My Forty Years Scribblin's
Pioneering and Religion

Montana Journal Sept/Oct 1998 by Mildred Chaffin

The Reverend Charles Durston, deceased, had a background of pioneering; his father, Edwin Durston, having been a Civil War soldier who, after his discharge came west looking for adventure as well as a future. He married in Butte and took his bride to Virginia City in the 1880s to start a new home and a family. Panning gold held small attraction for the young veteran, and he migrated to the Bitterroot by way of the Big Hole Valley. After a few years. they packed up again and headed for the Flathead country with all their worldly goods, six head of horses, a covered wagon, and a newly established family. They took up a homestead on Spring Creek. Meanwhile their family continued to increase. A store and post office were located at Four Corners at the time, about three miles south of the present Kalispell. To supplement his living, Mr. Durston, like most of the other men folk worked away from home cutting wood, clearing land, or helping to harvest crops from fields already cleared.

The spring of 1896-97 was known as the "Year of High Water." The river ran over, and people traveled by boat. Once the water ran through the house, and young Charles, the opportunist, seized the chance to fish from his bed!

Indians often came to the Durston's house asking for food. They were especially fond of Mrs. Durston's biscuits and were always given some. The family was "pretty self-sufficient," all of them working to raise their large garden and make their own clothes. Young Charles, too small for anything else, was the water boy for the harvest crews. He would have to get off his horse to open a gate, and many times there were buffalo there bowing and glaring at him. Sometimes there would be a small herd milling around him as he rode through. Some childless neighbors, thinking the Durstons could spare one of their many children, offered to trade a team of work horses for him!

At home, small Charles livened up the atmosphere now and then when a young man came to call on his sister. Charles knew that the swain was not really welcome, but he also knew that the young man carried candy in his pocket, so he invited the suitor in anyway, even though he knew he was going to "catch it" as soon as the visitor was out of hearing range.

Mrs. Durston held Sunday School classes in her home for 12 children. Their home was also the stopping place for a Mr. Eastland, a "S'am" (Psalm) singer, otherwise known as a circuit rider making his rounds once a month on horseback. Later the circuit rider used a horse and buggy and made his visits every two weeks. Mr. Eastland was a favorite of young Charles, and this, together with his mother's teachings, were instrumental in his choosing the ministry for his lifelong vocation.

Some of Charles' early ministries were an adventure. Driving around Flathead Lake to Ferndale in the 1920s was a trip to be endured. The roads were scarcely better than cow trails, and automobiles were prone to break-downs, flat tires, and scant protection from the weather. Charles was pastor at Ronan and First Christian Church in Polson in the '30s and '40s and at Butte in the '50s.

Upon officially retiring from the ministry, he and his wife, Mickey, moved to Seeley Lake to be near their daughter, Donna Hart, and her family. He continued his life's work for the Lord with Sunday services in his own home as he approached the age of 80.