An Old-Time Image Got Updated For The Engen Era

by Travis Mateer

Yesterday I got a text of an image that has apparently popped up around town. Here is the text I received:

I went looking for some information about the historical image this flyer utilized and found a Harmon’s Histories article from the Missoula Current. The man known as the “Missoula Octopus” was A.B. Hammond and it was his involvement with the Missoula Mercantile, after the original founder, Edward L. Bonner, passed away, that earned him the octopus moniker.

You see, Bonner was a respected Missoula citizen and A.B. Hammond, on the other hand, was NOT. From the link:

In what would prove to be a fateful decision, Bonner hired a man named A.B. Hammond to work at the store in 1873. Three years later, they were business partners. Soon, Bonner and his partner turned their attention to lumbering and supplying materials, specifically railroad ties, to the Northern Pacific Railroad.

That led to the establishment of one of America’s largest lumber mills, along the Blackfoot River. A small town soon developed next to the mill. The Northern Pacific dubbed its stop there “Bonner,” in honor of the man. The name stuck for the mill and the town.

In addition to the huge lumber operation on the Blackfoot and the Mercantile, Bonner was a co-owner of the First National Bank in Missoula and president of the Montana Real Estate Association.

But he loved his New York roots, and would spend virtually every winter there enjoying the company of relatives and friends.

Upon his death, Bonner was referred to in area newspapers as “one of the oldest and most respected citizens of this state.”

His longtime business partner, Hammond, on the other hand, was not well loved. With his hands in seemingly every business in town, he became known as the “Missoula octopus.”

The legacy of Hammond’s namesake can be found in the Hammond building, which sits adjacent to the Wilma. The Coffee family, which held the property in a corporation for generations, sold it in 2016. One of the family members selling off his family’s heritage expressed frustration at the time that the destruction of the Missoula Mercantile was being stalled by preservationists.

Over the past year, Coffee has expressed frustration with the ongoing Missoula Mercantile debate. That historic structure stands across the street and has sat empty for six years.

A developer is working to close on the property and has received preliminary approval from the city to deconstruct the Mercantile and erect a $30 million hotel in its place. However, a group of preservation advocates has filed a lawsuit in Missoula District Court to stop the project.

Coffee is frustrated.

“Everyone says it’s just wonderful in Missoula, but it’s not so wonderful downtown,” Coffee said, speaking to the district’s business climate. “The Mercantile has been empty and derelict for years. It’s been a dead weight, and that’s hurt all of us downtown.”

Coffee said he supports the new Marriott hotel project, saying it would bring visitors to the downtown district and help bolster local businesses. The hotel project includes ground-floor retail and dining space, he noted.

“If these people who want to save the Mercantile at all costs would put up some money to buy it, then good for them,” Coffee said. “If they can’t, then they should take a back seat and let the owners move on with the (hotel) project.”

Here’s the gist of Coffee’s stance on development in Missoula: if you have the money, BUY IT, and if you don’t, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

The myth-makers and narrative-controllers who can claim historical provenance with their surnames feel VERY entitled to transform Missoula however they see fit. And those without important names like Coffee and Merriam and Talbot can STFU. It’s a great strategy that can apply to ANY eruption of citizen discontent over the rapid changes happening in our little valley.

Don’t want the Mercantile destroyed? SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Don’t want Caras Park destroyed? SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Unhappy with Tax Increment Financing? SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Oppose the development of a golf course? SHUT THE FUCK UP!

I’m sure it would be SO MUCH EASIER for our local oligarchs if the serfs in this town knew their place and acted accordingly.

Unfortunately (for the oligarchs) I didn’t get the serf-memo, probably because I’m a privileged white man myself, and therefore possess a strain of entitlement that inoculates me from shutting the fuck up.

And I’ll be doing MORE of NOT shutting the fuck up in the weeks and months to come.

So stay tuned…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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6 Responses to An Old-Time Image Got Updated For The Engen Era

  1. John Ulrigg says:

    I like to get a legible copy of that poster

    What’s been left off there is Ed weatherby and The sawmill district and how he is the eb-5 designate for the entire Northwest United States and he was first in line to give himself 22 million in Chinese money while his wife sold the finished product

    And his greasy little fingers are all over the economic development partnership and a couple other I think for a while he was on the Missoula redevelopment agency I’m not sure of that but really his connections are left untouched and he destroyed any chance of other people getting the eb-5 money in this town to protect his investment what oligarchish bullshit

    Yeah they don’t want to talk about how he loaned himself 22 million in Chinese I tried to talk to him at the economic development partnership and they said no he doesn’t work here anymore which I don’t believe that

    But yeah I had several emails to him and his partner Arnie Sherman explaining that I’d like to have some eb-5 funding I was never responded to just ignored

    So the only guard strangulation continues

    That poster needs to be a billboard

    The pictures obviously pretty lap band surgery

    But the look of the alcoholic still remains

  2. webdoodle says:

    That poster needs to get printed and sold at a Let’s Go Brandon outlet. I’d buy a copy, and proudly put it next to my desk. I’m sure the author wants to remain anonymous, and doesn’t want to get harassed by Engen’s pinkertons, but I do hope when the tyranny is finally put down, that they stand up so we can all give them a standing ovation. Great work!

  3. Pingback: Getting Inspired By History, Malcontents, And A Thorn In Their Side Named Jane | Zoom Chron Blog

  4. TC says:

    Back in the day there was an artist (unknown to me at least) that did renderings of our local “street” flavor. The artwork looks very similar to the poster you displayed. This artist had prints and TShirts (sold at Rockin’ Rudy’s) that featured Red Bex, Randy, Tommy the Lepracaun, et al. I owned all those t-shirts. If someone made the Engen print into a similar t-shirt I’d buy one for each day of the week.
    Lets make this happen!

  5. TC says:

    Just in case – those who dont know. Look up Red Bex’s obituary and you will see what Missoula was and what we’ve lost. We were Red Bex but we became Johnie Lee Perry.
    All things end in death but some are mourned

    • Concern Troll says:

      Nothing says Missoula like a street preacher with mental health issues who had three wives, two at one time and only showed up at his relatives funerals to ask for money. You have a bizarre idea about what makes Missoula special. Also those shirts were called Missoula Street Legends and they were a fundraiser for the Poverello and designed by talented Missoula artist Josh Quick and I am certain he absolutely nothing to do with them Engen poster.

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