FORT BENTON — An exciting new collection has been donated to the Choteau County Library in Fort Benton. Children of the late Wally Morger have gifted their late father’s extensive Native American artifact collection.
“All nine of us kids loved this library and it's free and it's open year-round,” said Valerie Morger. “So not being a museum or having to have a ticket to come affords the children can come and see this and see the history that was here in Chouteau County and Montana.”
“I think it will be a really nice addition to our library,” said Chouteau County Library Director Emily Wicks. “It will be real hands on for kids and community members, tourists who come in to see our library.”
Wally Morger died in 2014. His daughter Valerie estimates he continued collecting up until about 2007, amassing more than 150 arrowhead points as well as scrapers and spearheads.
Much of the hobby was conducted while on his mail route that spanned the county, and often with the kids in tow, many times after a big wind had scrubbed the dirt to hard pan. Son Randy kids he never had the knack for finding arrowheads.
“My dad, however, and a couple of the others, they had an eye for this sort of thing,” said Randy Morger. “So they could walk along and they could spot these things. In fact, I remember one time when my dad said, ‘Oh, could you move your foot a little bit? There's an arrowhead right underneath it.’ But I myself never found one.”
Wally’s collection also features Native American trading beads. Randy shared a story of when Wally went to serve in the Marines in World War II, he left behind a coffee can full of the beads he had found as a boy in Fort Benton and Chouteau County.
“His parents then went off to do war work in Portland, and so they rented the house out,” said Randy Morger. “He said one of his great disappointments was when he came back, he found that this entire coffee can full of trade beads was gone, obviously, with some renter who had taken them away.”
As a well-known artist, Brian Morger, says the searching for points with his father contributed to his appreciation of Native Americans, their patience and what it may have been like to stand in the first people's footsteps inside a tipi ring.
“He would describe the different size points, whether that was a bird point or that was a stinger point, that was a spear,” said Brian Morger. “So, we really got an education of it as well. And that was one legacy and one gift that my father gave to me was an appreciation for the land and the Native Americans.”
Brian says when their mother was alive, she found half of a red flint red spear head when they were out collecting one day and remarked how nice it would have been to find the other half.
“Several years later, after a Sunday dinner in the fall, we went out and she found the other half,” said Brian Morger.
While Wally Morger’s collection represents a lifetime of work spanning thousands of hours, arrowheads have come to rest across Chouteau County over thousands of years. While some have been found, probably many more will likely lie with the land forever.
“Who knows how many of these points still sit out on the landscape somewhere?” said Randy Morger.
The Chouteau County Library is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The library is closed on weekends.
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