Yellowstone Genealogy Forum


Boot Hill Cemetery Listing– Coulson, MT

[Compiled from Ed O’Donnell’s Records, Herald Gazette, Smith’s Records, Biographies of Person, and personal reflections of the residents of Coulson] 

Friday, July 24, 2009


Boot Hill Cemetery was deeded to the City of Billings, on 28 March 1927[1] by ID O’Donnell. O’Donnell had acquired the land 20 years earlier from the Billings Land & Irrigation Company on 1 May 1907 for a fee of “one dollar currency of the United States of America”, with the intent of maintaining the site as an historical monument. The cemetery runs 170 feet north and south, by 165 feet east and west (.64 acre). There never were any tombstones on the plot; however, two monuments were created later, and a small pile of rocks added many years ago to denote some graves. When a person was buried there it was practice to shove a small piece of sandstone from the nearby bluff, into the ground at either the head or foot, or both, to mark the grave. No permanent markers were made to denote the actual burial. A monument, currently sitting on the site, dedicating its importance, was made possible primarily through the efforts of Mrs. Henry Firth and Mrs. BF Shuart. Some wooden markers were placed on a few gravesites, during the dedication ceremony of the marble monument, (to denote grave positions), and known names from some obscure references, but it is not known if that information was correct. The dates on these wooden markers are not exactly correct in all instances. Sandra Collins, as part of the YGF transcription project, personally identified the grave plat layout in 1981, and assigned grave numbers to each burial site for reference. The cemetery stopped actively serving the community in 1884 after Billings established the O’Donnell Cemetery (Now the Old-Section of Mountview Cemetery.) There are four rows of gravesites still visible within the plot. The dates presented below provide a variety of dates, spellings and events leading up to the individual burials. The first burials were those of a mass burial of Crow Indians who had died from smallpox, probably in the mid-1800’s, in the vicinity of Skeleton Cliff (Kelly’s Mountain), but were never included in the listings.

In establishing the original location for the cemetery, no written record has been located. However, in examining the area near Coulson, it seems logical that this site was selected because it offered three key elements: 1) It was on a small hill to the north and away from the tow and as such provided a safe and dry location, other directions pointed to low-lands, 2) there was already a gravesite on the location, and 3) there was only one stage road departing to the north, and at the site it split into two: Road to Fort Benton [Blackfeet Nation] and Road to Tongue River[Big Porcupine] - here a traveler could make his final destination decision. (Commentary by author)

The sequential burial listing, by corrected date, compiled from the various sources listed in the text below, represents those researcher’s statements. The actual sequence of burials is not intended to be completely correct, but to show the year of their burial. Additional research is required to locate the missing actual burial day for those individuals. Dates with day of burial have recorded factual references; others, only showing year of burial have referral sources that may or may not be factual until verified from other sources. Some of the deceased were disinterred, and relocated to other cemeteries by relatives at a later date. There is not a full record of this action. The burial count is over 105.




Cause of Death




Crow Indiams (30+)


Mass Burial in one grave after the plague was over. No count or name available



Dave Courier


Killed by John Alderson over land dispute. Proceeds from his fur trade used to establish the cemetery.

2 to 3


Male (2)


Died in Huntley Flats





Yellowstone River death



Edward M. Hope (?)


Thought to have been buried under different name. Not verified.



Ed Prebbles

Suicide by Poison

Body found on rims, overlooking site of future penitentiary (some statedhe was found frozen)





Was on Miles city stage line



Billy Needham


Accidental death, killed by own gun




Not known

Killed at Huntley Bluff NPR project site




Accidental fall

Died after falling down during a race to get drinks after a funeral



Louis Johnson


Murdered by A. Z. Bell at Lockwood Station



Muggins Taylor


Shot while serving a warrant to Henry Lump(p) September 27, 1882



Louisa Carter


Killed herself in the Yellowstone



Michael Cook





Joe Hart





Judge Faulkes

Struck by NPR Engine




James D. Russell


Killed by George MacArthur on the 4th



Patrick Dwyer


Killed on Dec 25th by Jerry Cokeley


1882-4-28 (s)

Hugh W. Smith


Accidental handgun discharge



Klint Dills


Trapper killed by Nez Perce on 13 Sept 1877- reburied in Boot Hill



Milton Summer


Trapper killed by Nez Perce on 13 Sept 1877- reburied in Boot Hill



Frank Redman


Killed in Skillin’s Saloon 1 April, 1882 by Dutch Charley



Child Bradley


Child of D. J. Bradley



William Stoltz


Died during a drunken fit


1882-6 (?)



Drowned in water barrel



William Preston


Killed by Dan Leahy during quarrel on June 2nd



Ben Walker


Accidental death – shot by Frank Quinn during quarrel



Clarence G. Topliff

Internal Injuries

Tossed from horse during race on July 4th



Thomas Christie


Killed August 4th by accidental discharge of pistol



Jesse Wynn










John Lewis





Ellen Allen (eg; Alderson)

Bucked of a horse

Originally buried on Homestead. Later moved to Billings Cemetery[2].



Louis Stultz





Charles H. Grosse





John E. Hart


Killed during gun battle



Chinese Male


Later removed & shipped to China



Danny Smith

Arrow or Gunshot

Killed by Sioux in Big Horn Mountains





Accidental death, by one of the Baker Brothers from Lake Basin area




Hit by wagon

Accidental death



Peter Foster



41 to52


13 Soldiers

Arrow or Gunshot

All buried in one grave

53 to 64


Coulson residents


Dozens(no actual count) reported to have died.

65 to 75


Cowboys (12)


Killed on ranches where they worked. No record of the ranches or actual deaths.




One of the earliest records was obtained from the Bozeman, Gallatin County newspaper; 2 January 189. It blasted the town for its uncaring ways!

It stated that there were 23 graves, most of which were for young men killed in drunken brawls during the first partial year that Billings was climbing into existence (1882), and Coulson was soon to disappear. The main sign of the time located there stated “Wholesale and Retail Liquor Dealer” said it all. Billings bragged about having 1,000 persons and are blessed with ten saloons. After deducting for women, children, and those who don’t drink left 200 who did, 20 per saloon. There was a McKinley Bill that required persons to file for a liquor license, but it was considered to be a joke. The article’s writer (un-named) presented a case where each applicant should be required to answer the ten questions posed by the liquor license bill truthfully:

1.      “That he is going into business to make money and is not caring a cent for the rights of other people. They will have to do as he does – look out for number one.

2.      He knows the saloon does no particular good, to a community, and that, it turns out “a grist” of might poor citizens.

3.      That it is a loafing place for the idle and vicious.

4.      Considering the amount of money it eats up, it does not render a fair equivalent.

5.      It robs men of their sense of moral obligation; it keeps them out of good society; it inflames their passions.

6.      It aids and abets the gambler.

7.      It is the halfway house to the prison.

8.      It keeps men from paying their debts.

9.      Most saloonkeepers are churchgoers.

10.  Nothing is too indecent or scurrilous to repeat in the saloon.”

Furthermore it was then stated: “Your laws are to blame, if the decision pinches you. Make other laws and you can have other decisions. When the boys and girls of this town (Billings) come under the ban of the saloon, their parents can spend their time vindicating the law. Then lawyers will come into town. Then physicians will hang out their shingles. Prison housekeepers, ambulance drivers, prize fighters, confidence men will flourish, and new industries will spring up over night, which the McKinley Bill could not touch.”

A colorful record of the Boothill (Boot Hill) Graveyard site was prepared in 1908 by an old-timer who wanted to remain anonymous,[3] is copied as written:

“On the brow of the hill to the north, and overlooking the historic Yellowstone River, is located this little grave yard where repose the bones of a score or more of those brave hearts who were numbered among the residents of the pioneer settlement. Why the then wild and desolate, though somewhat picturesque location, was chosen as a burial place, is not known, unless for the reason that the hard and rocky soil was looked upon as a safeguard against the ghoul like depredations of the coyotes, grim scavengers of the plains, whose habits of digging into new graves were well known to the early settlers.”

“The initial burial on the bleak hill swept by the alternating winds of winter and summer, was that of two unknown men who were killed by the Nez Perces Indians in 1877 on the ranch of J.M.V. Cochran.”

Note: This is in error. Although Dills and Summer (see below) were killed on the ranch in 1877 they were also buried where they died. Their bodies were disinterred on 4 April 1882, and re-buried in the graveyard, as were many other persons.

“The second burial was that of Dave Currier, a Frenchman.” (This burial is actually the first, and took place in 1880, see below.)

“The lonely grave received no more additions for two years, when in 1880 two unknown men who were frozen to death on the Huntley Flats, now best known on account of its agricultural greatness, found final resting place in the frontier necropolis, and an unknown soldier, who was drowned in the treacherous Yellowstone, was buried at Boot Hill the same year.”

“The following year (1881) saw the interment of the body of a young man killed on the Miles City stage line near Coulson, and his name is unknown.”.

“In 1882, the year which marked the birth of the city of Billings, eight burials were made on the bleak hill. Among them was that of Muggins Taylor, the celebrated scout for General Custer, who at the time of his death was holding the office of Deputy Sheriff. Taylor was the man who first carried the news of the Custer massacre to Bozeman and Helena, whence it was transmitted to the rest of the country. The fearless officer was slain by J. P. Lump, whom the deputy had gone to arrest on a charge of abusing his wife. Lump was convicted of the crime and served 14 years in the state prison at Deer Lodge. Others who found a last resting place at Boot Hill were: William Preston, killed by Dan Leahy who afterward committed suicide by the poison method while confined in the Miles city jail. ______ Topliff, a jockey, was killed in a horse race July 4, 1882; while coming down the home stretch, a dog ran across the track and frightened the horse ridden by Topliff. The animal ran under the judges’ stand and his rider was killed. Joe Hart, who was killed in Coulson, made the eleventh addition to the increasing cluster of mounds, and a Chinaman whose name as well as that of a slaver, was unknown, was interred on the hill thousands of miles away from the graves of his fathers.”

“Two unknown men, killed on the bluffs overlooking the little town of Huntley were also buried at Boot Hill as was the body of John Johnson, a Swede, who was shot by Frank Bell in Jack Stilling’s saloon.”

“One of the unprovoked and cold blooded murders of 1882 was that of Joe _____, a waiter in a restaurant in Coulson. A card game was in progress in one of the saloons, one of the players being a notorious outlaw called “Dutch Henry.” The latter had been losing heavily and as a consequence was in a bad humor. He had just remarked as the cards were dealt round, that he would kill the first man who said a word to him. At this juncture the unfortunate waiter entered the room and made some trivial remark to the gambler, who like a flash whipped out his revolver and shot Joe dead. The murderer, keeping the rest of the occupants of the place covered with his weapon, backed out of the door, mounted his horse and galloped away. He was never seen in Coulson again.”

“Jesse Wynn, who also bit the dust in the streets of Coulson, was placed under the sod at Boot Hill in 1883.”

“There are several other graves in the now neglected and almost forgotten spot, but whose bones they hold, or when they were made is not known.”

"No fence encloses the little graves, and only a rude and cumbersome block of sandstone brought from the cliff nearby tells to the stranger that the place is other than that of the surrounding area of the great range which is trampled by the wandering bands of sheep and cattle, moistened by the rains of springtime, and covered with a mantle of whiteness in the melancholy days of winter.”

“Such is Boot Hill, resting place of the restless beings, whose now peaceful slumbers will remain unbroken until the last day when all sepulchers will be opened and the graves of countless millions will give up their dead.”

In 1925, Professor Edward W. Hope[4] (University of Law School, South Dakota) was in Billings trying to learn if his father (same name) who was reportedly killed in Coulson in 1881, was buried in the cemetery. He was told to contact the early pioneers (names provided), and none excepting for ID O’Donnell were able to assist. O’Donnell had recently compiled a listing of the burials, and his father wasn’t on the list. Professor Hope was five years old when his father was killed. O’Donnell explained that it was common to have an assumed name, and that was the name used for the burial. There wasn’t sufficient information to determine if his father was buried there or not.

In 1927[5] another attempt to identify the graves and origin of the cemetery at Boothill was attempted. The origin of its name came about when the word “liar” was tossed about in Coulson. Noted in the article was that there were currently five different versions of how the cemetery got started. “Forty people were buried there between 1877 and 1882.” Partial extracted from the note is:

“In the beginning of Coulson, the Coulson-Fort Benton stage line skirted Boothill. It was the steepest grade in the whole distance. In later years it was called the Lavina Road, and later the Acton Road. [Today we call it Highway 3, or the Black-Otter Trail.]” When it was decided to create a scenic drive upon the rims edge, that part of the road from the junction with the Yellowstone Trail to Boothill was included in the project. There are no tombstones in Boothill. A name or a date marks not one. The identity of the individual occupants is lost. Pieces of untrimmed sandstone, picked up from the side of the hill and thrust into the ground at the head and foot of each grave are the only evidence of the memory of the living. A visitor may imagine, if he cares to, that the graves of the more important and best-loved dead are distinguished by the larger stones, but this mere guesswork. Some of the stones have fallen flat and remain that way, for the cemetery has never had a caretaker. It had only recently been fenced.”

“For years a square of limestone, set apart from any of the graves, and meant to serve them all, served as a monument. It became badly worn by the weather and chipped by souvenir hunters. It is about 18 inches high, and though the carving was done by an unskilled hand, these words were legible: ‘Died 1881 & 2, and on the side facing the graves was ‘In memory of the dead.’ A few years ago the pioneers raised funds and a monument was erected with four marble sides and a cobblestone base.”

“One of the stories about Boothill’s origin was that the grave was created for Mrs. John Alderson, who died two years earlier (January 1882). She had been buried near the Alderson homestead in Coulson, and her body was disinterred and reburied in the cemetery. Other graves made their appearance in a similar fashion. Bodies of men killed during the Nez Perce raid when they passed through Coulson were originally buried in or near the town, then disinterred and reburied in the cemetery. It was stated that ‘Dime Novels pall in comparison with the circumstances of the many deaths’.” [Note: These stories are contained in the listing below, most articles state similar or the same story. These are highlighted in a light pink color.]

“A few of the ‘best’ remembered stories of how the graves were filled are listed below. Traces may be seen of about 45 graves. Despite the experience of the first year or two, not all those buried at the old cemetery died violently. The place was used for interment of people who died in Billings up until the present cemetery was founded in 1884 (O’Donnell Cemetery), and during that time there were a number of deaths from disease. An epidemic of typhoid fever caused by drinking water below Coulson caused some of them.”

“When the new cemetery was started, many of these bodies were moved to it by their relatives, so that it is a safe conclusion that by far the majority of those that remained, that occupy the place today, actually went down ‘with boots on’. That all trace of Boothill and its stories wee not long ago lost, is due to the efforts of I. D. O’Donnell, to whom the cemetery site was deeded some years ago by the Billings Land and Irrigation Company, and who has been engaged in research for years in an effort to throw more light on identity of those buried there, the manner of their passing, and the location of the graves. Recently, Mr. O’Donnell deeded the site of the cemetery to the city, and it is now administered by the park board.”

John Dover, a long-time resident of Billings, took a serious interest in Boothill Cemetery, picking up from where Mr. O’Donnell left off. He created a log of the burials there, having recorded 42 persons by name prior to 1929. John was born near Nauvoo, Illinois on 8 Sep 1861. He arrived in Billings in 1881, and farmed in the local area[6].

The first reported burial there was thought to be Dave Currier, this statement refers to a resident of Coulson as being the first to be buried there in the newly named site of Boot Cemetery. Later transcribed burial records indicated in error that soon after Coulson was created, the town-folk buried two army soldiers there in 1877 after a raid by the Nez Perce, probably on 13 September. However, these were actually two trappers killed on either the 13th or 14th of September on Joseph Cochran’s land near the junction of Canyon Creek and the Yellowstone River, by the Nez Perce as they passed through. For some unexplained reason these trappers were originally miss-identified as being the soldiers by name, probably due to the fact they were killed on Canyon Creek, and mistakenly thought to be killed at the Canyon Creek battle site some 15 miles away. Joseph Cochran’s personal account identified the men as trappers and specifically stated they were camping on his land at time of the attack. No mention of the earlier army battle with the Nez Perce at Canyon Creek further to the west near Laurel was noted. No other records apparently exist to indicate exactly what transpired during the army skirmish, but it was stated that three soldiers, not two were killed (in the Laurel Canyon Creek area). Money due Currier for some previous hide sales was spent by the town folk to restore the gravesite, and they established Boothill at that time as a permanent town cemetery. The two trappers, Dills and Summer, who were killed in the 1877 raid by the Nez Perce, were disinterred from their initial burial site, and reburied in the Boothill Cemetery on April 4, 1882. Dave Currier was actually the first recorded burial.

At the annual meeting of the Pioneers of Eastern Montana, held in March 1931, Mrs. Ida Lamport Wright read an article written by AK Yerkes, former editor of the Coulson Post about Boothill Cemetery. Yerkes was locally known as the “Poet of Sourdough Creek” and when asked to prepare a poem and speak at the meeting, he got cold feet, and Mrs. Wright had to substitute a Cemetery article he wrote for the occasion, in its place. Following is that report (note that the last few paragraphs were not available to read):

“Nearby also (referring to Yellowstone Kelly’s grave) is “Boothill” Cemetery, which in the literature of today, is said to contain the remains of 80 or more persons who died with their boots on. I am inclined to the belief that the number so inventoried is somewhat overtoned. The tendency of far western towns is to strongly stress their early wide-open toughness. At that, the hamlet of Coulson, long ago abandoned, in the days when nearly everyone packed a gun, had more than enough gunplays and consequent fatalities. Billings, the successor of Coulson, came into existence when the Northern Pacific was close at hand. The gambling and renegade element was at once greatly outnumbered by the permanent and law-abiding: by peace officers. The ethics of the flood of new arrivals were those of the Middle West and not camp followers from the southwest. Coulson initially consisted of Bud McAdow’s trading store, its stables and corral. (Originally the store was setup in a tent on Perry’s land, later relocated to Alderson’s land) In the winter of ’81 the railroad grading outfits appeared, followed by saloons. Soon 30 or 50 log buildings were erected in prospect of the town’s railroad future. Coulson, however, after its rebirth lived but six months, for it was authoritatively known that the railroad executives had selected a Townsite to be known as Billings, two miles away, the residents of Coulson packed up and moved away, almost in a body. There are now many citizens in Billings who do not know that Coulson ever existed.”

“While in Coulson, for I was there for the full six months before its demise, I had the occasion to take note of its cemetery. It was on the same hill that an incredible number of Indians had been buried during a much earlier outbreak of smallpox[7]. The first murder I recall was that of a Frenchman, killed by his neighbor, John Alderson, in a quarrel over the line between their homestead holdings. Alderson’s wife ran to him with a rifle. This to the jury indicated that Alderson was in grave need of it, and he was acquitted.”


{John Alderson had filed on 160 acres of land north of McAdow’s property, at the Bozeman land office in 1878, about a year after he arrived there, and had erected a shack for he and his wife. He left his homestead after filing, for a short spell, and upon returning in March 1880 found that Dave Currier, hide trader, had erected a shanty on one corner of his land. Dr Allen, a neighbor, and Alderson went to Currier’s shanty to find out what’s going on, and upon seeing the men approaching Currier came out of the cabin with a six-shooter in hand. He demanded to know why they were there, evidently sensing trouble about his shack on John’s land. Currier ordered the unarmed men to leave. Mrs. Alderson seeing the trouble, got a needle gun, stepped in front of her husband and handed it to him. Currier raised his revolver, Alderson fired, killing him instantly. Alderson was tried for murder, and a jury acquitted him. [Grave 1.7. Wooden marker states “Died 1880”]

After the trial, it was reported that the local men got drunk and went looking for a good burial site on a high prominence (old graveyard where others wee buried) overlooking Coulson. Most were staggering to get there. It was then dedicated as: “Boot” graveyard, where it was planned to bury those who died with their boots on”. They dug a grave placing Currier’s body in it. One person thought that they should say a few words in behalf of the deceased, when one of the drunks replied: “God’ll take care of him.” The drunk slipped and fell into the grave onto the blanket-covered body of Currier and had to be helped out, establishing a practice that was repeated after each funeral.} [Details from Herald Newspaper files, but the date conflicts with the earlier burials.]

“The second murder, was that of a mere boy, Joe Redmond; employed as the sole waiter in the principal eating house, a board shack, open to the wind, and even the snow. That very cold winter, I ate my meals swathed in a heavy overcoat and was none too warm. Coffee was thoroughly chilled in the journey from the stove to the table. By his unfailing good nature; Joe was known and liked by everyone in the camp. One night, at a very late hour he entered a gambling house where a gambler known as “Dutch Charlie” was a heavy loser at faro. Joe smilingly remarked, “Well, Dutch, you ain’t so much, are you?” With this, the gambler, white with rage, drew his gun and shot the boy through the heart. Then drawing another gun backed out into a raging blizzard and disappeared. A number of men started in the early morning is all directions and traveled for miles and for several days without getting even a clue of the fugitive. Joe’s funeral was the only I know of at Coulson. Lawyer Farwell, for many years afterward a resident of Seattle, delivered the funeral address at the grave to a gathering including nearly every resident of the town. It was a sad day in the short lived existence of this hectic burg.”

“Soon after, Billy Preston, who kept the livery stable, met sudden death at the hands of his partner, who for several weeks had been drinking heavily. Preston, in his efforts to dissolve the partnership, was shot while taking his horse out of the corral. He was a likable man, who had but recently married a young lady from the east. Feeling ran high and if the deputy United States marshal had not secretly taken him prisoner to Miles City, the murderer would probably have been illegally hanged. As it was, he was given a life sentence in the state penitentiary and was probably pardoned in after years when the prison was crowded.”

“Following this murder came that” “Muggins” Taylor, a real gentleman of the old school, who unfortunately had just been deputized by the United states marshal to protect the peace of the community. Taylor was a man of commanding appearance and of unusual capacity. His antecedents he kept strictly to himself. His death was especially painful to me as I had bunked with him during the winter and was at least partially instrumental in his appointment. Taylor once owned a large gambling house in Nevada, where he met a young lady with whom every evening he rode, horseback. It was his custom to pick for her a bouquet of wild flowers, which he personally delivered to her home, neatly wrapped in paper. On the last occasion of his visit the flowers, while in Taylor’s room, were tampered with by a person whose sense of humor was degradingly polluted. On the next evening after the flowers had been examined, Taylor was refused admission to the young lady’s home. He learned what happened, and though he sought the miscreant, gun in hand, was never able to overtake him. “Muggins” sold his business soon after that and later became a government scout. He was with the General’s (Terry) Command, when Custer was killed, and took the first news of the disaster to the telegraph office at Bozeman, where he also wrote his own version of the fight and sent it to the New York Herald by wire for which he received a check for $200. On one occasion, when closely pressed by Indians, he tore off his clothes, mounted a rock, and on all fours rigorously simulated the action of a mountain goat. The ruse was effective as Indians would not harm, or even approach an insane person because of superstitious awe and abject fear of a condition so unreal to them. On the coldest days, “Muggins” rode alone without a thick flannel shirt on his body, but with the arrival of ladies, the wives and daughters of the railroad engineers and contractors, “Muggins” secured tailor-made clothes, and each evening… material copy destroyed and unreadable…”

Men were being killed and buried at an alarming rate, none with a disease or heart condition. The last burial record recorded by O’Donnell was in 1887, although others were buried there until at least 1889. (ID O’Donnell chronicled many of the burial details.) Many persons were buried under their known names, and not their real ones. Some of the names recorded by O’Donnell (not in date sequence) and reported in the Herald Newspaper, with the approximate date of death are:

      H. M. “Muggins” Taylor-sheriff in Billings; shot when serving a warrant for a domestic quarrel at a laundry in Coulson [Reported in Herald Paper on 5-10-1883]. He was born in 1830. [Grave 4.8. Died September 27, 1882 and buried October 1, 1882.] [6-20-1927 reference: Muggins Taylor is mot frequently remembered by old-timers as among those buried at Boothill. Taylor was deputy sheriff of Coulson. He was killed by Henry Lumpp, a no-account resident of that place, who according to report, spent his time loafing about saloons and pool halls, and depended upon his wife for support. The shooting took place on the street of Coulson while the officer was approaching Lumpp’s home to arrest him because of his attempt to kill P. Folger, a bartender in Skillen’s saloon. His shot at the bartender had been provoked when the later ejected him. Lumpp rested his rifle against the door jamb ans shot Taylor through the body. The officer died October and was buried the next day (October 2), his body being accompanied to the cemetery by a large crowd of sorrowing friends. Strange to say, however, no one knows today which of the graves on the hill is Taylors?”]

      Judge Faulkes-killed by railroad engine in 1881. [Grave 2.8.] [6-20-1927 reference: His death occurred October 4, 1882, as a result of injuries when he was struck by an engine on the NPR tracks. Foulkes had lived in this part of the country for years at the time of his death, and had served as justice of the peace and deputy county clerk. He was buried on October 6.]

      Captain Ed Prebbles-Civil War Captain (veteran) caught in blizzard on Alkali Creek 2-7-1884 and froze to death. [6/20/1927 reference: Prebble disappeared from Coulson in 1882, and several days later his body was found on a ledge of the rimrocks, just above the present site of the old penitentiary. He had chosen this spot to kill himself by drinking poison.]

      Frank Redman, from Brazil, Indiana-killed at age18 by his friend Dutch Charles on April 1, 1882. Dutch was gambling and was upset over losing. He swore to “shoot the first person who speaks to me”. His friend Frank walked in at that time, said “Good morning”, and was immediately shot. Dutch left town. (Obit article in Herald 4-19-1882) [Grave 1.5] [On March 29, 1882, a gambler known as “Dutch Charley” without provocation and in cold blood shot down an 18-year old boy named Joe Dedmond, in Skillin’s saloon. Redmond was a native of Brazil, Ind., and had come to Montana a few weeks before in search of adventure. Following the shooting, “Dutch Charley” escaped on a horse, and although large rewards were offered by the people of Coulson for his capture, he made good his escape. Of Redmond’s funeral the Coulson Post of April 7th has the following paragraph: ‘A large concourse of people followed the innocent victim of the diabolical murder to his last resting place on Saturday last. Lawyer Farewell made a few remarks in which he said: ‘We have borne to the silent city for final rest all that remains and is mortal of our associate and companion. In the performance of this duty we pay our last tribute of respect and affection to our friend and fellow townsman that all living friends of the dead sacredly owe brothers.’ In conclusion scriptural references were made and the sad scene closed, with prayer.”]

      Clarence G. Topliff-cowpuncher died from injuries during a 4th of July horse race. A dog spooked the horse he was riding. Rev. Stuart officiated. He was born August 18 1856 in Ostego, NY. In the fall of 1881 he came to Yellowstone Valley. 7-4-1882 [6-20-1927 reference: Clarencey G. Toplift, 25 years old, was buried July 6 (1882). His death had been a Fourth of July sensation. Riding in the races which celebrated that day, he had been thrown from his horse while passing the grandstand at a dead run. A dog crossing the track and causing the horse to shy. The young man’s body struck the timbers of the grandstand, at the feet of the crowd, and he died at midnight from internal injuries.]

      Klint Dills-soldier killed by Nez Perce Indian scouts in 1877[8]. He was actually a trapper camping on Canyon Creek. [Grave 1.12]

      Milton Summer-soldier killed by Nez Perce Indian scouts in 1877. He was a trapper on Canyon Creek.

Note: Dills & Summer were originally buried on or near to Joseph Cochran’s land where they were killed. Their bodies were dug up and re-interred in Boothill Cemetery on April 4, 1882[9].

      Ben Walker-shot by Frank Quinn during a quarrel in 1882. Quinn was cleaning his loaded gun and it had the ramrod in it. He accidentally fired without removing the rod and it passed through Walker’s body. (Frank Quinn later married in 5-22-1884.) [Grave 1.9] [6-20-1882 reference: Illustrative of the quick action of the times, Ben Walker was shot by a man named Quinn in such haste that Quinn failed to take the ramrod from his gun and it too, pierced Walker’s body.]

      Billy Needham-Pony Express rider had one ride left on his hitch. He unbuckled his gun belt and dropped it onto the counter. The gun went off killing him. (1882) [Grave 1.4] [6-20-1927 reference: ……part unreadable…. Unbuckled his gun belt and laid it on the counter, with the declaration, “For God’s country in the morning.” A sharp report, and the messenger fell, victim of an accidental discharge of his own gun on the eve of his departure for home in the east after an adventurous career on the Yellowstone.]

      Unknown-NPR railroad conductor killed at Huntley Bluff in 1882. [Grave 2.9] Marker states died 1862. [6-20-1927 reference: A railroad contractor was killed on the Huntley Bluff work and his body was brought to Boothill.]

      Hugh W Smith, from Deer Lodge County, - accidentally shot by Morrow in Deer Lodge on 4-29-1882. [Grave 1.10] [6-20-1927 reference: April 28, 1882, the body of Hugh W. Smith was brought to Coulson on a wagon from a deserted cabin 35 miles toward the Musselshell County. A man named Morrow, while reloading his revolver, accidentally discharged it, the bullet entering Smith’s abdomen. He was put on bedsprings and brought here for treatment, but died a few minutes after his arrival. He was 23 years old. He joined the silent party on Boothill.]

      William (Billy) Preston-gambler and saloon man shot by Dan Lahey in a quarrel. Dan was convicted of murder, but took poison and beat the gallows. The Billing’s Congregational members and their minister attended Preston’s funeral. Died 4-8-1882 (Notice reported two months later, 6-18-1882 in the Herald.) [6-20-1927 reference: William Preston, a prominent saloon man and gambler, was shot down by Dan Leahy in the rear of the latter’s saloon in Coulson, June 2, following a quarrel over the use of a corral. The bullet struck an artery in Preston’s leg and he died from loss of blood. Of all the murders in Coulson that bloody year, this was the only one for which conviction was secured. Leahy was found guilty of murder after exciting trial at the county seat of Miles City, and was sentenced to be hanged. Two hours later he committed suicide by taking morphine in the cell. Preston’s body was interred June 10, and the funeral was attended by almost everybody in Coulson. If reports are true, this was the first funeral at Boothill, which was conducted by a regular minister. The Rev. B. F. Shuart, who had just arrived in town to take the pastorate of the Congregational Church at the same site it now occupies in Billings, preached the sermon. Previous to that time, there had been no regular minister in either Coulson or Billings, and the meager services at the graves in the cemetery were usually conducted by lawyers.]

      Dave Courier- hide trader killed by John Alderson over land dispute (see above) March 1880[10]

      Un-named Bradley-Child of D. J. Bradley died in 1882. Obit published 4-8-1882 in the Herald.

      About a dozen unidentified cowboys, working as hired hands on nearby ranches were killed-The Cowboy’s Lament poem phrases were attached to the brochures about the cemetery.

      James D Russell-Billings’ bad-man was killed by George MacArthur in Matt Rademaker’s billiard parlor. Friday 11-4-1882. [Grave 1.6] [6-20-1927 reference: James D. Russell, 38 years old, a wholesale liquor dealer, was shot and killed Nov. 3, 1882, in Rademaker’s billiard parlor in Billings, by George A. McArthur. He was buried November 5. McArthur was tried for murder and discharged, the jury having failed to agree.]

      Unidentified-killed in race practice. After a burial it was a custom that the men race back to town on horseback for a fast drink to end the sorrow. This man fell and became the next casualty, so back they went.

      Mrs Louisa Carter (Lulu)-drowned in the Yellowstone River. It was reported she walked into the river saying: “Here goes nothing”. She was well known in the ‘red light district’. 10-14-1882 obit. [6-20-1927 reference: October 5 (1882) the body of Mrs. Louisa Carter, 25 years old, was found in the river. She was thought to have committed suicide as the result of domestic troubles. Her husband, to whom she had been unfaithful, paid her funeral expenses. She was one of the few women buried at Boothill.]

      Josephine-an infant child drowned in a bathtub (barrel) in 1879. Water cost $.50 a barrel and harder to get than whiskey. She was the 21st person to be buried there. (Generally listed as “unidentified infant.) [Grave 2.13]

      John E Hart-either killed by outlaws or by another cowpuncher he called out to be a liar. 1-10-1889

      William (Dutch Bill) Stoltz-died from a drunken fit in 1882. [Grave 3.7] [6-20-1927 reference: William Stooltz, known as Dutch Bill,” a character employed as porter in the Coulson saloons, died in a drunken fit May 11, 1882. He was quietly buried with the others.]

      Thomas Christie-railroad laborer killed by an accidental discharge of a pistol. 8-12-1882 [6-20-1927 reference: Thomas Christie, 22 years old, a track layer for the railroad, was killed August 4 (1882) by an accidental pistol shot, and was buried August 7.]

      Louis (Bud) Johnson-badman killed near Lockwood Station railroad construction camp by AZ Bell in 1882. [Grave 1.2] [6-20-1927 reference: Louis Johnson was murdered by A. Z. Bell at the railroad construction camp south of the river (Lockwood). Johnson was buried on the hill, and Bell was later tried and released.]

      Soldier-unknown ran over by a wagon [6-20-1927 reference: A Soldier attached to one of the troops stationed in this section was run over by a wagon and killed

      Mrs Alderson-wife of John Alderson [6-20-1927 reference: A grave was created for Mrs. John Alderson, who died two years earlier. She had been buried near the Alderson homestead in Coulson, and her body was disinterred and reburied in the cemetery. She was the first to be buried in the cemetery.][11]

      Patrick “Pat” Dwyer-shot during a quarrel in Northern Pacific Section House by Jerry Cokeley, NPR Foreman. 12-25-1882. [Grave 2.3] [6-20-1927 reference: Patrick Dwyer, a railroad section hand, was shot and killed December 25, that year (1882), by Jeremiah Cokeley, another section hand, during a quarrel at the section house. Burial was two days later.]

      Edward M Hope-thought to have died in Coulson, 1881, and buried under a different name. (grave not identified)

      Peter Foster-relative of Lavign

      Chinese man-body later removed from grave and shipped to China (name not recorded)

      Danny Smith-early day scout killed by Sioux Indians in Big Horn Mountains

      Baker & Smith Brothers-through an accident all were killed

      Various poor-people without resources were buried without markers or notice in the papers.

      Soldiers-up to 16 unidentified soldiers are noted as being buried in the cemetery [6-20-1927 reference: There is a tradition that 13 US soldiers were killed in a raid by the Sioux, and buried in one grave.]

      Epidemics-dozens of people reportedly died from typhoid after drinking wastewater runoff in the Yellowstone River, downstream of Coulson.


Additionally, the following persons died in Coulson, and no record of their burial exists. Presumably, these also were buried in Boothill Cemetery before formation of the O’Donnell Cemetery in Billings. The Herald Gazette obituaries reported only that the death occurred and a few statements as to the event in Coulson and the attendees, families and friends, but no indication of where in town they were buried. Reverend Stuart probably officiated. At this time there was only one cemetery, but some could have been buried on their own land. Dates are from the Herald, and refer to the approximate date of death. The Herald was issued weekly, and the actual death or burial dates were not reported.

      Dick-unidentified 4-26-1883 (Probably one of the unidentified listed above)

      Michael Cook-Railroad section worker, committed suicide leaving wife and children. 10-17-1882

      Louis Stults-8-24-1886

      Charles H Grosse-1-3-1887

      John Lewis-9-13-1883



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[1] Recorded for record in Yellowstone County, Deed Book 310 Pages 310-312. This includes the original purchase in 1907, but NOT FILED. Note that other publications (not official records) state the date as being one-year earlier!

[2]Billings Outpost Vol 12, Issue 37, June 25, 2009 (front page) describes her death, correct name, and related events.

[3] Published in the Montanan, pgs 15-17, July 1908.

[4] Billings Gazette, July 22, 1925 “Thinks Father is Buried Here”

[5] Reported in Billings Gazette, June 20, 1927, “Picturesque Cemetery on Rimrocks Scenic Highway Came Into Being Through Rile Cowboy; Violent Deaths Were Frequent.”

[6] John Dover Biography, by ID O’Donnell interview, 1929.

[7] Refer to the summary of about the Crow Indians and Epidemics-Chief Plenty Coups.

[8] These two soldiers (Dills & Summer) died in the ‘Canyon Creek Battle’ when Col Sturgis caught up with Chief Joseph’s rear guard (a short distance north of the Yellowstone River, probably on Bela Brockway’s land). After the battle, the Indians withdrew. The battle occurred September 13, 1877. See page 85, Montana by Myrtle Mockel, 1969.

[9] Coulson Post, April 8, 1882.

[10] Billings Gazette, “Yellowstone Valley Settled in ‘77”. Article by Dr. Allen. From scrapbook files. Date missing.

[11] Ellen (Armstrong) Allen, wife of Dr. Allen, died January 1882 and was buried on the homestead. See History of Montana, Larson, 1885, Chapter XLIII, Yellowstone County.