Montana Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

              Original Photograph On File: Lewistown / Bldg / Poor Farm / 1
       Culver Studio, Brenner #3025.

"We do not have much information on the [Fergus County] poor house. It was called the County Poor Farm and was started in 1890 as a County rest home and Hospital. They cared for indigent patients. They raised all their own meat and produce. They closed July 1, 1965.It was located on Lower Spring Creek. In the photograph above, the Reed & Bowles Trading Post is on the left of center."
   Nancy Watts  Lewistown Public Library 



Here is the Montana excerpt from a U.S. Government REPORT 
summarizing various state poor laws in 1904. .
Click on the links above for more information.

the Poorhouse Story

Jackie Corr has written a piece of creative non-fiction (and if you don't know what that term means, just click to see a wonderful example) which uses the vehicle of an imaginary interview with the author, Charles Dickens, to present some thoughtful insight into the history of the Silver Bow County Poor Farm in Butte. 

Don't miss   A NEW YEARS TALE: The Charles Dickens Interview 

the Poorhouse Story


"I was a child in the 1930s and remember going to a place my Father called The Poor Farm outside of Cody, [Park County] Wyoming. I have not researched it since."
     Ruth Kern 

"There was a  County Poor Farm  outside of Lewistown, Montana, Fergus County, as recent as the early 1950's. I recall visiting on a field trip with the Girl Scouts and we brought May baskets to the residents. It seemed to be just frail elderly who were there, but I recall seeing children playing outside who also lived there. "
    Mary Jo Propst 

"Today I visited the State Historical Library and discovered that my step-great-grandfather lived at the
Lewis and Clark County Poor Farm and Hospital and worked as their paid gardener. My great-grandmother may have worked in the kitchen."
     Jane A. Kipp 

the Poorhouse Story

The headquarters of NCAT (the National Center for Appropriate Technology) in Butte, Montana,  is a 1902 brick building that is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The building operated as 
the Silver Bow County Poor Farm Hospital, providing care for the elderly and indigent, until it was closed in the 1930's. The structure continued as a hospital until 1956; NCAT moved into the building in 1976.

Monday   September 02, 1996  PAGE: 10A 
"Before welfare, [Yellowstone] county housed and fed the indigent." 
By LORNA THACKERAY Of the Gazette Staff 

      submitted by Jackie Corr 
: This is a wonderful, very comprehensive and well written article about the history of the Yellowstone County Poorhouse. It has been reprinted with
permission of  the Billings Gazette.   PHL 
the Poorhouse Story

"When I visited the Montana Historical Society Library, they hauled out huge ledgers with the names, dates and lots of information about the inmates for many decades. It would be a gold mine for anyone looking for in-depth records of people at the [Lewis & Clark County] hospital/poor farm. I didn't look closely at all the ledgers they brought me because I was focusing on 1903- 1908, but I believe they had records from around 1879 - 1936. A woman asked me if I wanted the cemetery records, so they must have those, too."  
     Jane A. Kipp 

Note: Montana Historical Society Library, P.O. Box 201201, 225 N. Roberts, Helena, MT 59620-1201. Phone: 406-444-2681.

the Poorhouse Story

(See note above in RECORDS section.)

Poorhouse Cemery Wall Needs Repair!     
November 16, 2001
  In 1937, Depression era Butte, through the WPA built a large retaining wall of granite around the Poor Farm cemetery. This granite came from the Ernest George quarry at the nine mile. Recent acts of vandalism involved the dismantling of this wall and the removal of the granite. This took place on the northwest side of the slope. That wall was crucial in preventing what remains of the cemetery from being washed away in just a few short years. 
  This cemetery, one of the earliest in the state, was in use before Butte was incorporated in 1879 which makes it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of Butte's historical sites. Thousands were laid to rest here over the years. In addition, the main building of the Silver Bow County Poor Farm still exists.  It is at 3040 Continental and is known as NCAT.
  This building, erected in 1902, was the largest public building in Silver Bow County and the second largest public building in the state, second only to the capital building in Helena at the time. It would remain so until the the county courthouse that we use today was built a decade later.
  I have remarked in the past that the size of the buildings at the poor farm are a more reliable measurement of the glory of the Copper Kings than what has been written by the historians. Of course, buildings like the poor farm and its cemetery remain unknown to the historians and the history experts.
  So it is time that a case is made for this cemetery and the spirits that reside there. No better place to start then this Butte Evening New's Christmas story nearly a century ago. 
Jackie Corr 
From the Butte Evening News, December 18, 1905.  The News  was one of four daily newspapers in Butte in 1905.  The others were The Intermountain, Anaconda Standard and the Butte Miner. The Intermountain and the Butte Evening News were afternoon papers.  The Evening News would quit publication in 1911 and The Intermountain became the Butte Daily Post in 1912. 

Click here to read this old Christmas  article.

Poor Farm Cemetery -- Jefferson County, Montana 

Poor Farm Cemetery -- Lewis & Clark County, Helena, Montana 

Forestvale Cemetery (China Row) -- Lewis & Clark County
"Note: On 10/28/1892 there were 16 "Chinaman" (they were only given numbers 3 through 18) from China, residing in Helena, undertaker was Flaherty, owner of lot deceased, buried in China Row, moved from Old County Cemetery (Poor Farm Cemetery). These burials were matched up with the Poor Farm Cemetery records and names were entered for some of the numbered burials."

Riverside Cemetery -- Billings, Yellowstone County 
"This cemetery is in need of care. It originally was part of the Poor Farm and many buried here are just identified by a cement number in the ground. Now with the help of the Eugene Sara Detachment, Marine Corps League in Billings, the cemetery is getting the attention it needs."  Joyce Obland 


the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in MONTANA through the helpful participation of  readers. All are requested to submit items of interest by sending e-mail to The Poorhouse Lady.

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