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Images tell stories from the past
By Marga Lincoln   - 08/22/2009

The Montana Standard

More Info on This Book: Jefferson County

Out of attics and old photo albums came pictures of early Jefferson County that are the heart of a new book, "Images of America: Jefferson County," by Susanna M. Lindsay.

It's admittedly a selective history, said Lindsay, the former director of the Jefferson County Museum. The book's content was driven by the photos in the museum's collection.

However, it provides a richly illustrated introduction to a county rich in history.

And the photos provide a fascinating glimpse into daily life of bygone days.

One meets Helen Wickes, who is sitting on the ground with her two young daughters on a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1901.

"Normally a trip to Yellowstone would take quite a while," Lindsay said. "For example some trips took three days just to reach Bozeman." Middleweight boxer Ben Maxfield, wearing long leggings and knee-high socks, stares out of another page his arms cocked in an old-fashioned boxing pose.

A resident of Utah, he trained at Boulder Hot Springs in 1888 and bought property on Main Street.

Other photos show families picnicking, complete with elegant glassware and silverware; the 1929 Jefferson County High School girls basketball team all sporting fashionably bobbed hair; and a cluster of Comet miners smiling into the camera before they descend into the earth.

The museum's photo collection came primarily from three sources, Lindsay said.

Olive Hagadone, well known in Jefferson County for her love of history and her locally published writings, "Boulder: It's Friends and Neighbors," had been given a wonderful collection of historic photos from the Basin area.

"The photographs are large, crisp and clean and show the people and buildings of Basin," Lindsay said. "There's lots of information on the back that told the story of Basin." Another source was the Steele family, who owned a mercantile in Boulder in the early part of the 20th century. They provided a family scrapbook of well-documented photos. "The bulk were taken in the late teens and early '20s," she said.

"They show a very prosperous time in Jefferson County. They're neat because they show just what it was like to live in Jefferson County at that time." "The other collection was from the Mattson family from Comet, taken from 1916 to the mid-1920s. They show the miners in Comet, what they did for entertainment, what the families did. It was a hard life to be a miner, but they had time to enjoy with their families." In fact, this particular reader found intriguing information on just about every page.

There's the story of Battista Strozzi, a 14-year-old from Switzerland who stowed away on a cargo ship in 1876 and would go on to set up a successful dairy in Elk Park.

There are tragedies, as well.

On Sept. 14, 1917, Great Northern passenger train No. 238 derailed at High Ore, about 6 miles west of Boulder, killing the engineer Hiram "Nick" Carter and the fireman, Earl Rutledge and seriously injuring several others.

Happening during World War I, the wreck spurred speculation that it was sabotage by German- sympathizers.

"They even brought in a local detachment of military to investigate the accident," Lindsay said.

The true cause, proved to be excessive speed by Carter on his first and final outing as an engineer.

Photos and tales of mining, fire and hot springs feature prominently in the book.

Among these is the tragic loss of the once-bustling Alhambra Hot Springs Hotel in the tiny community of Alhambra south of Helena.

This posh resort sported its own railroad depot, and featured both a hotel with fine dining and rental cottages.

It offered on-staff doctors, as well as a large public plunge for men and women, separate baths for men and women, and steam and mud baths.

Guests could stroll the grounds along a wooden boardwalk, rest in the gazebo, fish for trout from the well-stocked pond and rent horses.

A room at the hotel cost $2.50 per night or $15 for a week.

The beautiful Alhambra Hotel went up in flames on April 24, 1959. Everything was destroyed, but an old player piano. The cause, like much of history, remains a mystery.

Linsay Carlson of The Montana Standard contributed to this story.

Signing today in Boulder Author Susanna M. Lindsay will sign copies of "Images of America: Jefferson County" Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Heritage Center at 210 N. Main St. in Boulder.

Copies of the book will be available at the signing for $21.99 each. Books are also available at area bookstores in Butte or online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or www.amazon.com.

Buy It Now: Jefferson County $21.99

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