Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

This Month in Montana History

February 2nd 1865, 158 years ago: The Territory of Montana creates nine original counties: Jefferson County, Beaverhead County, Big Horn County (later renamed Custer County) Chouteau County, Deer Lodge County, Edgerton County, Gallatin County, Madison County, and Missoula County. On the same day, the Historical Society of Montana incorporated at Virginia City, Montana.

February 28th 1889, 134 years ago: The Jefferson County Courthouse is completed. The building was designed by John Paulsen, with architecture inspired by the Middles Ages to reflect the desire for Jefferson's small frontier communities to assert their staying power. It is the oldest courthouses in Montana still used for its original purpose.

February 15th 1895, 128 years ago: Lyman Bennett is born in Virginia City. Bennett would be appointed to Fifth Judicial District Judge in 1921 following the death of William Clark. He would win election 3 times before losing to Henry G. Rodgers in 1937.

February 20th 1895, 128 years ago: A fire in the laundry room of the Whitehall Hotel destroys the hotel, two saloons, a confectionery, and an unfinished brick building. Fortunately, a fire in Butte weeks prior taught Whitehallers how to better keep flammable equipment (including two tons of dynamite left in one house for reasons unknown), resulting in the fire being much less damaging than it could have been.

February 9th 1897, 126 years ago: The State of Montana creates Broadwater County. As a result of the redrawn districts, Jefferson County loses about 1,000 people from its population.

February 2nd 1902, 121 years ago: During a "hard times" dance, a fire caused by an overheated stove destroys many of the businesses in Clancy, including the dance hall, a hotel, a barber shop, a general store, and many other empty buildings. Without fire-fighting equipment, many buildings resorted to protecting themselves with wet blankets which quickly froze in the below-zero weather. There was no loss of life, but guests in the hotel lost all their possessions.

February 14th 1925, 98 years ago: The last legal hanging in Jefferson County is overseen by Judge Lyman Bennett. The hanged was Roy Walsh, arrested for the murder of storekeeper Al Johnson. Walsh's partner, Arthur Hughes, was only sentenced 18-36 years at the prison in Deer Lodge. The hanging was scheduled for June 1923, but Walsh managed to escape the jail in Boulder and avoid custody for 2 years.

--Information from The Age, The Age Sentinel, Boulder Monitor, and Montana Sunlight, as well as additional historic sources. Conduct your own research at MontanaNewspapers.org

 

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