An Irish colleen, given a $10 gold piece by Copper King Marcus Daly and bounced on the knee of a Cheyenne warrior who helped kill Custer, remembers Montana in the making.
Mrs. Margaret Daily, widow living at 14 Jefferson Ave, recalls a childhood touched by the degradation of a once proud people on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Mrs.Daily’s parents were Mahoneys and Lynches, natives of the Auld Sod who fought to make a poor living in Waterford County, Ireland.
ACROSS THE BOG lived her grandfather Patrick Lynch’s first cousin-a young, hard-working lad, Marcus Daly.
Young Daly was slopping hogs for a farmer when his fellow Irish Catholics were fleeing the religious and political strife of home to seek their fortunes in the “New World.”
Margaret’s Aunt Rose and Daly’s sister Honor-a pair of comely lasses with beautiful voices-sang together at church gatherings and clan picnics.
THE “ENGLISH TROUBLE” worsened and soon everyone-the Lynches, Dalys and Mahoney’s were boarding boats for America.
Daly went to California, later founding the Anaconda Co., becoming a legend in his lifetime as a copper king and king-maker in Montana politics.
Margaret’s grandmother Mary Lynch married John Mahoney and the family moved to Shullsberg, Wis.-first stop on their westering odyssey.
It was there in Shullsberg that her uncle Patrick H. Mahoney disappeared.
Young Pat, just 16, had joined a crowd of Shullsberg youths celebrating the arrival of the river boat one summer day in the mid-1800s.
THEY WERE DANCING on the deck of a sternwheeler when an insult roused Pat’s Irish ire.
Pat answered slander with his fists. When the brawl had ended, the author of the insult sprawled unconscious on the deck and Pat blanched white with fear.
“He thought he had killed the fellow,” his niece in Billings recalls, having heard the story from her parents.
Patrick H. Mahoney fled in terror, and was never heard from again until many years later. Then his name was found on the store records of a fort in Minnesota.
Pat had joined the army.
Indian warrior, a friend
TRACING ARMY RECORDS, the family learned a half century later that Pat was the first of the family to make it west.
He was also the first to meet Two Moon (and thousands of other Indians).
Riding west with Col. George Armstrong Custer, Pat died in the “battle of the greasy grass” with Custer and his men.
Both the Lynches and the Mahoneys made a second move.
THE DUST HAD HARDLY SETTLED from the battle on the Little Bighorn when both families moved to Butte.
Margaret Mahoney was born in the mining city’s Centerville District in 1890.
Her father, a miner, told her later of the renewed Irish-English conflict that festered in Butte, thousands of miles from their homeland.
Orange Day walks ended in riots, a careless political remark by daylight was frequently answered with clubbings and shootings by night.
MARGARET WAS STILL an infant when the cousin who had made good, Marcus Daly, gave her a $10 gold piece for Christmas.
It was not long after that when her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Mahoney, moved to Lame Deer where there was no more religious friction for the Irish.
(The Mahoneys were not alone among the Irish moving to the reservation country. Margaret, when only 18, met a handsome young Irishman, Eben Daily. She was a country schoolmarm, he a dashing cowboy. They were married in Miles City in 1911).
It was there, in the heart of Cheyenne Country, that the Mahoneys found a people more oppressed than their kinsmen back in Ireland.
THE PROUD MORNING STAR PEOPLE, victors at the Little Bighorn, victims at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, were reduced to poverty and disgrace.
Margaret remembers a pair of paupers who were once leaders in both war and peace.
Two Moon, Cheyenne chief who led braves into battle against Custer, and Little Chief who fought for his people in the treaty negotiations in Washington, D.C. were both friends and neighbors.
“I can’t remember when I didn’t know Two Moon.” says Mrs. Daily.
“He used to bounce me on his knee and say: ‘You’re a pretty little girl. You’re a pretty little girl.”
Two Moon knew Margaret’s mother as “Am-I-O-Ne,” Cheyenne for ” Walking Woman.”
Little Margaret he called, “Am-I-O-Ne” Histona,” which translates “Walking Woman’s Daughter.”
The chief and his people had fallen on bad times, she recalls: “The rations promised the Indians did not reach them. Millions of pounds of beef went instead to the military, the white Indian agents and others.”
She recalls the “grub dances,” celebrations that marked the rations day on the reservation.
WHEN THE GREAT WHITE FATHER dispensed his meager dole, the people who had once whipped the U.S. Army gathered around as starvation was again delayed.
Little Chief, the Indian statesman left a poignant scar on the memory of young Margaret:
“I remember going to see him with my mother and another woman.
“His wife warned us he was in a bad mood when we knocked at the door.”
INSIDE THEY FOUND THE CHIEF lying on a pallet on the floor. His woman, nearby, kept the flies from the aging leader with a tuft of shredded newspaper tied to a stick.
“Have you any bread?” the elder Mahoney woman asked.
“No,” said Little Chief.
“Any meat?” Mrs. Mahoney probed.
“No meat,” he said. “No meat, no milk, no bread.”
“What about the government?” Mrs. Mahoney asked.
THE OLD CHIEF ROSE and retrieved a box from the corner of the small cabin. Inside were stacks of yellowed documents.
“This is what the government gives us,” Little Chief said.
“You cannot eat treaties.”