History of Opportunity
    Written by Mary Popovich Blaskovich
Submitted by Lorene Frigaard

Extracted from Under the Shadow of Mt. Haggin: The Story of Anaconda and Deer Lodge County from 1863-1976, A Bicentennial Year “Heritage” Project collected and compiled by the Deer Lodge County History Group, 1975.   Pages 24-27.

     The community of Opportunity was founded and named by Dr. Henry C. Gardiner, head of the Anaconda Company’s ranch properties, in the years preceding America’s entry into World War I. 

     Dr. Gardiner was born at St. Catherine’s, Ont., in March, 1879.  He came to Montana at about the turn of the century when James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railroad was encouraging young men from the East, Middle West and Canada, to settle in the state.

     He graduated from Montana State University in 1903 and then went to Chicago Veterinary College and returned to Montana.  As a young veterinarian, he started his practice in the Gallatin Valley.  He was brought to Anaconda by the company to manage their rural properties and to prove that ranching and farming could be carried on profitably in the vicinity of the smelter.  He was principal witness in the famous Smoke case of 1907, an action brought by the residents of Deer Lodge Valley area vs Anaconda smelter operation.

     The Anaconda Company, won.  Dr. Gardiner continued on as ranch manager improving and developing at Willow Glen stock ranch where he resided with his family.

     He formed the Mount Haggin Land and Livestock Co.

     He brought from England the famed Hampshire sheep with which he established a considerable reputation, exhibiting them at livestock shows throughout the country and bringing many honors to the Deer Lodge Valley.

     Due to a shortage of homes in Anaconda, and with the declared purpose that the people of Anaconda should have the opportunity to rear their children in a rural atmosphere if they wished, he was chiefly responsible for the development of the little community of Opportunity.

     Opportunity started as 10 acre plots.  This was swampland owned by the Anaconda Company, which had to be drained and prepared for building.  The land was bought by the Deer Lodge Valley Farms Company, a department of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, in 1912, from early day ranchers, as Morgan Evans, George Parrot, Dan Murphy, Tom Ford, Bill Norton, Tommy Harris and Mr. Hensley.

     This land consisted of about 500 acres and was surveyed into tracts of about  10 acres each, and then sold with restrictions to the people who were employed by the Anaconda Reduction Works located seven miles west.

     The first homes occupied in Opportunity were built in 1914, and the first home remembered by many was the home of Napoleon “Shortie” Bouchee on Hauser Ave. where the street car line made the turn-around.  This at present is the Hungerford residence.  Among some of the early property owners who are still living in this community are Mrs. Mary Meshnik, Mrs. Frances Preskar and Mrs. Mary Matosich, the latter having moved to Opportunity somewhat later, perhaps in the 1920’s.

     Street car service was operated by the Company to Anaconda and the smelter over Montana Central Spur Line running from Stuart to Anaconda (Stuart was located about three miles southwest of Opportunity and it was an old railroad depot, an interchange on the Montana Union and N.P. Railroads).  Traces of this rail line bed which joined at Hauser can still be seen parallel to the Steel Tower on the outskirts of Opportunity along the Butte-Anaconda Highway running on into the pasture land.

     In 1915, the extension of this rail line along Hauser Ave. to the smelter settling ponds made transportation available to the residents of this community.  Hauser Ave. ran centerly through Opportunity and this made it possible for people to catch the street car with less than a 15 minute walk from any location, and it was convenient for the members of the County Club, which was built in 1918.

     In May, 1914, the Mill Creek Irrigation Company was incorporated with H. C. Gardiner, and J. C. Harrington as Board of Trustees and F. E. Gordon, secretary.  The Irrigation Co. was authorized to sell shares of stock at $10.00 per share and the Deer Lodge Valley Farms had one thousand shares the largest amount dated July 9, 1914.

     The first 500 inches of water from Mill Creek was granted to Opportunity for irrigation.  The main ditch heads east of the present site of Mill Creek Community and it the first irrigation ditch to receive water from the creek.  The money obtained from the sale of stock was used to install and maintain ditches and head gates.

     It is reported that 60 bushels of wheat has been raised on one acre of ground and the early residents raised splendid garden produce to include cabbage heads equal in size and weight to anything exhibited at a fair.

     Some of the residents also had horses, cows, pigs and other animals.  A grocery was opened by a Mr. Van Egan in about 1915 and was located on West Stewart St. near the junction of White Ave.

     “Hurryup” Mike Smith opened a second store in conjunction with his house at Potts and East Stewart for a short time.  Theodore Smet, an uncle of Charlie Smet, in 1919 took over the Van Egan store and it continued in operation until about 1926, when Charles “Ohio” Norcutt opened the first store at Hauser and Stewart St.  The store again changed hands to the following:  Art Walsh, Mr. and Mrs. H. Waldorf; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brophy; and later the Solans had taken their turns, first Charlie and then Anthony Solan, now deceased.  This store burned to the ground in 1951 and the Solans rebuilt it on the present site in Feb. 1952. It is presently run by Mrs. Anthony Solan and family.  The Brophys were related to Mr. and Mrs. Waldorf and came to Opportunity from Harlowtown, Mont.  Art Welsh was married to Rod Munn’s daughter early residents to Opportunity, who resided across Stewart St. from the store.

     The Beaver Dam School was built in 1914 by the Anaconda Company and opened its doors upon completion of two classrooms, and later two more classrooms were finished accommodating eight grades, with four teachers.  The first principal was Miss Workman, teachers: Miss Conroy, Miss Martin, Miss Cox and Miss Nickols.  Mr. Earl Campbell was the first janitor, he was Audrey Aubertin’s first husband.  Beaver Dam School was not in School District No. 10 when it started.

     Bus service to Anaconda for high school students began in 1925 by the Intermountain Transportation Company.  In 1928, the Junior High School was completed in Anaconda and students of the 7th, 8th and 9th grades were transported to that school.  Later on, all students above the 6th grade went to town school which continued to the present time.

     The first school bus driver and one who is well known in this community in commercial bus service is J. J. “Chalkie” Verzuh, a veteran of this service, who relates that the first school bus was a Pierce Arrow.  Roads were not too good and after a snow storm he, along with a helper, would get up at 4:00 a.m. and plow the school route with a snow plow to insure an on time schedule for the school bus.

     The country club was started in 1918 and is one of the historical sites and has watched Opportunity grow from a few houses into a community.  The golf course is well cared for with velvet like greens.  A spacious and well furnished dining room, modern equipped kitchen and an attractive lounge afford many facilities.  The club was organized in 1915 by Mr. E. P. Mathewson as president.  The gold course was  a nine hole affair and in 1922 was expanded to 18 holes.  The same year, Anaconda’s first state golf tournament was held.  In 1954, the present nine hole all grass course was constructed.  It is the site of an invitational tournament held each year during the first week in July.

     Mrs. Charles Brancombe took the state championship in 1922.  Mrs. Frank Tucker won the state championship 5 times.

     In 1924 the Community Club House was built by volunteer labor with materials purchased by Dr. Gardiner, who contributed $100.00.  The Anaconda Copper Mining Company contributed $300.00 through Frederick Laist, then the manager of the Anaconda Reduction Works.  Memberships were sold to residents at $10.00 to help defray the expenses.  The ground was purchased from Thomas Solan.  The first dance helped to complete the financing.  William C. Penniman was the first president and Frank Cole was vice president.  Trustees were:  Joe Chavrack, J. C. Visser, George Brolin, H. T. Nilsson and George Spahl.

     A service station was opened in 1932 by Pete Grus located at the Junction of Butte and Anaconda Highway and Stewart St.  Later this station was purchased and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Tuss up until 1952, when a new modern service center was opened at the same location under the management of Vern Tuss.  To supplement the service for automobile owners, Clinton Rice opened an automobile repair shop at his home on Erickson St.

     On Jan. 1, 1952, bus service for the smelter workers was provided by the Mountain View Transportation Company.  Deer Lodge Valley Bus Lines operated a regular schedule every day with three round trips from Deer Lodge to the smelter and made connections with the Intermountain Transportation Company in Anaconda.  Intermountain bus service is available to Butte and Anaconda and with its inauguration the street car service was discontinued.

     Landmarks and places bordering on the outskirts of Opportunity frequently discussed:  The Bill Norton Home which was at the end of the Norton Trail, which name was later changed to Stewart Ave. over the N. P. Tracks on the southeast side.

     Mary Evans home was west of the Gun Club.  The Dave Evans, Jeannette and Bill Evans home at the end of Willow Glen Road on the old Butte-Anaconda Highway.

     The Three Mile Road House was just at the turn to Wisdom and up farther the Ten Mile House.  These places furnished lodging, food and drink.

     The Scott Peck Ranch up the old Butte-Anaconda Highway across from the highway where an old barn still stands.  The Albert Clark family resided there for awhile.  They had moved from Opportunity.  Later the house burned down.

     Stuart was a railroad station on the Montana Union before the B. A. & P. Railroad was built in 1884.  Stuart offered freight and passenger service to Anaconda and the smelter.  Its location was in the area of the old gravel pit.  Along with the Railroad Depot, there also was a schoolhouse, two saloons, one run by Parrot and the other by Fuller, a  Pool Hall, Post Office and Dance Hall.  Long after everything had been moved away or done away with, the little schoolhouse remained into the 1930’s.

     In this area too, Dave Norton had a chicken ranch.  He was a cousin to Wesley Norton of Opportunity.  Wesley’s father, Bill Norton, came from Canada and his grandfather came from Wales. Dave Norton’s daughter, Winona Peterson, lives at Morrell, and Elgin was his son.

     Tent Town was located just south of Igalls, where people lived in tents during the first World War, due to shortage of homes in Anaconda.

     The Mitchells, Drivers and Jack Steimetz, known to all as “Fat Jack” lived on the mountain side northeast of Opportunity.

     Bill Biggs lived about a mile from the Nortons in a two story frame house.

     Richard Mitchell and his wife Elizabeth lived on the mountainside.  Jack Steinmetz, was a bachelor who lived in the vicinity of the Mitchell’s and I remember he hauled our wood at that time it was $5.00 a cord.

     There was also a Mitchell family that lived just across the road from Willow Glen and worked for Dr. Gardiner, their daughter Ella attended school at the Beaverdam.

     Engleside was a spot in the road right at the turn on the Butte-Anaconda highway to the Country Club road.  The Jim Paddocks live there now.

     All of the avenues were named after the governors of the state of Montana.  The first girl born there was Angela Antonich, now Mrs. Walter Softich.

     Among the first arrivals who lived on to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries were:  Mr. and Mrs. Anton Stipech and Mr. and Mrs. Adam Rodocay.  Jacob Meschnik died just three months before their anniversary and Mr. and Mrs. Aubertin.

     Father Bernard McCarthy of Butte, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dan McCarthy, early timers.

     For the children too young to attend the dances the theatrical group had performances  at the club and consisted of Mrs. Joseph Chavrack, Mrs. Frank Cole and Mrs. Pete Grus and others. 

     I don’t think anyone very famous came from Opportunity that is to my knowledge, like a president or a movie star.  I think I can understand that.

     Those who assisted with the history: Pat McCarthy, Wesley Norton, Kay Stipech Casey.

     Many of the early timers came and stayed awhile and some came later and stayed longer.  In 1914, 27 of the first residents to Opportunity, on record at the Deer Lodge County Courthouse, entered a contract to purchase the land with the Deer Lodge Valley Farms Company; 1915 about 12; 1916 about 27; 1917 about 4; 1918 – 2; 1919 – 1; and in 1915 – 1.


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