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Butte-Silver Bow Archives digs up stories for a Butte graveyard tour

Archives Director Aubrey Jaap and Assistant Director Lindsay Mulcahy use newspaper articles, obituaries, and even history books to bring a person's story to life again.
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Posted at 5:37 PM, Sep 18, 2023

BUTTE — For some people, walking through a cemetery might be kind of scary but for Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives staff, a walk through the cemetery is a great opportunity to meet some of Butte’s characters.

"So, we don’t really go as much for the spook, I’ll be honest. We’re the history people," says Director Aubrey Jaap. "We kind of look at it like Butte’s history is in its cemeteries; all of these people have a story to tell."

When you look at the graveyard from a historical perspective, Jaap says you get curious.

"So, what Lindsay and I do is we walk the cemetery, and we write down a big list of names and then we go back to the archives and do research," says Jaap.

From the list of names the team then uses newspaper articles, obituaries, and even history books to bring a person's story to life again.

"Some of them don’t pan out—they have relatively little information. Some are surprisingly interesting and so we never quite know what we’re going to find when we develop these tours," says Jaap.

Featured in the upcoming Mountain View Cemetery tour are some of Butte's more famous or even infamous characters like a brothel madam named Blonde Edna and union organizer Frank Little.

"We feature the cemetery owner, we feature some madams, some business owners, some—I hate to say, just regular people but just folks who were kind of your regular miners. We talk about those people as well," says Jaap.

The evening stroll through the graveyard is the second to take place after an earlier event drew over 100 participants.

"We featured this on our Hike Through History Series that we do in conjunction with other departments in Butte-Silver Bow. It was the most well-attended hike this summer, so we wanted to offer it again, one more time," says Lindsay Mulcahy, assistant director at the Butte-Silver Bow Archives.

Mulcahy says unlike other hike-through-history tours, you won’t have to strap on your hiking boots.

"This tour is for everybody. You know, it’s a really easy walk. You’re cruising through cemetery, part of it is paved, part of it is dirt. But everybody is welcome. We had some kiddos at our last one. We just ask that everybody be respectful," says Mulcahy.

The Mountain View Cemetery is located across from Walmart on Harrison Avenue in Butte and the hour-and-a-half tour begins at 5:30 on Thursday evening.