Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri L. Dobrowski: What’s in Your Library? |

Cowboy Jam Session by Jeri L. Dobrowski: What’s in Your Library?

Ismay, Montana: Little Chicago of the West compiled by Mary Haughian

Bronc riders Bob Askin and Paddy Ryan pronounced Mary Rose Kasten the prettiest baby ever born in Ismay, MT. As a young school teacher, Mary caught the eye of Daniel Haughian, the second oldest of 10 children born to Irish immigrants. Daniel and Mary married in 1945, and raised nine children in the Yellowstone River Valley 15 miles west of Terry, MT. Mary Haughian passed away in Miles City, MT, on March 11, 2013, at the age of 87.

Mary’s name would come up on occasion in our family, when talk turned to our ancestors who settled in the Powder River area. The north-flowing Powder empties into the Yellowstone between Miles City and Terry. At one time, before a bridge was built, my great-grandfather operated the county-supported ferry that shuttled wagon traffic and riders across the Powder River near the mouth. Mary mentioned this in one of her history collections.

Perusing her obituary, I was surprised at the number of books Mary had to her credit, either having written, edited, or coauthored them with family and community members: Mildred Memories on the O’Fallon; Ismay: Little Chicago of the West; Home on the Range (a cookbook); By the Banks of the Yellowstone; Wheels Across Montana’s Prairie; Wheels Keep Rolling Across Montana’s Prairie; The War Years: Prairie County, Montana; Terry Does Exist: a History of South Eastern Montana; and They Came to Montana: Homespun Tales of Billing & Haughian Families.

I knew of less than half the titles. A search for used-and-out-of-print books at and confirmed they’re scarce. I suspected most would be available in libraries, so I went to the Online Computer Library Center’s WorldCat – a Web-driven bibliographic database – itemizing the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories. Participating libraries maintain the global cooperative database. Anyone can access to identify and locate items, and there is no charge.

My search for Wheels Across Montana’s Prairie identified at least 10 copies held in state, county, and public libraries within Montana. One copy made its way to Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library in New Haven, CT. The status on the books varies from “Montana material” to “reference material,” “non circulating” to “standard shelving.” Additionally, the search offered to locate similar items or items on the same topic.

The Miles City Public Library holds three copies, one of which is in the Montana Room. Most libraries – no matter the state – have a room or a stack where items of local, state, or regional significance are shelved. This streamlines a patron’s search and sets the stage for serendipitous discoveries. If you’re making your first visit to such a collection, allow extra time.

In Miles City, the Montana Room is housed in the original Andrew Carnegie library. Built in 1902, two major additions now obscure much of the edifice. Ascending the steps to the research area, you soon realize the old building is still there, with its stately oak bookcases, beefy moldings, soaring ceilings, and schoolhouse-style light fixtures (

At our Wibaux, Montana Public Library – located in a former bank and listed in the National Register of Historic Places – the historical section is housed in a walk-in vault. There’s a small table and chair to accommodate a patron studying an assortment of books, magazines, and photocopied diaries. Among the materials are items donated by a Wibaux County High School graduate, the late Dr. Donald H. Welsh, who earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Missouri at Columbia. His 1955 doctoral dissertation was Pierre Wibaux, Badlands Rancher.

I hope you’re starting to wonder what books might be in your library or thinking about using WorldCat to search for a title. If the latter is the case, you’ll need a library card to facilitate an interlibrary loan – a transaction between two libraries to lend materials on a short-term basis. This is not a new idea. U.L. Rowell, librarian at the University of California – Berkeley, sought permission to begin interlibrary loan in 1886.

Conditions are set by the American Library Association and participating libraries. Some items such as bound journals, fragile, or one-of-a-kind manuscripts may not be available for borrowing. It is the lending library’s prerogative to refuse to lend materials or restrict materials to use within the library. In some instances, photocopies may be scanned and delivered electronically.

Another place to look for hard-to-find titles is your state’s library or historical society. Montana provides access to digitized copies via the Montana Memory Project: Included are county and community histories from the homestead era, a selection of drawings by Western artist Will James, and 10,000 pages of historical livestock brands from 1873 through 1980.