Who Was The Mungas Hill And Willow Creek Mungas Named After
Mike Mungas circa 1914
One family instrumental in the development of the Trout creek area was Mungas. Water was the life blood of ranching and the following article in the Mail October 15, 1937 discussed the long standing battle waged to protect what was needed to ranch effectively: “A complaint, praying for the adjudication of the water of the East Fork of Rock Creek, was filed in the District Court on October 9th . Rock Creek Ditch and Flume Company, a corporation, John Hickey, George Munesi, Mitchell Mungas and George Mungas are named as plaintiffs and The Flint Creek Water User’s Association, State Water Conservation Board et al are named as defendants. The complaint alleges that plaintiffs appropriated 1000 miners inches equivalent to a flow of 25 cubic feet of water per second, on or about July 18, 1910. …plaintiffs were denied the right to transport their irrigation water through the canal and water system constructed by the defendants as provided for in an agreement.” As you can see by the date the issue started about 1910 and when the law suit was filed in 1937 this action was long lived and ended up with most of the Trout and Flint Creek valley involved in the action, making water a very contentious and precious product.
The very first settlement I found regarding water rights was in 1905 and pertained to the rights in Flint Creek. The suit was by the Montana Water, Electric Power and Mining Company versus Mary Schuh et al. This suit was settled in the circuit court of Helena and published on the October 6, 1905 issue of the Mail. The settlement gave the power company 1200 miners inches of water and “that on average one and one-half inches of water per acre is ample and sufficient to properly irrigate the said lands of the defendants.” The East Fork water issue was thought solved in an item published in the June 12, 1914 Mail with the headline “Water from Rock Creek is now flowing over the divide.” The article stated: “Water from East Fork of Rock Creek is now flowing through the Mungas ditch and down the Trout Creek slope toward Flint Creek… With irrigation the fertile bench lands of this section will become the most productive in Granite County. The idea of bringing the water from the East Fork of Rock Creek over the divide to irrigate thousands of acres along the Trout Creek is not a new one. Such a project was planned and surveys made more than twenty years ago. But the cost of the enterprise proved a barrier; it was more than most of the ranchers could afford to put into an irrigation scheme. Finally M. Mungas became interested and to his enterprise and persistent effort is due the successful completion of the project. It makes intensified farming in the Trout Creek district a possibility and in a few years will bring a complete transformation to the upper valley. While the cost of the big ditch has been a small fortune its value to the district is inestimable. Mr. Mungas has earned distinction as an empire builder.
I am not certain when Mungas located on East Fork. Reference in the Mail November 5, 1909 stated “W.B. Ritz who worked at the Mungas saw mill in Sluice Gulch was brought to town with his left hand so badly lacerated it had to be amputated.” Sluice Gulch is located north of Antelope Gulch in Township 6, so was a number of miles north of the Mungas homestead. Mike Mungas made homestead entry No. 05516 on N½,S½ section 12 Township 5, North, Range 15 West, on October 20, 1914 and his Notice of Publication was March 8- April 15, 1918 in the Mail. Witnesses were: John Hickey, William Carey, George Carey and Axel Sandin.
According to Michael’s obituary, he was born in Dubrave, Yugoslavia March 17, 1858 and immigrated to the United States in 1888, Michael first settled in West Virginia where he worked in the coal mines for about one year then returned to Yugoslavia. In 1895 he returned to the United States and was employed at the Anaconda Reduction Works for a few months before he came to the Philipsburg area where he was employed at cutting stulls for “a number of years.” Then Michael became a prosperous rancher in 1912 on upper Trout Creek. Michael died in St. Ann’s Hospital in Anaconda on March 14, 1944 just three days before his eighty-sixth birthday. Survivors were: widow Mrs. Christine (Boja) Mungas, sons George and Mitchell and grandson George M. Jr., who all lived on the home ranch. Mike’s wife Christine (Boja) Mungas died in 1947 and is buried next to him.
"Zatesalo is Much Too Cumbersome"
In 1890 twenty three year old George Zatesalo left his wife Mary and infant son Peter in Yugoslavia to find a better life in America. He arrived in New York, then went to relatives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began work in the steel mills. George worked across the country until he arrived in Anaconda, Montana and worked for the smelter. At an unknown date he started working for Mike Mungas and on March 17, 1913 a 160 acre homestead on upper Willow Creek was recorded for George Zatesalo Mungas. Mike had told George that “Zatesalo was much too cumbersome” and suggested George change his last name to Mungas (Anne Luthje, “Upper Willow Creek”).
George built a two room log cabin on his homestead and sent for wife Mary and now seventeen year-old son Peter. Within the first year after arrival Mary gave birth to a daughter named Emma. Life was hard but the family never gave up. Peter worked at home and on the other ranches helping put up hay and calving. In his thirties he met a young seventeen year old girl through a friend in Anaconda. Anjah (Angela) Kosanovich immigrated from “the old country” at the age of sixteen.
Mary, Emma George and Peter (standing) Zatesalo Mungas
Anjah and Peter married and had two son’s: George (1922) and Peter (1924). Father George was involved in a wagon roll over and his team went on to the Luthje ranch without a driver. Henry Luthje found George lying in rocks with a broken hip. George refused care and was crippled the rest of his life. Mary died of pancreatic cancer in 1936 at the age of sixty-nine. Grandson Peter was run over by a vehicle in India, while serving in World War II and died July 4th, 1945 and Grandpa George died later that year of prostate cancer.
After the Spring Creek School house was moved to Willow Creek on 1.7 acres George had provided, the school teachers boarded at the Mungas ranch. That is how young George fell in love with Miss Dorothy McGrath and married her. Born to this marriage was Peggy (1943), James (1944). Bob (1947) and Dan( 1952).
Emma completed teacher’s college and taught in a rural school west of Kalispell. She died in 1981 and is buried next to her husband in Kalispell. Anjah died in 1955; Peter died in 1970.
While George ran the family ranch, Dorothy taught school in Philipsburg for many years. In 1973, George and Dorothy sold the ranch. Peggy married John Munis; Bob married Andrea; Dan became a Doctor and married Theresa; James became a Doctor and married Carol. James died from ALS January 2011 in Great Falls. Dorothy and George died December 2008-January 2009.
And that is how there became the Mungas Hill and Willow Creek Mungas’s.
Now back to the second generation living on Mungas Hill: It is apparent the monetary aspect of the Mungas ranch was being managed by the son prior to Michaels death as taxes for George M. Mungas for the year 1927 were $637.38. George was president of the Montana Stock Growers Association; a legislative assembly delegate from Granite County in 1937; Secretary of the Rock Creek Grazing Association; a charter member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame; a member of the Montana State College Experiment Station Advisory Board; director of the Deer Lodge Bank and Trust; school board member; Granite County chairman of the U.S. Savings Bond program; State Legislative Representative for Granite county in 1937; a member of the Masonic Lodge and Shrine; a lifetime member of the Rotary and attended the Episcopal Church.
George born in 1888 in Austria, died September 13, 1976 at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula. Survivors were: wife Margaret, son and wife: Mr. and Mrs. George M. Mungas Jr.; three grandchildren: Michael, Mona Gaye and Craig and cousins: Nick, John, George, Mitchell and Robert Munis.
Mitchell Mungas, made homestead entry No. 05517 on October 20, 1914 at the age of 21. Mitchell was a member of the Flint Creek AF&AM. Born on October 15, 1893 he died on March 25, 1970 of a heart attack.
George and Margaret’s son George M. Mungas Jr., born November 4, 1943 took over the 2T Ranch after his father died in 1976. He attended University of Montana and studied Business Administration. After serving in the Army, George returned to the ranch and married Dana Skoglund in 1964. They had Mike and Mona, then divorced and George married Sharon Barkell in 1975. Craig and Joe were born to this marriage.
George and Sharon started The Mungas Company in 1981 and built a thriving business in mine reclamation and construction. George died May 16, 2006. The family continues to manage the property and business.