Poor Farm Dedication 2006
Though some ghosts might be laid to rest during the dedication of the Park County Poor Farm Memorial on Saturday afternoon, the research done in identifying persons buried at the unmarked burial site of the long defunct facility east of Livingston has given rise to a new mystery.
Carol Woodley, president of the Park County Genealogy Society, the sponsoring organization for the memorial project, said that historian Jerry Brekke, who assisted with researching the burial site, discovered only one of 111 people buried at the site is female.
Brekke came to that conclusion after reviewing research done by others into death certificates and probates and from obituary notices in the local newspapers of the time, she said.
An obituary notice found in the June 17, 1893 Livingston Enterprise indicates "Eda Johnson, a four-year-old girl and inmate of the county poor farm house, died Friday evening of last week of scarlet fever and was buried the following afternoon in the county cemetery on the poor farm.
"I thought at first, maybe we might have missed them," Woodley said about the absence of other female burials.
She said after Brekke's discovery, a review of materials came with up with the same results.
The initial research was conducted for the years 1893, when the Poor Farm was established by Park County to care for persons living in poverty or who were sick or infirmed, to 1924, when deceased residents began to be buried at Mountain View Cemetery.
The Park County Poor Farm, which became Sunset Farm, in the early 1930's was closed in the late 1960's.
Woodley started looking into the Poor Farm burials almost a decade ago while researching information about her ancestor: Wyatt Adkins. Adkins 82, was buried at the facility in January of 1912. His name along with 110 others, has been engraved on metals plates set into the brick memorial's foundation.
The forgotten Poor Farm Cemetery was rediscovered several years ago when Park County workers dug into the hillside for gravel and uncovered skeletons.
Woodley decided at that time the persons buried there needed to be recognized.
She enlisted the assistance of Brekke, the Park County Genealogy Society, and others in the community to put up a memorial with the names of those buried at the site.
More than $4,000 in donations was raised for the effort.
Brekke has some theories as to why there is no record of female burials at the Poor Farm. There is documentation women were housed at the facility. Brekke has a photograph of the Poor Farm from 1892 picturing women in Victorian dresses, he said.
"One thought I had, was, perhaps women had more church or family association-people who could make sure they were interned at Mountain View or the other cemetery." Brekke said.
"One wonders if women's deaths were reported?" he continued.
Brekke said though research was done in most thorough was possible, he is sure not everyone buried at the site was identified, since prior to 1907 not all deaths had to be recorded. He also said it is possible some persons were buried and later exhumed and buried elsewhere.
"Everybody's life has value...It's a little bit of closure to have the names of the people there. It shows that they were here, they had lives," he said.
"I feel really good and honored we made it this far," Woodley said. "If they didn't want us to find them, they wouldn't have let us find them."
"The Poor Farm Memorial dedication - to be held Saturday, 2 p.m., three miles east of Livingston on Chicken Creek Road - will feature speakers and refreshments. Attendees are asked to bring lawn chairs.
Posting the Colors - Bob Skillman, Roy Smart, Jim Held, Al Nelson - 5-20-2006
Wooden Crosses are staked in the ground at the Park County Poor Farm Cemetery, Wednesday morning. The Dan Edwards family recently placed 111 crosses at the cemetery in honor of the deceased residents of the Park County Poor Farm who were buried there. The Park County Genealogy Society will dedicate a memorial to the deceased Poor Farm residents on Saturday.
Nancy Adkins, dressed as Bertha Gonder, shows photographs of Gonder to a group after talking about her life at Mountain View Cemetery during the Cemetery Walk, Saturday. The event, hosted by the Park County Historical Society and the Park County Genealogy Society, featured locals dressed as historic figures speaking about their lives at their respective grave sites.
Jerry Brekke, as Ole W. Hurst, prepares to speak to an audience at Hurst's unmarked gave. Hurst, better known as "Old Joe," was a blacksmith and purported gold seeker who died in 1902
History comes to life at Cemetery Walk
by Matt Dettori - Enterprise Staff Writer
11 Aug 2009 - Front page - Livingston Enterprise
The first annual Cemtery Walk, held at the Mountain View Cemetery in Livingston, gave a history lesson of Livingston pioneers to nearly 90 attendees Saturday afternoon.
The Park County Historical and Genealogical societies teamed up to host the event, Livingston resident Jack Luther said. Luther was involved in organizing the event as well as playing the part of famous Livingston resident Billy Miles.
The lesson started with a brief history of Mountain View Cemetery, then the crowd was separated into groups that walked through the lawns between eight headstones of historic Livingston pioneers.
The volunteer actors included Patricia Grabow as Elizabeth Grabow, owner of the historic Grabow Building; Bill Whitmore as William "Bill" Penny, one of the founders of the Livingston Roundup Association and the parade held in conjunction with the rodeo; Mardi Whitmore as Eliza (Ballinger) Talcott, wife of Edward Talcott, who built one of Livingston's fininest homes; Bob Skillman as Shirley Skillman, a famous rancher who descended from George Bruffey on Mission Creek; Bob Moore as Hugo John Hoppe, the chairman of the first Park County Board of Commissioners; Nancy Adkins as Bertha Gonder, one of the last engine wipers on the Northern Pacific and the rare woman working the railroad; and Jerry Brekke as Ole Hurst "Old Joe," a peculiar miner and blacksmith from South B Street.
Some of Saturday's actors told stories about people they remember from their youth.
Adkins, after giving a history lesson on Bertha Gonder, spoke of her personal encounters with Gonder.
"She was the only woman to do a man's job in the 40's. She used to walk down H Street and go through the G Street tunnel to work," Adkins said. "It is a privilege to be here as her today. She has a great story. I remember her, her children and her grand-children."
One of the most intriguing performances was given by Jerry Brekke, as Old Joe, a man who had a well-known quirky personality on the streets of Livingston. Brekke gave his presentation dress in chains, covered with grease and a pipe in mouth.
"They call me Dirty the Blacksmith. Kinder ones called me Old Joe, and that's all you need to know," Brekke said as he turned away from the group. After a pause, Brekke turned around and continued, "If it were his choice, that's all he'd tell you."
Brekke then went into the life of Ole Hurst and some of his experiences, such as being charged with insanity by the courts, and owning his own small blacksmith shop near the current Livingston Enterprise.
Old Joe's grave site is recorded in history books of Park County, but there is no gravestone where he was buried, Brekke said in closing.
"The weather co-operated, we had a wonderful group of volunteers and we had a good turnoout," Luther said. "The volunteers did a great deal of research on their people. Some were hard to find, but we all learned a lot and I hope the community did too, about their pioneers."
The event raised about $800, Luther said, but he didn't have the exact figure Monday morning.
Proceeds from the funraising event will go to the Park County Historical and Genealogical societies.
The following May, 2010, the Park County Genealogy Society, placed a marker for Ole W. Hurst "Old Joe." And just like the character it honors, the marker is also unusal.
In April of 2013, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program awarded the Park County Genealogy Society as Workstation of the Year for their many volunteer hours indexing the records of Park County's past. Carol Woodley was honored as as volunteer of the year for her many hours and years of service.
Carol Woodley and Shannon Burke
Livingston~Park County Public Library
228 W. Callender ~ Livingston, Montana
Park County Genealogy Society
Park County Genealogy Society
c/o Lou Ann Skattum
10 MacDonald Creek Rd
Livingston, MT 59047
Is 4-year-old the only female buried at the Poor Farm?
By Lynette Zwerneman-Livingston Staff Writer
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