Pioneer Remembers When West Broadway Was a Cow Pasture
The Montana Standard (Butte, Montana) – Sunday, November 2, 1941 – Page 11

Widow of Butte’s second mayor, she came to Montana the year Abraham Lincoln was shot; lived in Butte when cows grazed on west Broadway, when the Butte hill was covered with beautiful trees, before the days when the open-air roasting of copper ore destroyed all vegetation. Last week she came back for a few hours visit to the scenes of her early life, accompanied by her son, Fred Valiton, sheriff of Powell county.  Asked to tell readers of the Montana Standard something of those early days, Mrs. Valiton graciously offered to write her recollections, appearing on this page.


Tells Story of Butte in 1876
Mrs. Valiton Relates Early History of City

     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.

Eastern Star 60 Years

Mrs. 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 the state.

     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.

Moves to  Butte

“I 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.

First Schooling

     “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 place diggings.

Game Plentiful

     “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.

Holiday for Butte

     “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.

First Cemetery

     “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.

Park Street Bridge

     “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.

Dwarf for Postmaster

     “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.

First Church Services

     “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.

Praises Mrs. Hauswirth

     “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.

Quite 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 Powell county.

     “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.”)

Heads Pioneers

     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