(A clipping from the Bridger
REVIEW OF BELFRY'S FOUNDING AND DEVELOPMENT
Interesting account prepared by Jetta Regan and presented at Pioneer
Day at Belfry School in 1925.
The ranches in the Belfry community are, with their owners, the
following: The Claude Youst ranch, the Albert Youst ranch owned at
present by Mr. Toothaker, the Bomie ranch owned by J. O. Higham; and
the John Woodcock place owned by Mr. Andrews; the Dew place; the
Robert Ray place; owned by Mr. Ogden; and the C. B. Clarke place.
The first school in the vicinity was located in what was know as
the Youst District, then in possession of Bomie, but now owned by
Claude Youst. The house was built of drift logs. Jennie
Blanchard taught there in 1897. The horse was moved up near
the Higham house where it burned in the summer of 1924. In
1898 the district was divided into the Silvertip and Riverview
districts. The first hotel in the Silvertip district was built on
the opposite side of the river near the mouth of Bearcreek, and was
taught by Miss Rock in 1898 an by Mary Bailey in 1899. In 1900
the Kose building was built on the opposite side of the road from
its present location. It was taught by Miss Bella Griffith,
Miss Emboden, Mr. Curtis R. Beeler, Mrs. Zela Clark Holland and
lastly, Mrs. Charles Burns. Charles Burt took the children to
school in his surrey. The frame school in town was built in 1909.
The first teacher was Professor Tibbs, then Henderson, Mr. Kelso and
Miss Rosebrooke, Miss Peck, Mrs. Burns, Miss Jennie Munroe and Mrs.
Limbaugh succeeding. Our present building was erected in 1921
and 1922. The contractor was Mr. Buffington. Mr. Moe and Mr.
Prates did the inside work. The cost was about $40,000.00.
The company which was formed to construct the Yellowstone Park
Railway was organized in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with Mr. F. A.
Hall as president. L. S. Sears and H. R. French was
acting superintendent when McClain left. Mr. A. R. Clement
succeeded Mr. Sullivan as trainmaster and was also head clerk. Mr.
Maguire and Mr. French were appointed receivers. Mr. Maguire
was the next superintendent and Mr. F. S. Gannon was the next
president. Then Mr. Zoot was made president, (they called him
Ma Zook), with Mr. W. H. Bunney as vine-president and general
manager. Mr. Bunney took up residence here in Belfry where he
could observe everything that was going on. The railway grade
was made in 1905, but the steel rails were not laid until 1906. The
first engine to come to Belfry was "Little Fifteen", and it was
brought by engineer George Garver and fireman Charles Burns on
January 10, 1906. Mr. Garver was the first engineer, Jess
Newman was first engine fireman, Pat Dolan succeeded him and was
killed September 25, 1907. Charles Burns was the first brakeman.
The first train brought three cars of passengers from Bridger.
The second brought five coaches from Billings with 800 people, to
the wonder of wonders, Belfry! There were probably 2,000
people in Belfry that day and it was the biggest day Belfry has ever
seen. A big carnival from Billings and a public dance were the big
attractions. Posters in Billings read, "Big Fourth of July
Celebration at Belfry; Last year a wheat field, this year a city
with cement sidewalks." The excursion special left Belfry at
10:00 p.m. that same evening, July 4, 1906.
When Gannon was made president, he changed the name Yellowstone
Park Railway to Montana, Wyoming and Southern M.W.S. it was called.
That was in 1909. The railroad was 25 miles long. 125
men worked on the road. The train had 125 cars, all freight
cars, but one passenger coach, so people could come to Belfry and
back by train. In 1919 a Keen motor car was brought (always
called the "Submarine" or the "Gallipin Goose") to take care of the
passenger trade. It was a lovely car and rode like a rocking
chair, but it was discarded in the early thirties, as almost nobody
rode it any more in favor of the automobile which almost everyone
had by this time.
They had to ballast the road with slack at that time and the
rails were on the light side, so then a big rain or a thaw came from
the big snow and a big long train of coal was coming down the hill
it would squash out, and there would be a big wreck. There
were also sun kinks in the rails and the engine would hit that, then
there would be another wreck. The wrecks on the M.W.S. got to be
quite a joke, even though they were not allowed to run over 12 miles
an hour, but fortunately in all the years of the life of the M.W.S.
only three men were killed. Dolan, mentioned earlier, in 1907,
Mr. McKinsey killed in the early fall of 1917, and Edwin Kose,
killed March 31, 1922. When McKinsey was killed and was buried
from the church; his wife was very heartbroken over it. The
president went to her and asked her what she wanted, and she said
$25,000 which was a large fortune at the time, but they told her it
would be granted. When the president took the check to her, he
told her she would have to produce a marriage certificate. She said
she did not have one ... that they were never married. She
left at once for Denver. So, be sure your sins will find out, Moses.
When he got killed he was in the safest place on the train, the
caboose or the crummy, as all the men called it. Crummy is
right. The train was coming from Bridger and the little was
coming along, hicke0ty, hickety, hickety, hick. As they
were coming by the river into the railroad yards, it jumped the
track. Mr. McKinsey jumped off on the opposite side to save
his life, of course, but the crummy jumped right back on the track
and jumped off again an the side that McKinsey had jumped off, and
it was "Good Morning, St. Peter", for him. It mashed his brains out
and C. A. Andrew scooped them up with a shovel and threw them in the
river. He was the seventh person burned in the Belfry
Once when some Japanese were changing some rails (Japanese did the
section work), they forgot to put up the red flag and the engine and
train load of coal hit the ties. The engine began to rock,
then old No. 6 turned over in the river. It was going slow and
turned over so slowly that the Engineer, Charles Burns, and the
fireman, George Miller, jumped in the river, so no one was
hurt.....but the engine was up-side down in the Clarks Fork river
with its wheels sticking up in the air.
The father and mother of Edwin Kose only received $7,100.00..
..the smallest amount that could be paid in case a man got killed on
the railroad. Nobody saw him get killed, so nobody knew just
that happened. They found him under the train, cut square in two.
As was McKinsey, he was on the safest place on the train. The
train was pulling into the yards to tie up when the engineer saw a
sun kink and shot the air, only going about five miles an hour.
He was putting down the retainers prior to stopping, so they thought
if he was stooped over and they shot the air, of course it would
throw him as sure as the world. The father and mother were
certain that was what happened, as was everyone else, but dead men
tell no tales. Within two weeks they were trying to collect
$25,000, but they didn't have any luck. Charles Burns was the
engineer, and C. A. Andrew was the other brakeman. They tried
to bribe Andrew to swear that the shock was the cause of his death.
He ordered them off the place. Kose was an only son.
When he was killed, the father had come into town to take him home,
as he did each. He did not know why the boy was not in
town to go home with him. Someone called across the street and
said, "'Hey, old man. Did you know Edwin got cut in two a
while ago?" That poor old man went up the street screaming and
crying. Edwin was in the first World War. When he had to
go to war, his mother went berserk. She was found wandering
around out in the hills, crazy. However, she did come out of
it. The boy came home without a scratch and was so handsome.
They were so proud of him; then he got killed on the M.W.S., but
after all the common saying was "the Clark Pork Valley was such a
healthy place to live, they had to kill a man to start a cemetery
and keep it going."
Mr. Hall planned to make Belfry a second Butte, a smelting city for
which Cooke City would furnish the ore and Bearcreek the coal. He
intended the miners should live here an so seventy-five percent of
the population of Bearcreek and Washoe would have resided here. He
also planned to have a waterworks here in 1910. While in Lancaster,
Pa. in 1907, he suffered from an illness which eventually robbed
him of the use of his legs. He sold out his shares in the railroad,
which had changed its name in 1909, and he gave up his work here. He
was living in Long Beach, California, an invalid confined to his
chair and to whom much more credit would have been due had he been
spared to finish his work here. It is said that prospects for
extending the railroad to Cooke City had not been abandoned in 1925.
The first round house and water tank was built in 1906. The round
house burned down in 1910, but was quickly reconstructed. (The Japanese
laughed and said, "Glee Clist, square round house!) Foley and Crow
had the contract for the depot which was built in 1906. As houses
began to mushroom up all around, Mr. Hall decided it was time to
give the new town a name. For all the bookkeeping and writing to be
done for the new rail-road, he needed a stenographer. The girl that
took the position proved to be all and more, too, than was expected,
in more ways than one. Her name was Belle. Since all the railroad
men and everyone loved her, including Mr. Hall, they decided to name
the new town Belfry. The friendship between Belle and Mr. Hall
ripened into a beautiful romance and they were married. He was quite
a little bit older than she, and the talk went around that she just
married him for his money. That proved to be an untruth, for when he
became ill she stayed right with him and nursed him. When he became
helpless, she put him in a wheel chair and took him to health resorts
and did her best to help him get well. She was a strong believer in
her wedding vow (Until death do us part) for at the last she died
before he did. It was always hoped that he would get well and come
back and complete his plans for Belfry, but he never did.
The first house in Belfry was built by John Woodcock in 1894, before
Belfry was even thought of, on the 12 acres that C. A. Andrew bought
in 1919. It was built of logs with a dirt roof. The first building
was a saloon built by John Prints for Roaxie Hatfield, which was
situated where the elevator is now. When the town was platted, it
was moved to its present location behind the restaurant and used as
a dwelling. Later, in partner-ship with M. M. Moore, he built a saloon on the opposite side of the street between the grocery store
of Jack Matson taken over by Browny and Spires, and the store owned
by Mrs. W. O.
Sirrine. These three buildings were destroyed by fire
in 1913. Jack Holland started a hardware store in 1905 and sold it
to the Baldwin Lumber Company in 1917. It is the store in which the
dance of the Fourth of July was given. Mrs. N. D. Hall started a
grocery store and post office in the present barber shop, of which
Mrs. Hall was the first postmistress in 1905. The succeeding men who
operated the store were Henry Held, Mr. Beckstrom, Mr. Pilcher, who
had it during the war, and Mr. L. O. Walker, who took over from
Filcher some time after the first World War was closed. Mr. Violet
had the barber shop at that time and continued to keep it for about
35 years. Mr. Smith had a meat market and C. W. Sinnock had a
harness shop in the building occupied now by Mr. and Mrs. George
Wentz. Mr. Sinnock sold his equipment to Mr. Walker in 1916 and he
sold out in 1918. In 1906 the first Yellow Hotel was built by Mrs.
Ed Lester, now of Fromberg, who at first served meals in a tent. The
Hotel was run by Millers and is now run by Buffingtons. Another
building owned by a man by the name of Antone Ludwigson was built in
1910, of cement blocks. It was used as a drug store by Paul Michel
and as a pool hall by J. D. Nidy and a restaurant called "Peg Leg
Inn" was run by John Todd. He had a wooden leg. Belmont Moore was in
the building for a while, then a Mr. Man Kirby took it and used it
as a lunch room, pool hall and ice cream parlor, now in 1925, it is
used as a butcher shop by Mr. Brown. Mr. Charles Burt had the livery
stable built in 1906 and also built a nice home. After cars became
so numerous, the horse barn was no longer needed, so Mr. Ingram, Mr.
Stearns and the Roach Seed Company succeeded in possession. The
blacksmith shop was built in 1906 by William Nelson, and has been
run by Davis, Kennedy, Goldsmith, Walton, Robertson, Funga and Siep,
respectively. Henry Rector built a saloon where Frank Ingram is now. Underwood and Ray had a saloon as did Underwood and Stearns, then
Mr. Ingram started a store. The barber chair was then
located in the saloon. Davis was the first Barber. "Doc" Bulwar was
the second, and then Mr. Violet is running the present shop.
Mr. McCormicks built the establishment owned by Mr. Hancock, which Mr. &
Mrs. Freebury ran as a hotel and rooming house. After the McCormicks
had it, the Freeburys ran it and called it the Freebury Hotel. When
the Freeburys left Belfry, Mrs. Dayton and Mr. Hancock were married
and took it over, but it burned to the ground on Friday, the 13th,
in September, 1935. Mr. Kose built the Clark Fork Building. It
started out as a restaurant, but soon sold out to Mr. Francis who
started the Clark Fork Trading Company, a big general store, with
all kinds of dry goods, shoes and a large stock of merchandise
stored in the upper story, and a big grocery stock in the basement. One could buy almost anything on the market there. Different
managers were Mr. O'Shea, Mr. Orr, Mr. Green, and Mr. Art Watson.
The elevator was built by The Occident Elevator Company in 1919. Mr.
Roach ran it for quite a while, and was followed by Mr. Chales
Lange. Mr. Nash had the contract for the cement sidewalks, which
were laid in 1906.
The First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1908, and the
building was built and completed in 1910. The Rev. Mr. Clark was the
first pastor. Other pastors were Rev. Warne, Sloan, McCullough,
Walker, Joe Tope, Warner, Hood, Baine, Hamilton and Ferdine.
first doctor in Belfry was Dr. Prints, the second Dr. Dodge. Dr. Chiloott came in 1910 and stayed until 1920. Dr. Theckston, a 300
pound man, came, but did not stay long, as the examination in
Montana for a doctor is stiff, and he could not pass it. After him,
was the doctor up to 1925. All of the doctors were railroad
doctors who were stationed here in Belfry.
The dentists who have made short stays in Belfry were Dr. Marcus
The Carmount Hotel was built by Mr. Boliver in or
around 1909. The beet dump was built in 1909. Perkins Savage Lumber
Co., and Hardware Store was put up in 1914 and sold out in 1923 to
the Baldwin Lumber Co.
The first dances were held in the upper part of the blacksmith shop. Mr. Whitten, called "Old Black Joe", played the violin and the first
musicians were the
The Hall Garage was built in
1919 and was destroyed by the same fire that burned the Hancock
Hotel in 1935 (September 13)
Mrs. Lena B. Holland had the first
automobile. It was much like a buggy with high wheels and hard
rubber tires. It was a Brush mode. Mr. Hall refused to ride in it.
The first town well was on the John Woodcock place, now owned by C.
A. Andrew. The first well to serve the main part of town was dug in
front of Antone Ludwigson's building, which is now the saloon, with
the sidewalk laid over it.
The first child born in Belfry was Velda Belfry Youst, the next was
The first bank was a portion of the hardware store. Mr. J. O. Higham was cashier and Jim Rich was assistant cashier. W.
L. Reno deposited the first money in the bank. Soon the new building
was completed and the bank was moved. The building was made of
cement block, and housed the bank for about 25 years.
The first telephone was installed by Mr. John Tolman, as his own private phone,
owned and operated by him at his own expense of about $2,000.00. He
owned and operated the Grove Creek sheep and cattle ranch about 12
miles southwest of Belfry and needed a phone for business reasons.
Some of the men who have been around the Belfry vicinity for years
are: George Garver, Mr.
Mr. George Youst, Mr.
Albert Youst, Mr. Elea Ogden, Mr. John Todd, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Hall, Mr. J.
0. Higham, Mr. Burns, Mr. Antone Ludwigson, Mr. Carrington, Mr.
Violet, Mr. John Tolman, Mr. Bob Rowland, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Bill
Combs. Most all this has happened before 1925 and almost all except
two or three mentioned have gone to their reward.
The first person
to be buried in the Belfry Cemetery was a child by the name of Beil,
pronounced Bell. When the Child died, the man came to Claude Youst
and said he did not know what to do with her, so big-hearted Claude
gave the town a good-sized platt off of his farm for a burrying
ground. Now, in the year 1962, it is full and another platt has been
added and started to fill up. Oh, yes, the boy stood on the burning
deck, but the old grim reaper goes on forever with his scythe.
The M.W.&S. Railroad that everyone loved so much was closed in 1953 by
a man that was president at that time, William Gullickson. It had
done land-office business for years, hauling approximately thirteen
million tons of coal in the 47 years it had run. It was often said,
it was not as long as some of the big roads, but it was just as
wide. The rai1road made this little town of Belfry. We have now
three church buildings and one of the best school systems in the
state. A gym was added to the first structure in 1928, and we, the
people of Belfry, had the pleasure of seeing our basketball team
take the state championship three years running. The shop and
lunchroom were built on in the last part of the forty's, where our
children are served a hot lunch every day for the very small sum of
15 cents per meal.
The Yellow Hotel burned down in the early 30s, as
did the Freebury Hotel. The Carmount Hotel was torn down and moved
away. Belfry is now a quiet little burg, with lots of retired
people....but in its heyday, it was rip roarin. One of the saloons
was called "Bucket of Blood'. It had the right name, as a man was
shot in the belly. There were no cars and no way to rush him to the
hospital. Dr. Morius and two other men threw him on the kitchen
table and took his guts out, fixed them and put them back and today,
50 years later, the man is still living, but the good doctor has
long since gone. He was the one that said "the good die young".
In the days of prohibition, they had to have something to drink so
they made moonshine and what they called White Mule. It was not
ready to drink until it was stiff enough to take the enamel off the
sink. When they would get to having too wild a time and the man that
sold it got to making too much money, someone would report it to
Billings. They would send the officers out to pull it, but before
they could get here, someone would phone and tell that the officers
were coming. Quickly they would get everything out of sight and when
the officers arrived, there would not he a sign of anything, other
than a pocket full of money. Of all the bootlegging there was out of
Canada, one man who had the money gave another man $350.00 to go
into Canada and bring him enough good whiskey to last a while. The
man stuck the $350.00 in the bottom of his jeans and hit for parts
unknown. That was a nice purse. A man killed another man over his
wife. There were lots of drifters, so it made the little town wild
and wooly and the -years passed in front of the doors.
Now in this year of 1962, the M.W.S. is gone, even all the rails
were taken up and shipped to Chicago. The beautiful depot that was
the pride of the valley is now the legion hall. The round house
stands quiet and desolate.
Oh, little town of Belfry, how still we see thee lie.
by Jetts Regan up to 1925 and Mrs. Bertha Andrew up to 1962