If you were to follow Norman McLean’s Big Blackfoot river east as it flows from its headwaters near Rodger’s pass, good fortune would bring you through the small scenic town of Ovando, resting just at the southern fringe of Montana’s Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas, and irresistibly near neighboring Helmville just a short way to the south.
As pioneers began to filter into the valley in the early 1860’s, they immediately recognized the beauty of the Blackfoot watershed. In a letter to his brother back in Virginia, John Moore, an ancestor of one side of the Mannix family, had this to say upon arriving in the valley:
I left the states on the 22nd of Feb 1867 and arrived on the golden soil of MT on the last of June following. You would probably like to hear something about MT, the Eldorado of the world. Her agricultural lands are unsurpassed, her mineral lands inexhaustible. I live in the Rocky Mountains, the backbone of the American continent. Here the altitude is high up and healthy. I mean higher in the mountains where the treasure’s of North America are locked up. The arable lands are confined to valleys alone, and with proper cultivation they largely remunerate the farmer for his industry, while the hills and mountain lands are steep, rugged, and rocky, but produce a luxuriant and nutritious grass, affording splendid pasture to the stock grower.
Those who are familiar with present day Helmville have come to love its fiercely proud and tight knit agricultural community, not to mention the valley’s the abundance of wildlife and natural beauty.