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News : Local (Mineral Co) Last Updated: Mar 8th, 2006 - 22:35:32

German prisoners of war rebuilt Lozeau bridge
By DONNA SYVERTSON of the Missoulian
Feb 28, 2006, 22:19

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Question: I have been meaning to write for some time and see if you can find any info on the Quartz Guard Station (Mineral County) where German internees were held in the mid-40s. The Mineral County Historical Society is trying to find any and all info on this.

My parents furnished the meat and dairy products. They (the Germans) were not under lock and key and loved to play baseball in our field. Mother said they were very musically inclined and played at many of the dances in the local schoolhouse. One former Forest Service employee could only remember that they helped reconstruct the Lozeau bridge that was moved from the St. Regis area.

We are curious about how many there were and how long they were there.

Answer: I checked books written on the subject. I called people who lived in the area. I couldn't find anyone with knowledge about the Germans. Then I stumbled across Jackie Robb who has lived her whole life there.

She said the Germans stayed at the Quartz Guard Station. The buildings included the ranger's home and office buildings, a shop building and a barn and corrals.

“There weren't a whole lot of them,” she said, checking in with her husband Walt who told her there were maybe 10 or 12 Germans.

“There couldn't have been a whole lot because they weren't so obvious, know what I mean?” Robb said.

The Germans were quiet; well-behaved and polite. “Nobody resented them,” she said.

Wally Long, who has written “The Military History of Fort Missoula,” said that about 20 Germans were held at Fort Missoula from 1941 to 1944. Part of his information comes from a stone monument in front of the internment quarters on the fort grounds and a number of research papers on the camps.

Long also has found stories in the Jan. 21 and 22, 1942, Missoulian Sentinel that mentioned five Nazi officers being sent to an alien detention camp in Montana. The Jan. 22 story mentions them going to a detention camp in North Dakota.

It is confusing as to whom went where and when.

The Tarkio men, crewmen on ships docked in the United States, were not soldiers but were picked up for their own safety. They were cared for, sheltered and fed, Robb said. The neighbors had the Germans help them hay. Skilled and with mechanical abilities, the Germans built a sawmill at Quartz Ranger Station.

“They logged the horse pasture above the station, acres and acres and acres, and hauled them (trees) down ... . The trees were sawed up at the sawmill,” Robb said.

Reconstruction of the Lozeau bridge came about when two-thirds of the bridge removed near St. Regis arrived at Lozeau; the other third went up the Bitterroot, Robb said.

When the war was over, the Germans were allowed to go home, Robb said.

Note: Robb wanted to clarify some items in last week's column about Tarkio. The family from Tarkio, Mo., followed the construction of the Milwaukee Railroad to the area where the post office was located in the grocery store, a common practice in the early years. The Red Cross used the Tarkio Hall for only one year to collect money, she said. And dancing was an ongoing social event, not just during 1918-20.

Curious about something in Missoula or western Montana? Harness the power of the Missoulian's newsroom. Each week in this space, Donna Syvertson will answer questions submitted by readers. Submit questions via e-mail to hometowns@missoulian.com.

© Copyright 2005 by MCIC

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