Mystery Woman on the N.P. Special

Many coincidences occur at the Archives. We inadvertently stumbled upon this photo in the newspaper while doing research on another image. This woman on the back of the train

The mystery woman (at center)…Queen Marie of Roumania. To her left is her son, Prince Nicholas, and daughter, Princess Illeana. Photo: Smithers.22.040.02

stuck in our minds…she appeared to be someone of importance, but we had no clue as to who she was.

Well, we are proud to introduce to you Queen Marie of Roumania [as spelled in the newspaper].

Queen Marie and her children visited Montana in November 1926, making many stops on their way to Spokane, Washington.

The front page headline of the Anaconda Standard, November 3, 1926, certainly made the queen’s visit sound interesting.headline1

headline 2

Queen Marie and her family were scheduled to spend 15 minutes at the Soren Beck ranch (just west of Deer Lodge) to view the “famed Montana sheep with the long wool.” Two hundred Deer Lodge residents gathered at the Soren Beck ranch to greet the royal family, who were scheduled to arrive at 10 o’clock.

Four Roumanian sheepherders walked five miles from a nearby ranch to see the queen and requested that they might be able to speak to her in the Roumanian tongue. One of the sheepherders was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “I remember her in the home country.” The Anaconda Standard photographer, C. Owen Smithers, took note of the four men and snapped this shot:

One of the Roumanian sheepherders from a nearby ranch expressed he was “thrilled by the thought of seeing the queen, the prince, and the princess.” Photo: Smithers.22.040.03

From there, the story of the queen’s visit continues to get more bizarre…

While waiting for the Northern Pacific Special to arrive, Smithers gave a speech hoping to find a member of the crowd who remembered when President Grant drove the golden spike that linked the eastern and western ends of the N.P. railroad in 1883. George Dana, a local rancher, remembered the event and Smithers took his picture according to the newspaper account (unfortunately we do not have a copy of the image). Smithers also spent some time photographing the sheep that the queen was so interested in.

By 11 o’clock, the Special had still not arrived. At 11:04, the whistle of the Northern Pacific Special could be heard. The Anaconda Standard describes the anticipation of the event:

“Closed and well-heated limousines were driven into place for immediate use in the event the queen preferred to ride to the Beck pasture. A section hand was set to work clearing away rocks and pebbles that might irritate the royal corns, if corns were present.”

It continues…

“Snapshot Smithers perched atop an automobile, trusty camera poised, fully prepared to photograph the visitors as they left their coach. The train rounded the bend. The Roumanian tenders of sheep bared their heads, their teeth gleamed smilingly as they prepared for a cheer…The royal special drew near. Its speed slackened. Fair drivers in the closed limousines fingered gear shifts in a nervous manner. Nearer came the train, its speed always decreasing. The engine reached the 200. The engine continued past the throng. The second coach passed the gathering, so did the third and the fourth and then the fifth coach, which bore the Roumanian crest. There was no queen on the observation platform. There was no prince, neither was there a princess…The train continued on as the queen, her son, daughter, a khaki clad soldier, a golden epauleted officer and several other retainers stepped out upon the observation platform–and waved.”

As if this story is not interesting enough, it gets even better as the article describes Smithers chasing the train for a 1/2 mile to get the above picture.

“It was too much for Smithers. While the remainder of the 200 stood and waited for the train to back up, the photographer started down the track toward the coaches. First,  he walked, then he trotted and finally he galloped…The train was only crawling. Then the engineer increased the speed. Smithers did likewise. He made six ties at a jump. His coattails streamed in the wind, his face became purple and his camera hung suspended at a dangerous angle as he made a desperate spurt…He sighted his camera. The beloved queen of Roumania smiled sweetly at the photographer and as sweetly advised him: “Be careful of the sun on your lens.”…   

Smithers and Queen Marie had a brief exchange of words. The queen mentioned how beautiful the sheep were. As Smithers shouted goodbye as the train began to gain speed the queen replied, “How’s the election going in Montana? I hope you win.”

At the Archives, we stumble across some very odd stories, but this was the best I’ve read in a while. If you’d like to read the whole article yourself, stop on by!






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