Bold Women: Annie Morgan and her mysterious cloth bag
In 2007, a carpenter widening the door of a Forest Service rental cabin up Rock Creek, near Philipsburg, found a cloth bag in the wall. Inside was a soap wrapper, wads of tape and string, a wood spatula, and a receipt for plums sold to Annie Morgan, the cabin’s first owner.
Annie, an African-American woman, was born in Baltimore. After the Civil War, she worked her way west, probably as an army cook. Around 1887, she landed in Philipsburg, but life wasn’t easy; she was arrested for vagrancy in 1890. Two years later, she took a job nursing an elderly man in Rock Creek, and received land as payment. Probably thrilled to have a place of her own, Annie lived the rest of her life in a log cabin built by a partner who came along, Joseph Case.
Annie and Joseph farmed and hosted travelers on the homestead. But the cloth bag sheds new light on Annie. Archaeologists recognized it as a “bag charm,” used by Hoodoo root doctors. Common in the South, it’s the only one found, so far, in the Northwest. The items inside symbolize healing. The receipt bears Annie’s name. These things communicated to any spirits at the threshold that Annie was a root doctor—and they’d better stay out. Hoodoo taps into and uses the energy of the dead. It’s the original source of popular culture’s zombies. In the South, Annie Morgan’s ability to control spirits would have brought prestige and wealth. In Montana, it was a tradition carried across a continent that helped make her cabin her home.
Celebrating Women's History Month, Bold Women of Montana is brought to you by Mountain Press, publisher of Bold Women in Montana History, and is produced by Beth Judy, Jake Birch and Michael Marsolek. Theme Music by Naomi Moon Siegel.