When West Broadway Was a Cow Pasture
The Montana Standard (Butte, Montana) – Sunday, November 2, 1941 – Page 11
Story of Butte in 1876
Seventy-six years in Montana, dating from her arrival with her
parents at Alder Gulch in 1865, is the record of Mrs. Mary M. Valiton of
Deer Lodge, who was a brief visitor here during the past week.
Looking back across that span of time as she sat in the Finlen
Hotel lobby, her cane by her side, Mrs. Valiton told a Post-Standard
reporter that she would prefer to write her own story. “There’s so
much to tell she said, adding that she lived in Butte “when West
Broadway was a cow pasture.”
Mrs. Valiton, the only woman ever elected president of the Society
of Montana Pioneers, was born at Portville, N.Y., the only child of Mr.
and Mrs. Walter Rea. At the age of one year she and her parents left
Council Bluffs, Iowa, in a prairie schooner, traveling by ox team with a
train of 100 wagons. The trip to Montana constituted one of those
romantic, colorful and exciting sagas that had so much to do with the
winning of the West. And then: From Alder Gulch to Helena, from Helena to
Missoula, from Missoula to Deer Lodge, from Deer Lodge to Butte, and from
Butte back to Deer Lodge—these constituted her movings about, first with
her parents and lastly with her husband, the late Henry G. Valiton, second
mayor of Butte, first master of Mount Moriah Lodge of Masons, and a
partner with Bill Owsley in his livery barn, located on the site of the
present Owsley block, center of Butte’s shopping district.
In the following article Mrs. Valiton tells about Butte in 1876.
She says she was here one year ahead of Marcus Daly. There was in reality
only one street—Main street—running down the hill from the mines to
about where Mercury street is today. From there south was a mess of placer
diggings. There was no Park street and only about two blocks of Broadway.
The place was cut up with cowpaths which the miners followed in going to
and from their work, to their homes, or to the center of town.
Star 60 Years
Valiton became a member of the Order of Eastern Star in Butte 60 years
ago. It was before either of the Butte chapters had been organized, the
degrees being conferred by members of a chapter in Helena, the first in
In next Sunday’s Standard Mrs. Valiton will tell of the trip by
covered wagon from Council Bluffs to Alder Gulch. In it she describes an
Indian attack that kept up for three days. She tells of her mother leading
rifles inside the wagon and handing them out to the men, and of how her
mother placed her in the oven of a cook stove to protect her from arrows
and bullets that were whizzing about.
Her story of the trip is taken from a diary kept by her father and
mother, now one of Mrs. Valiton’s most sacred treasures.
And here we let Mrs. Valiton tell her own story about the world’s
great mining camp as she saw it 85 years ago.
was only 12 years of age when my parents moved to Butte in the spring of
1876. Our home was where the Montana Standard building now stands on West
Broadway. Ours was the only home on the north side of Broadway until one
came to Main street. On that
corner (northwest corner of Broadway and Main) there was a blacksmith
shop. On the south side of Broadway there were two log cabins, and nothing
from there east until you came to the southwest corner of Broadway and
Main streets, where stood the Hotel de Mineral, operated by Simon
Hauswirth and his wife.
“I remember how badly I felt when my mother decided to build our
home so far from town! (Actually, it was less than two blocks from the
center of activity.) Her lot
of 45 feet only cost her the price of surveying and recording. She
received no title to it, however, for the reason that the land around her
was in litigation, and our lot was on the famous Smokehouse lead, which
was owned by James A. Murray. My
mother refused to join with others in a suit against Murray to clear the
various titles, and one day she received from Mr. Murray a clear title to
her 45 feet, free of all charges.
“My first schooling in Butte was received in the Odd Fellows
building, which stood where the Leggat hotel is now. The teacher was a Joe
Seville who died a few years ago in Long Beach, Calif. Our
next school was one of four rooms which was located where the public
library is now. Egbert Smith was principal and there were two lady
teachers. Here my school days ended in 1880. Many of my schoolmates in
that school have lived, married and passed away in Butte. I have a list of
their names as far as I can recall them. Only a few are living.
“We were a happy group of young folks and enjoyed life. Our
pleasures in summer were picnics, horseback riding and the like. We
thought nothing of riding 10 or 15 miles to a dance. Our picnics were
often held on the hillside between Butte and Walkerville, which at that
time was covered with beautiful trees and grass. Often we would go to the
hills beyond Meaderville where there was an abundance of chokecherries,
raspberries and huckleberries. Sometimes we went to the beautiful spot
that is now known as Columbia Gardens. Our winter sports were dancing and
coasting. Our favorite coasting hill was Main street, from where the post
office is now, sliding down beyond Park street and on down to the old
“In those days, game was plentiful around the Butte hills. It
included bear, elk, antelope, deer, grouse and ducks. In 1877 my father
killed a very large buffalo in Elk Park, near Woodville. He presented the
mounted head to W. A. Clark, who placed it in his office in the Clark
Bros. bank. I think that was the last buffalo killed near Butte. In riding
across the flat south of Butte one would often see a band of antelope
grazing on the western foothills. I made the trip often across the flat to
Blacktail canyon where my father and James A. Talbot owned a sawmill. They
also owned the surrounding timber and water rights for two or three miles
up the canyon. I found a beautiful park—Thompson park—with a beautiful
lake and summer homes. What a wonderful change from the wild, rugged
canyon of years ago.
“I remember when the Parrot, Alice, St. Lawrence, Gagnon and
other mines were worked with a windlass and bucket. I also remember the
first quartz crushing araster was a crude affair turned by a mule. It was
located where Meaderville is now and was owned by a man named Olin, who
had lost both of his legs by freezing. He drove around the country in a
cart that was pulled by two beautiful St. Bernard dogs. He sold the
araster to a man named Joe Ramsdall, who later sold it to a Mr. Meader,
for whom Meaderville is named. Meader built a small smelter.
“Well do I remember the day the Alice mill started its stamps
working. It was a holiday for Butte. Business was suspended and we all
marched up the hill to see the mill start. At that time (1877) Marcus Daly
had arrived from Utah to become manager of the Alice. W. A. Clark also had
a stamp mill, known as the ‘Dexter,’ located west of south Montana
street. A. J. Davis, who
started the First National bank, owned a mill on East Broadway, about a
block east of the Finlen hotel. It was known as the Lexington.
“The mills were O.K. but, oh my, when the mill owners began
heap-roasting their ore the smoke was so thick and full of arsenic one
could hardly breathe. At times it was so thick you could not see three
feet ahead of you. Often the grocery delivery wagons carried bells to warn
pedestrians of their approach. It was dangerous crossing the street unless
you heard the bell and knew just how close you were to one of the wagons.
As a result of the smoke, the beautiful trees and grass on the hill all
died, and you could not even keep a few house plants, as they would wither
and die in no time. I remember my mother washing and hanging out my
father’s red flannel underwear, leaving it out overnight. The next
morning its color had changed from red to yellow due to the arsenic in the
smoke. Butte’s population protested against the roasting of ore in the
open and as a result, other means were used to treat it.
After that, Butte again was blessed with trees, grass and flowers.
“Butte’s first cemetery was west of town, near the Black Chief
mine. Later, the dead were moved from there to a plot of ground east of
town, south of where you make the turn going to Meaderville, in what was
called the Kemper addition. From there, the bodies were again moved, this
time to the foot of, and to the west of Montana street. The first to be
buried in the new cemetery was a man named Henry Porter, a brother of Bill
and Tom Porter, and an uncle of our past state auditor, George Porter. I
remember that he was buried in a lot in the northeast corner of the
cemetery. I attended his funeral.
“There were only a few homes and business houses when I moved to
Butte with my parents in 1876, and only three streets: Montana, Main, and
two blocks of Broadway, the latter extending that distance west from Main.
Entering the town, you came up Montana, cutting diagonally across
from where Park street is now to Broadway and thence east to Main. You
should realize that the whole place was cut up with trails and paths.
Outside of the streets mentioned, everything was paths and short cuts.
When you arrived at Broadway and started east to Main, you crossed
a gulch on a footbridge, about where Hamilton street comes into Broadway.
“The business part of Main street ended about where Park street
is now. Below that, there were only two or three log cabins where miners
lived. The area there was all old placer diggings which had been worked
over in the earliest days of the camp.
“During the summer of 1876, Park street was opened up for about
two blocks west from where the Owsley block now stands. The new street ran
across a deep gulch that came down from the north, crossing Park street at
about the west end of the Symons store.
A long bridge was built over it. Where it crossed Granite street
and Broadway, it was filled in.
“West of your city library building was a fenced-in pasture. West
of that was Missoula gulch, also running from north to south. There were
placer mines all up and down this gulch. East of Main there were no
streets, only cowpaths, leading to the miner’s cabins. The hotel
DeMineral and Girtin house were the first hotels, the former at Broadway
and Main, while the Girtin—a miners’ boarding house was just a half
block from Main on East Quartz street. On West Quartz street, where the
fire station is now located, was the home of Chastain Humphrey, one of the
co-discoverers of the Butte camp.
“Just below the Hotel DeMineral was the post office. The
postmaster was DeAnson Ford, a deformed dwarf who was beloved by us all
for his kindly acts and friendly smile. Next down the street was a saloon
and gambling house on the corner where the Lizzie block now stands was a
three room log house the home of Bill Owsley, the man who built the Owsley
block. Behind his log home was
a cowshed and chicken house. Down
the street (east) was Mr. Owsley’s low-built livery barn, made with
poles standing on end, and a horse corral behind.
North of the livery stable (North Main) was a general mercantile
store owned by a man named Chris Weibolt.
Next to that was a barber shop and then a dry good store owned by
E. L. Bonner. At the corner (Main and Broadway) Fred Lober had a dance
hall where we held our dances. Occasional traveling shows also performed
there. A block further up the street (Main and Granite) was the Centennial
hotel, owned by Dr. Beal. Outside of what I have mentioned, there were a
couple of Chinese laundries, a Chinese gambling den, some more saloons and
gambling places, a blacksmith shop, and possibly a few other
unimportant buildings. Homes were scattered here and there, with
cowpaths leading to them.
“The first church services and Sunday school were held in the
Good Templars hall in the I.O.O.F. building on West Broadway. A traveling
Methodist minister, Rev. Hugh Duncan, came once a month. We gathered the
few children together and Mr. Duncan organized a Sunday school. I had an
old-fashioned melodian which
we took each Sunday to the hall and I played while several of the girls
sang, and also taught the school. This we carried on until Reverend Riggin,
also a Methodist, came from Fish Creek and reorganized the Sunday school
with older teachers to take our places; also a real organ and organist.
“In the days of ’76 Butte was like a big family. If misfortune
came to anyone there were willing hands ready. They helped the needy,
nursed the sick, shared each other’s joys and sorrows. There was one
lady I want to mention who was always first with her helping hand—who
never turned a hungry man from her door nor refused a sick call, no matter
the time of day or night. She
was Mrs. Simon Hauswirth. She was truly a mother to us all. She has gone
to her great reward with God’s blessing.
“Well do I remember our Indian scare of 1877 when General Gibbon
and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians had a battle in the Big Hole
basin. Volunteers were called from Butte and other towns in the territory
to help drive the Indians back to their reservation. The town was all
excitement as all the able bodied men had left for the scene. The report
came that the Indians were headed towards Butte. All
spare horses were rounded as orders had arrived to take any horses in
town. Freight and farm wagons were left in the middle of the street, with
the horses ‘drafted’ by the volunteers to be used in heading the
Indians off. Women and children were crying, walking the streets, thinking
their loved ones had gone, possibly never to return. But all returned
safely without seeing an Indian, as the fight was over before our men
reached the battlefield, the Indians having been driven off in the
direction of Yellowstone park.
a City in 1878
In 1877 and 1878 Butte had taken such a boom that it was becoming
quite a city. Business houses, churches—our four-room school
house—were built. Mines and
mills were running full blast. Here I am reminded that Butte had a brass
band, composed of 12 of its leading citizens. The group included Al
Dusseau, leader; Simon Hauswirth, Henry Valiton, Nelson Moore, Barney
Levi, William Matthew, Frank Marsh, Dan Yeager, George Fitchen and men of
the mines of Kennicott, Moran and Dingley.
The band was generous with its music, playing for all political
affairs, parades and funerals, always ready to play, no matter what the
occasion. On New Year’s day it was the custom to keep open house to all
callers. Our band boys always went calling in a four-horse sleigh,
serenading each home. Refreshments were invariably served, mostly cake and
coffee. In the evening our band, homeward bound, could be heard. One of
them might be playing ‘A Hot Time in the Old Town,’ another might be
piping out the notes of ‘Yankee Doodle,’ while someone else might be
adding to the musical confusion with the solemn notes of a funeral dirge.
The musicians the next day blamed it all on the ‘strong coffee.’
All those happy, congenial band boys have passed to the Great
Beyond. Not one is left to tell of the good times of the long ago.
“In 1880 I was married to Henry G. Valiton, who at that time was
the second mayor of Butte. In 1890 he was re-elected. He was the first
master of Mount Moriah lodge No. 24, A.F. & A.M., which was chartered
in 1880. He also served in that post for the lodge during the years 1881,
1882 and 1884. He was high priest of Deer Lodge chapter No. 3, Royal Arch
Masons, and commander of Montana commandery No. 3 of Knights Templar. He
was a member of Algeria temple of the Shrine in Helena. Four children were
born to us, two of whom died in infancy. The two living are Augusta Eaton,
wife of Lieut. Gov. Ernest Eaton, Billings, and Fred Valiton, sheriff of
“In 1881 I had the pleasure of riding into Butte on the first
passenger train into the city. In 1883 I attended the driving of the
golden spike at Gold Creek, marking the completion of the North Pacific
railroad. Henry Villard, president of the road, alternated with Ulysses S.
Grant, former President of the United States, in driving the spike,
connecting the section of the road that had been built from the West with
that which had been built from the East. Two trains were on the track as
the last spike was driven one pointing east, the other west. When the
spike was hammered into place the engineers opened their throttles and
brought the two cowcatchers together. A dozen more trains were down the
track, mostly from the East, loaded with friends of President Villard,
most of them stockholders from Holland whom Villard had invited to come
and see what their money had built.
(The story is told that the rich Hollanders didn’t think much of
their investment as the rickety train rolled farther and farther west
across the Dakota and Montana plains. “How can we expect profits?
Nutting but sagebrush and jackrabbits” was a remark attributed to
one of the Dutchmen. “The furder we go de vurse it gets. Dat Villard
must be crazy.”)
Continuing with Mrs. Valiton: “I
have been twice state president of the Society of Montana Pioneers. I
took the degrees of the Order of Eastern Star 60 years ago. I also have
been Grand Adah in the Grand lodge, and now hold a life membership in the
order. I came to Montana in 1865, the year Abraham Lincoln was
assassinated. I was an infant,
traveling in a prairie schooner with my father and mother. The four oxen
pulling our covered wagon made between eight and 10 miles per day on the
trip from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Alder Gulch in Montana. Our wagon train
was held up three days and three nights while our men folks fought off an
Indian attack. My mother placed me in the oven of our cook stove while she
loaded guns and handed them out to the men.”
See Pioneer Relates Exciting Story of Covered Wagon Trail