The Search for
A Pioneer’s Great Grandson Reaches Through Time
BY PAT HILL
A descendent of one of Montana's more colorful 19th-century pioneers wants his family to reconnect with a heritage he believes was lost nearly a half century ago.
Fifty-six-year-old Doug Garcia, formerly of Livingston, and now residing in East Helena, is the great-grandson of Andrew Garcia, who left Texas for Montana in the 1870s and never looked back. Andrew Garcia recorded some of his youthful Montana exploits in Tough Trip Through Paradise: 1878-1879, a book considered one of the premiere historical tales of that time period. Much of Tough Trip examines the travels of Garcia and his Nez Perce wife, In-who-lise, whom Garcia met, married, and buried (after she was killed by Blackfeet Indians) in the relatively short time span of 1878 to 1879 that the book examines. Doug believes that when the original unedited manuscript was given up by the family in 1960, their connection to the past and the history of Montana was also lost.
“I was stunned the book was rated that high by historians…it's a book that everyone seems to want to read,” Doug told the Pioneer. “It just was never talked about that much in our family. We'd have a better connection with it if we'd seen the manuscript—my Dad's generation was the last to see it.”
Doug's father William Garcia, who passed away earlier this year, was one of the two sons of Andrew Garcia, Jr., one of four sons Barbara Voll Garcia bore to Andrew Senior. Andrew married Barbara Voll in 1899. By 1909 the couple had settled down on their ranch at Rivulet, near the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River, where they lived out their years.
Andrew and Barbara Garcia's other sons were named Jack, Trinidad, and William. Doug said his father told him that Jack's wife, Evelyn Gladys Garcia, was the moving force on the family's part behind the sale of the several-thousand-page manuscript, which Andrew Garcia had packed away in dynamite boxes for safekeeping.
“Dad said Gladys sold the manuscript because she didn't like it, and wanted it out of the family,” said Doug. “She was very Christian and the manuscript was very coarse.”
Andrew Garcia had been keenly aware that members of his family didn't want any connection to the manuscript or his Nez Perce wife In-who-lise, concerns he shared with historian L.V. McWhorter, whose research on the Nez Perce Indians brought him into contact with Andrew Garcia on the streets of Missoula, Montana, in 1928. In a story about Garcia by Diane Smith published in the Winter 2008 edition of Montana; The Magazine of Western History, Smith reports, “This chance meeting…led to a lengthy correspondence between the two men. It also resulted in Garcia sitting down to write his life story.” Many of those letters are archived in the McWhorter collection at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.
“[M]y white wife and family are the only enemies In-who-lise has got,” Garcia wrote in one letter to McWhorter in December of 1931. “And her who is so good to me in everything else would rather pick up a rattlesnake than pick up a sheet of this story lying on the floor or anywhere else. Under those sorrowful conditions, I have had to write for more than two years, work hard all day around the ranch, and write till twelve o'clock at night and instead of receiving any encouragement I only receive blank silences about what I write…Hell will be a popping the day In-who-lise appears in print in the Garcia family…”
Andrew Garcia died in 1943, but the unpub-lished manuscript somehow stayed at the Rivulet ranch, although it still seemed to be a thorn in the side of the family. Doug said his father told him that the grandkids, including his father, used to sneak peeks at the manuscript when they could, “but the kids got beat when they got caught reading it.” The manuscript, Doug said, was “much harsher” than the book that followed.” And life at the Garcia's Rivulet ranch was also harsh. “It was a tough time,” he said, “living in Rivulet.”
“Why would you pick Rivulet?” Doug wondered. “There's no water there…and I can't imagine building the road in that country. But [Andrew Garcia's] generation was a generation that didn't know what impossible meant…they just did it. It's a hard country, and they were hard people. The Depression added to that hard edge.”
Andrew Garcia's own words bolster Doug's assertion about the Depression making life tough at Rivulet:
“I have a ranch of six hundred and sixty-seven acres…I only cultivate about a hundred and thirty acres, as there is no use putting in stuff and then not be able to sell it for anything,” Garcia said in a 1940 interview. “I used to keep a couple hundred Aberdeen Angus cattle right along and made some money that way, but since cattle and everything else went to hell. I also used to make good money raising fruit, but that blizzard of 1924 got quite a lot of the trees, while now the fruit trucks from Yakima put the fruit business on the bum proper.”
Doug said that Rivulet was also a “steam stop for the railroad in the old days,” and two of Garcia's sons, including Doug's grandfather Andrew, Jr., went to work for the railroad, but the elder Garcia stuck with the ranch until his death.
In 1960, the Garcia grandkids lost their chance to read the words their now famous ancestor penned in his own hand, when the late Bennett H. Stein of Park County acquired the manuscript, founding the Rock Foundation to ensure its preservation and protection. Stein, an avid supporter of the preservation of Native American culture, had first learned of Garcia's manuscript in 1948. Determined he would put the old pioneer's words into print, Stein brought the dynamite boxes containing Garcia's writing to Park County and went to work, but the editing process was not an easy one.
“In editing, I have attempted to preserve the author's manner of expression,” Stein wrote in 1966. “He [Garcia] would go on for pages with no other form of punctuation than a comma, and as he grew older he tended to ramble. So I have punctuated, and cut, and reordered the material somewhat, but the words are all his.” The book, first published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1967, is an avid account of a man who essentially witnessed the end of the Wild West (and took part in that adventure wholeheartedly, if his words are to be believed). And though Andrew Garcia's adventures were not the topic of family conversation at his descendant’s dinner table, Doug said his father told him a lot about the old days at Rivulet.
“My dad took us all around up there,” Doug said. “He wanted us to understand. He'd point out old landmarks—that's where the moonshiners used to operate…there's where a few old Indian graves are. Those trips with my dad are good memories…the last time I went back there with my dad was three or four years ago. I'd learn something new every time.”
Doug said that on the last visit with his dad, all that was left of the old homestead was the gate to the place.
The only son of Andrew Garcia to remain unmarried, Trinidad, also known as “Cookie,” resided at the original Rivulet homestead almost all his life. He died in a Missoula hospital in 1986.
“Cookie was quite a character,” said Doug. “He accepted the hard life at Rivulet…he lived in the old homestead for years, until it was falling down around him. I remem-ber my dad building him a new little house up there.” Doug said before he died Cookie signed the Rivulet ranch away to a nurse in Missoula who'd been taking care of him. At that point the family property was also out of the family's hands, along with the manuscript.
“We wanted to try and get the property back, but it was too much hassle,” said Doug. “We'd lost more of our heritage.” All that Doug has left are two old family prayer books, a few of Barbara Garcia's letters, and an old shipping tag relating to Andrew Garcia's ranch business. And the old Garcia family ranch is now home to the St. Clair Ranch, described on an Internet real estate ad posted in January of 2007 as a “Northwest Montana Premier Historical Luxury Ranch…over 500 acres, with frontage on a Blue Ribbon Fly Fishing stream…high class, quality Equestrian Facilities… fenced and cross fenced for horses…a mix of meadow and trees, with the perfect balance for riding and pasture land. The grounds around the homes have immaculate, mature landscaping with a gorgeous water feature, underground sprinklers, a productive garden, and beautiful rock work…The St. Clair Ranch has paved access roads and is the most detailed, immaculate, well kept ranch in Northwest Montana.”
“You can see the big log house across the [Clark Fork] river when traveling the Interstate,” Diane Smith told the Pioneer.
Like Andrew, Jr. before him, Doug's father worked for the railroad, and the family moved from the Alberton area to Livingston in the late 1950s, when Doug's dad started working at the Northern Pacific railroad shops there. Doug graduated from Park High in 1970, and he also went to work for the railroad, but relocated to Helena in 1986 when the Livingston shops shut down. He still works as a hostler for Montana Rail Link. Little did he know that Andrew Garcia's manuscript would follow him first to the Livingston area, and then to Helena.
After obtaining the manuscript in 1960, Ben Stein, who lived in Wilsall, kept it in his possession while he worked to put the tale into print. After Stein's death in December of 2001 the documents went to the Park County Museum (now Yellowstone Gateway Museum), with the Rock Foundation Stein established still holding all rights to the documents. Former Montana State Senator Dorothy Bradley, who became friends with Stein when he too served as a state senator, now serves as head of the Rock Foundation.
“The [Garcia manuscripts] are so old…so important,” Bradley told the Pioneer. “They're such a state treasure.” Bradley said that since Stein's death, the Foundation has allowed family member Barbara Garcia to scan the documents, and in 2002 Ben Stein's son David, who had the intention of making a movie out of the writings, was also given exclusive access to the manuscript.
“I was elected by the [Stein] family to do this,” David Stein told the Pioneer in April of 2003. “I have some experience with the patenting process, so I have a basis of contract operations.” Stein said he had just completed a “film treatment,” essentially a rough draft of a movie script, based on the book and unpublished manuscript material, but no movie has resulted from his work as of yet.
Bradley said that after Stein's rights to the manuscript expired in 2004, the decision was made to transfer the material to the Montana Historical Society in Helena, where the manu-script could be archived and maintained in the safest possible conditions. In 2005 Diane Smith was given exclusive access to the manu-script for her work on a book about Andrew Garcia. Bradley said that after Smith's access rights expire in 2010, the Rock Foundation will most likely donate the material to the Historical Society.
“It's ironic that the manuscript was in Livingston when I was there, and that now it's in Helena,” said Doug. “A family reunion with that diary would be great…it would be nice for the family to see it and make that connection with history. And that reunion will be another chapter in the history of the Garcia manuscript.
“I'm pleased,“ said Bradley. “I can imagine that [Andrew Garcia] would want his offspring to see the manuscript.”
Editor’s note: For more on this subject, see Diane Smith’s Tough Trip to Publication, Tough Trip Through Paradise and the Beautiful Wives of Andrew Garcia, in Montana; The Magazine of Western History, Winter 2008.