Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark…we saw the smoke arrise as if the country had been set on fire up the valley…we were at a loss to determine whether it had been set on fire by the natives as a signall among themselves…as is their custom…
— July 20, 1805 at Gates of the Mountain
On the north side the indians have lately set the prairie on fire, the cause I can’t account for…
— July 25, 1805 at Three Forks, Missouri River
I also laid up the canoes this morning in a pond near the forks; sunk them in the water…hoping by this means to guard against… fire, which is frequently kindled in these plains by the natives.
— August 23, 1805 at Clark Canyon Dam
This part of the cove on the N.E. side of the Creek has lately been birned by the Indians as a signal on some occasion.
— August 25, 1805 at Horse Prairie
…Prairies or pen Valies on fire in Several places – The Countrey is Set on fire for the purpose of Collecting the different bands, and a Band of the Flatheads to go to the Missouri where they intend passing the winter near the buffalo.’
— August 31, 1805 Climbing up to the Bitterroot Divide
David ThompsonThe ground was set on fire by the Kootenais 8 days ago below and the fire now fast approaches sent the men to raise each 25 pieces of pine bark which they found with some trouble near the Kootenai River.
— July 26, 1807 Kootenai River
We set off down the river, leaving fires in the grass and looking for natives.
— April 30, 1808 Kootenai River
1831 and 1838
W.A. Ferris…we were now on the borders of the Blackfoot country and had frequently seen traces of small parties, who it was reasonably inferred might be collected by smoke, which is their accustomed rallying signal. Clouds of smoke were observed on the following day curling up from the summit of a mountain…
— September 1, 1831 at the Big Hole Valley
The indians with us announced our arrival in this country by firing the prairies. The flames ran over the neighboring hills with great violence…
— August 13, 1833 in the Upper Bitterroot Valley
1832 and 1833
Prince Maximillian and George Catlin
Prince Maximillian and George CatlinThe Indians had used or burnt the hay that was in the prairies…
— September 1833 at Upper Missouri
Every acre of these vast prairies (being covered for hundreds and hundreds of miles with a crop of grass, which dies and dries in the fall) burns over during the fall or early in the spring…
— 1832 at Fort Union, Missouri River
Osborne RussellThey [the Blackfeet Indians] commenced setting fire to the dry grass and rubbish with which we were surrounded—in a few moments the fire was converted into one circle of flame and smoke, which united over our heads.
— September 10, 1835 at Lower Hebgen Lake, Montana
E.T. DenigThe short summer season allows vegetation but little time to decay, and the firing of the prairies, which happens more or less every year in different parts, burns up all old grass, fallen timber, and underbrush…
— 1833-1855 Fort Union Area
John MullanIn many places the valley has been burnt over and the young green grass is growing abundantly…
— September, 1853 near outlet of Little Blackfoot River
Our trail, up to the crossing of the Wisdom River, lay through large patches of sage: in many places however, burnt over by the Indians. We found the valley had been burnt over recently, showing the Indians had proceeded us.
— December 30-31, 1853 Big Hole River south of Melrose
The country was filled with smoke, and no extensive view could be gained…
…the atmosphere still filled with smoke.
— August 22-23, 1859 Coeur d'Alene Mtns.
The grass had been all burned by the Indians along the Bitter Root River when we reached the Bitter Root crossing…
— March 10, 1860 vicinity of Missoula
W.F. RaynoldsLarge fires are visible in the Wolf Creek mountains this afternoon, probably the signals of Indians who are undoubtedly watching our movements…
— August 14, 1859 Yellowstone River below Fort Sarpy
Extensive fires have burned over much of this country, seriously injuring the grass, and as this seems to have been of recent occurrence, I imagine that it is the act of the Indians, who are thus seeking to impede our progress…
— September 9, 1859 Soap Creek of the Big Horn River
A large portion of the grass has just been burned over, and the surface of the country is therefore black and forbidding; but it is evident that, in the spring, the prospect is most beautiful from the exuberance of verdure and foliage.
— September 12, 1859 Pass Creek of the Tongue River
The general aspect of the country remains unchanged, but a thick smoky atmosphere has prevented our enjoying the full benenfit of the scenery…
— September 13, 1859 Tributary of the Tongue River
Granville and James Stuart
Granville and James StuartWar parties of Bannocks have the mountains on fire in all directions.
— July 22, 1861 Granville Stuart, Clark Fork River
From here [Gold Creek] to Flint Creek, about thirteen miles…the south side of the river has been all burned over along the face of the mountains, we do not know whether it was started by whites, Indians, or lightning.
— July 29, 1861 Granville Stuart, Clark Fork River
…I noticed what I took to be an Indian smoke signal, seeing it a second time, I was satisified it was a signal—and shortly after we saw several distinct signals, which I knew were intended to gather the Indians together for an attack on us.
— May 16, 1863 James Stuart, Tributary to Big Horn River
Fires sprang up in all directions almost simultaneously and spread with alarming rapidity…Great columns of black smoke lolled up in every direction. For ten days every available man in the country with wet gunny bags, fought the flames with desperation…more than 500 square miles of the finest grass in eastern Montana lay a blackened waste.
— September 16, 1861 Granville Stuart, Judith Mountains