Photograph courtesy of descendants of Josephine Miller
It was near Cologne, Germany on August 27, 1836 that Christopher and Josephine (Mecka) Miller welcomed their first daughter into their fold. She joined brothers Enoch (born about 1829) and Anthony (born about 1831) who had already arrived. Later they were joined by Mary Elizabeth in March 1839 and Caroline in 1842, before departing for America. Christopher Miller, soon after arriving in the US sought out the mining district centered on Galena in Jo Daviess County, Illinois to settle. He took up some farm land and in the early 1850’s was working his farm with the help of his sons. It was there in April 1848 their youngest and last child Rockwell C. was born.
The Illinois State Marriage Index shows that on May 4, 1855, at Galena, Josephine Miller was married to William C. Brandt. It should be noted that variously the name has been recorded as Brand and/or Brant. William and Josephine were married for about eleven years. Records reveal they were in and around the Galena and Dubuque, Iowa, which is just a few miles west of Galena and located on the Mississippi River. During the period the couple gave life to John Fremont in about 1857 and Rockwell E. on May 7, 1858, and Obert Enoch December 14, 1860. All three seemingly were born in the Galena, Illinois vicinity, if not in fact Galena itself. From Galena the Brandt family relocated to Dubuque, Iowa where William gained employment at a soap factory. While in Dubuque, daughters Alice Isabella and Laura were born. Alice on October 23, 1862 and Laura on April 28, 1865. Not long after, Josephine and William were divorced.
Frank Gilg, who was a native of Austria, born there in May 1841, came to America as a teenager in 1854. He became naturalized an American Citizen in 1875 in Beaverhead County, Montana Territory. As was the case with many foreign born immigrants at the time, Frank enlisted with the Michigan Union Army and served from 1861 through 1864. After being discharged from the Army he wound up in the upper Mississippi River country and obviously in the vicinity of Dubuque or Galena met Josephine Brandt (Miller). In 1866 they were married, in Iowa but were destined to look for greener pastures. By 1867 Frank, Josephine and the children were settling in the mining camp of Argenta in Beaverhead County of Montana Territory. Almost certainly Frank was in search of the lavish gold veins that swept so many from the Midwest to the far west as the “fever” spread. Most likely, Frank found that the early strikes had pretty much been taken and were being heavily worked and found Argenta a promising possibility. While at Argenta, Josephine Gilg was born on March 10, 1868.
(Note: although a record shows that Josephine Gilg had married in 1931, no substantial proof has been found and later accounts of Josephine’s live state that she was never married. She was very involved throughout her years as a proud member of the Society of Montana Pioneers, having served for a number of years in both elective and appointed positions within the organization. Josephine was one of the final members from early charter eligibility, of either arriving in or being born in Montana Territory prior to end of 1868.)
In the summer of 1873, a group of prospectors haphazardly stumbled upon some outcroppings up in the Pioneer Mountains that eventually resulted in substantial activity over the next thirty years. The swarm was in motion and soon the major claims up at the head of Trapper Gulch were staked and production was in the works. One of those early claims was the ‘Franklin’ to which Frank Gilg and partner Edwin Stevens were the principal holders. The earliest development in the area was near the Trapper Mine, hence the camp of Trapper City took shape. An advertisement appeared in the Butte Miner, the July 31 edition that stated the following:
A caption that accompanied a copy of this picture states the following: “In the doorway, Laura Brandt - Ruth’s mother; man unknown; Alice Brandt - Ruth’s aunt Gist in foreground - Josie Gilg - Ruth’s aunt – Ruth’s mother. (Photo courtesy of Eighorn Collection)
The camp of Trapper City was short lived however, as additional strikes had been found further up the gulch nearer to Lion Mountain and almost overnight the camp at Trapper City picked up and moved to a site that became Lion City, a distance of not even two miles, but when walking to work, it mattered. It was at Lion City that the Gilg (Brandt, Miller) family settled and almost immediately took to providing the services of bed and board for the influx of miners and others who were drawn to the new mining Mecca.
In about 1876 the Gilg union dissolved in divorce. Frank Gilg remained in the area working the mines and Josephine and her family continued to make their way with the Lion City Hotel and boarding house. It was customary at the time to house workers and feed them and then bill the company, the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company at the end for the month for payment. Frank Gilg appeared to have gone through some tough times as civil suits appeared against him for collection of debts. One in particular in favor of N. Armstrong & Co., the mercantile store at Lion City in the amount o $433.60. When days pay was $3 and $4 per day that was quite considerable.
Josephine was again married in either 1878 or 1879 to August Brooks. The marriage apparently was doomed from the beginning, as it lasted less than two years and although noted in June of 1880, August and Josephine Brooks are listed on the census report, him a painter and her keeping the house, later that year they were divorced.
Josephine Brooks remained unmarried the remainder of her life. She in fact remained in Lion City and Hecla until the early 1890’s according to county tax records. Later on she removed from the heights of the mining camps to the smelter town of Anaconda, Montana. There she lived with her daughter Josephine Gilg until they moved onto Missoula, Montana. It was in Missoula that this stalwart pioneer lady departed the western slopes of Montana. She died Christmas Day of 1906 at age 69.
The following notes kept in the IOGR vertical files help to chronicle some of the events in the lives of Josephine and others of her family.
1850 Dec 5 - Census - listed near Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois is family of Christopher Miller, age 50, farmer from Germany; wife Josephine is 38; children listed are as follows: Enoch 21, Anthony 19, Josephine 14, Elizabeth 11 and Caroline is 8 and each shows native to Germany. Rockwell is 2 and was born at Galena, Illinois.
1860 June 14 - Cenus - listed in Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois is Wm. Brant (Brandt) age 28 from Wurttemberg, laborer in a soap factory; Josephine is 23, of Preuben; son Freeman is 3 and Rockwell is 2, both born in Illinois. (shown next door to Josephine's mother's family Josephine Miller.)
1870 Jun 16 - Census - listed at Argenta, Beaverhead County, M.T. is Frank Gilg, age 35, a gold miner from Austria; wife Josephine is 29 and from Prussia. Children, Rockwell 11 and Alice 7 are of Illinois; Laura 5 and Josephine 2 are of Montana.
1877 July 31 - Butte Miner, TRAPPER CITY HOTEL, Trapper City, Mont., Josephine Gilg, Proprietor. First-Class Accommodations for Travelers. Lodging rooms to accommodate all comers. Board by the day or week. Charges moderate and good fare provided. A share of patronage is solicited.
1880 Jun 15 - Census - listed at Lion City is August Brooks, 33, a painter from Germany; wife Josephine is 37, keeping house and from IL/Prussia/Prussia; step-daughters Alice Brandt 17 and Laura 15, both single and from IL/Ger/IL. (at the Lion City Hotel, photo in vertical file)
1880 - Atlantis reports she is proprietor of the Lion City Hotel.
1882 Feb 25 - published Glendale Letter list for week ending Feb 23. Placed in Tribune by J.C. Keppler, pm.
1882 Mar 4 - Tribune Court column states continuance of the proceeding.
1884-1885 listed in the Polk directory as having hotel at Hecla, MT. (pop. 300, James Parfet is P.M.)
1892 Dec 23 - Dillon Tribune published tax assessment list for the past year shows Josphine Brooks, saloon building in Hecla in the amount of $9.68.
1900 Jun 12 - Census - listed in 300 block of Alder Street, Anaconda, Deer Lodge County, Montana is Josephine Brooks, widow, born August 1836, is 63 and from Germany in 1837; daughter Josephine Gilg was born March 1867 in Montana, is 33, both parents from Germany, and is single. (No occupations listed.)
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