My Forty Years Scribblin's
Interviews
Arlee’s Oldest Resident Recounts Days Past

In this 1967 interview, published as a feature article in the July 7, 1968 issue of The Missoulian, Mrs. Emmerence Marengo shares her perspective of early Blackfeet Reservation life.


Mrs. Emmerence Marengo, born in a log cabin near Finley Creek north of Arlee Aug. 1, 1884, believes she is Arlee's oldest native resident.

"Some are older but they were not born here," she says.

Her parents moved to the Polson area where Finley Point is named for her father, Basil "Spiol" Finley, so named by the Indians because he resembled a Spaniard. Her mother then became ill and she spent several years in the Ursuline and Sisters Of Charity schools at St. Ignatius.

"What a struggle they had, to provide care and education for their charges. Although the Finleys and other parents contributed fruit and garden produce, bread and syrup was our Sunday treat," she says.

Mrs. Marengo's great grandfather was Irish Jaques "Jocko" Patrick Finley, a Hudson Bay trader who freighted through the west by pack train and for whom the Jocko Valley is named. Her mother, half Indian and Half Irish, was a well educated lady, Sophia Brook, from Hamilton.

"My mother told of making shirts from cotton blankets for the Chinese laborers when the railroad was being built through Arlee." And Mrs. Marengo smiles, for she has many memories… of George Polson, for whom Polson is named, making tiny bark boats for the Finley children to sail, and of crossing Flathead Lake, "many, many times," on the boats that tied up at Demersville.

Once, when some people came with a wagon to cross the Flathead River on the Polson Ferry, the young girl, Emmerence, put her face down near the water to call the ferryman, who may have been napping.

"Water carries sound, you know," she said earnestly, "and pretty soon he came."

She knew Chief Charlo. One of her girl friends was Mary Pablo, daughter of Michelle Pablo, of buffalo fame.

Mrs. Marengo's story bears out reports that outlaws once inhabited O'Keefe Canyon, at the foot of Evaro Hill. An aunt and hardy frontier woman, Mrs. Ellen Jones who ranched at Arlee, always carried a gun when traveling. On one occasion when Emmerence was to accompany her to Missoula, they were well on their way when Mrs. Jones exclaimed, "Oh, I forgot my pistol!"

"Never mind," said her niece. "I'm sitting on your knife." She raised up the seat cushion to show the implement.

"Would you use it?" the older woman asked dryly.

"If I have to," the young girl replied.

They were never molested but her friend, Mary Pablo, had some of her fingers broken and part of one torn away when hoodlums tried to take a horse she was leading while riding in a rig with her father. The old road then climbed and wound around the hillsides, not in the bottom of the canyon as it now does.

Mrs. Marengo lives with a son, George DuCharme, at Arlee. Although slowly recovering from an illness of last spring, she not only waits upon herself but helps with the housework. Of her seven children two other sons remain: Wilbur, St. Ignatius, and Basil, Polson. Basil DuCharme and his family live in the old DuCharme school house on the East Shore road. The school was built by her first husband's uncle, Ben DuCharme, for his own and Mrs. Marengo's children.

"Everybody worked in those days," she tells. For the labor and materials were all donated, lumber being sawed with power from a horse drawn steam engine.

Mrs. Marengo is a joy to visit. Though she has known many sorrows she shows no bitterness.