permanent location to house the records of both the Sons & Daughters and the Society of Montana Pioneers.

The Veterans & Pioneers Memorial Building and the Sam W. Mitchell Building were constructed on a portion of these donated lots. The Montana Pioneers utilize a vault and third floor office for the purposes of housing books, records, documents, and other property and as an office for its state headquarters.

The Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers society is a co-sponsor of the annual Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award program. This award honors the Montana history teacher of the year at a ceremony held in the Capitol on Montana Statehood Day, November 8. A monetary award is presented to the teacher to go toward purchasing needed supplies for the furtherance of Montana history. The Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers also presents copies of the book Dreams Across the Divide: Stories of Montana Pioneers, published in 2001, by the society, to both the teacher and the library of the winning school.

The Society of the Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers has over 500 active members today and several hundred more that are inactive. The group elects new members into the society at its annual convention, held in August at various locations throughout the state. The agenda for the convention meetings includes conducting society business, electing new members, honoring deceased members, learning about past history through guest speakers, and touring historical points. For the Sons & Daughters, sharing a love of Montana with fellow descendants of Montana Pioneers is the best part of each convention.