Nothing Petty Here

The HistoryPeople can easily get bent out of shape. You know the kind of people who complain about everything and never can find the good in anything.

Sometimes we need to just move on and let things go.

Noted park history expert L. O. Vaught, the namesake of Mount Vaught located above Lake McDonald, apparently had a thing or two to say about name changes in Glacier National Park.

Mahtatopa Mountain as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Point

Mahtotopa Mountain as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Point

Now keep in mind that L. O. Vaught probably was an expert at arguing and proving his point. He practiced as an attorney in Illinois when he was not in Glacier National Park. He also was great at researching history and wrote an informative treatise on the history of the Apgar area. The “Vaught Papers” contain fascinating reading about the numerous homesteaders around Lake McDonald. These important park documents, along with tons of other cool historical information, are located in the Glacier National Park Archives at the main park headquarters in West Glacier, MT.

Vaught apparently was perturbed at some “petty park official” for changing the name of a mountain on the shores of St. Mary Lake.

The peak that he was upset about was Mahtotopa Mountain (8,672 ft. / 2644 m.) located on the ridge line between Red Eagle Mountain and Little Chief Mountain.

This peak was originally called Four Bears Mountain and in 1932 the name was changed to Mahtotopa Peak. L. O. Vaught identified George B. Grinnell as having credit for naming the peak, Four Bears Mountain, in 1885.

 George Bird Grinnell with autograph, portrait, unknown date and photographer. Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives

George Bird Grinnell with autograph, portrait, unknown date and photographer. Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives

Mahtotopa was a Mandan Chief and the grandfather of Joe Kipp. Kipp was a hunting companion of George Bird Grinnell, Jack Monroe , and G. R. Gould in the Saint Mary Valley.

This is a pretty important crew of guys for park history.

Hugh Monroe was named Rising Wolf and he has a mountain in Two Medicine named for him.

G. R. Gould was a business associate of Grinnell and is the name sake of Mount Gould along the Garden Wall.

Grinnell has numerous places in Glacier National Park named for him as well.

I am not sure if L. O. Vaught ever moved on past his outrage about this name change, but he likely focused his efforts somewhere else where he could make a difference. That’s what people did back then. They found that we only have so many days in our lives and sometimes moving on is all you can do.

Things To Consider:

  1. LOOK for Mahtotopa Mountain above the shoreline of St. Mary Lake. It is across the lake from Rising Sun Point.
  2. ROUTES up Mahtotopa Mountain will be available in Volume 5 of Climb Glacier National Park that will be released in 2016.
  3. MOVE ON past those issues that are holding you back. Holding on to it is probably not doing you any good.
  4. FOCUS on what you can change not on what you can’t do anything about.

We can learn a lot from history and L. O. Vaught’s outrage against some “petty park official” can serve as an example to us today.

Move on and forget about it.

Read another story about forgiveness here in A Chief’s Apology.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park?

I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at and I will see what I can find out.

Matotopa Mountain is featured in What They Called It. This book features stories about the names along Going-to-the-Sun Road and is available on our website.

Thanks for joining me on this quest for the story behind the History.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015