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Harmon’s Histories: Rocky Mountain Husbandman dispensed marital advice for the 1870s

Diamond City, Montana, circa 1870

There’s virtually nothing left of Diamond City, Montana these days.

Back in the 1860s, though, it was a boom town. It was even the Meagher County seat. But like many boom towns, it withered and died as gold ran out in nearby Confederate Gulch.

The only survivor was the area’s newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Husbandman, which continued to cover the life and times of area farmers and ranchers.

Each week, the newspaper featured agricultural matters of all sorts, including the perspectives of women on life, marriage and farm life.

One article addressed the dynamics of a happy and successful marriage. Silvia A.M. Moss, a farm wife, penned the article for the Husbandman in late 1879, titled “The Happiness of Home.”

She wrote, “Those who really know little or nothing about home happiness can give out rules for the acquirement of it, just as nine-tenths of those people who have never had a child to train can tell you all about how to bring up children.”

She, on the other hand, had personal experience with such matters.

Home happiness in her view involved the usual domestic duties expected of women in the 1870s: “The planting of flowers, the training of vines, the setting out of … wood and water, food and fire (but, also) many smiles and few frowns, plenty of calico and woolen, and an occasional glimpse of silk and broadcloth.”

But most importantly, home happiness came down to picking the proper mate – a man of “comparable temperament” with the woman.

All too often, she said, a man “falls in love with a blue ribbon, a handsome boot, or a neatly fitting glove, and straightaway marries the wearer.”

Rocky Mountain Husbandman newspaper, 1879

Such a man expects his wife to raise children who “never fret or cry, and when they do (declare) he made a sad mistake when he married her, for he never supposed that all his children would inherit such dispositions.”

“Whenever there is serious trouble in a family, in nine cases out of ten, it is the husband who ceases to love, cherish and protect, long before the wife neglects to love, honor and obey,” Moss wrote.

Her conclusion: “Men who believe in moods, outside of the grammar, have no business with matrimony, and should retire to dwell in cells in the mountains.”

Generally though, Moss was a strong believer that it was “nonsense (to think) that men and women are not suitably mated in this world.”

Read more about Montana’s early history in Jim Harmon’s book, available at harmonshistories.com.

“Unless a man is a confirmed drunkard or is cruelly abusive to his wife, she has no good reason to suppose that she is not well mated, and unless a woman is utterly false to her marriage vows, no husband has any right to think that she is not a suitable companion for his adorable self.

“The good old belief that marriages are made in Heaven is the best, and when we train up our sons and daughters in the belief that if they choose to be unhappy and to have unhappy homes, it is not the fault of Heaven, but of themselves, we shall have proceeded a long way toward securing to those near and dear to us true home happiness.”

Nineteenth century advice worth considering in our 21st century world: Look inward and choose wisely.

OK, stop throwing over-ripe produce. Yes, personally, it took me three times to get it right. But, who’s really counting anyway?

Now, as the sun sets in the west, and as the produce continues to fly, I bid you adieu!

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com. His new book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is now available at harmonshistories.com.