No, not that Montauk, the one I know you’ve surely been to — the other one. The one that Montauk is named after.
Well, sort of.
Our Montauk, the one at the end of State Highway 119, is not the original, of course. It is named after a Montauk in New York. Actually, both places are named after the Montaukett Indians. Otherwise known as the Montauk People, they lived on the eastern edge of what is now known as Long Island.
The inhabitants of the modern-day Missouri Montauk and the ancient New York Montauk are not altogether different kinds of people. Separated by about 400 years and 1200 miles, I think there are some common threads.
They (the ancient ones) were an artistic people —they made things with wood and beads and shells. You can find all sorts of folksy art pieces in and around Montauk State Park.
They (the New York Montauketts) were also a resourceful people — sharing their wares with European settlers visiting the New World. I guess you could say they were kind of like a 17th-Century version of a tourist trap, profiting off of people who weren’t from there.
The modern namesake have that in common with the originals, too.
It’s not the only things they share in common.
The original settlement of Montauk is at the very eastern end of Long Island. It is sometimes called the “last resort.” Their major industry is, indeed, tourism. But in the beginning, before all the tourists, they made their living off fishing and hunting.
Sound familiar? The men hunted whales out of canoes while the women harvested corn and beans. Missouri’s Montauk doesn’t produce much in the way of cash crops, and we’ve swapped the whales out for trout.
But the canoe thing, well, we definitely share that in common.
In 1900, the New York state legislature declared the Montauk tribe extinct. Today, there are some loose affiliations with the native people, but no formal recognition. Nowadays, Montauk, New York, is in the Hamptons. That’s where the super rich vacation in the summer. In the mid-1900s they retreated there out of the heat of the city. Now they take a quick helicopter ride out whenever they’d like. Montauk (the New York one) has hosted some elite and iconic figures in American life.
Bernie Madoff had a home there, for instance. He ripped off about a gazillion dollars from a bunch of people and is currently not trout fishing in federal prison. Andy Warhol, too, is associated tightly with Montauk. His art is some of the most recognizable work in the last 100 years, including his painting of a Campbell’s soup can, which if you stare at it long enough makes you wonder why it’s worth nearly twelve million dollars.
Montauk — the one in Missouri — hasn’t produced many notable people. None that have painted anything worth 12 million bucks, that is. In fact, I suspect local residents would have some harsh things to say for the excess attached to a depiction of a soup can.
However, Montauk State Park is about 3,000 acres in land area. At $4,000/acre, which might be a tad generous (although Echo Bluff State Park is just 330 acres and famously cost $52 million to develop), it would match Warhol’s soup painting in value.
You could also buy about 1.5 million trout for that price, at wholesale prices per pound. That’s a lot of fish caught in honor of the Missouri Montauk’s most esteemed resident, Roosevelt Holland. The Rose Holland Trout Derby has helped make the Midwest Montauk famous.
Start hosting a whale derby and we’ll be impressed, Long Island.
You can keep your soup can and we’ll take our trout. We may share some history, but we share very little in the present. Just the name.