About Mildred

Mildred (Palmer Morkert) Chaffin gives her own best account in Once Upon a (Life)time:

I was born at Evaro, Montana, May 11, 1908, arriving a couple of jumps ahead of young Dr. Randall, they tell me, but of course I was traveling light, whereas he left Missoula encumbered by a horse and buggy.

I was 19 months old when my mother (Edna Geneva Johnson Palmer) died after the birth of my sister, Ellen. My aunt, Stella Mackie, recently married at sixteen, took over the job of keeping up with me. She was too young to handle two little snipes so our father, John Palmer, took his other tiny daughter to Missoula by horse and buggy and caught the train (the Bitterroot stub) to take her to live with our great-grandparents, Oliver and Cebrina Gregg at Charlos Heights.

She explains that she "grew up in spite of everything" and attended schools at Evaro, O'Keefe, Desmet and Missoula, quitting in 1923 at the age of 15 to begin her life as a wife and mother.

My husband, Alfred Morkert, was working the railroad 'extra board' which meant that he was called to fill in when a regular section foreman was ill or on vacation. Our home base was at Arlee. The children [5 in all] and I went along whenever possible, shipping along a skeleton housekeeping outfit, camping in old railroad boxcar houses or other such shelters.

Then came the day [in 1936] of the terrible railroad accident that took [the children's] daddy's and another man's life, leaving me numbed and trying to make a life for us alone. The railroad company gave me a settlement but I'd had no experience in managing money. I'd never had any money to manage.

I built us a house on five acres of a tract that I bought and thought I could grow enough stuff to help take care of our needs. But I had to learn about that the hard way, since I'd had no experience with that, either.

Mildred hired Allen Chaffin, whom she had known since childhood, as a carpenter to build her house. They were married in 1937 and welcomed two more children into the family.

Along with providing the facilities for the first dances in Seeley Lake (the Chaffin's living room at The Tamaracks in the 1950s shortly after moving to Seeley from Arlee) she was part of the dance band; self-taught on the harmonica, fiddle, accordion and piano, she also composed a couple of cowboy songs.