In the beginning the Natives discovered the beautiful valley coursed by the waters of three streams, now known as Prickly Pear, Ten Mile, and Little Prickly Pear. The Natives gathered here to hunt the game that abounded the valley and they joined with other tribes in hunting. There was no warfare among the tribes while they hunted and filled their larders for the months ahead.
Lewis and Clark passed this way, but only Capt. Clark viewed the Prickly Pear Valley. In his journal he noted “a butiful valley of great extent”, emphasizing the many beaver dams that blocked the streams in the valley.
The Mention of beaver brought the Mountain Man-Fur Trappers and within a short time the beaver were gone. The stories that the Mt. Men and Trappers told encouraged a hardy few to explore and prospect the region. It was then that the “Four Georgians” stopped in the valley and tested the streams and bedrock for gold. It was the beginning of Helena as claim after claim recorded record strikes and sudden wealth for the hardy groups.
As more and more prospects paid off, the city grew and began to show signs of permanency, the pioneers began to inhabit and settle the area. Civilization had arrived!
R.F. Morgan '05
With the arrival of the pioneers, businesses were built, entrepreneurs flourished and the raw land became home to many and evidence of their labors still abound in Helena and Lewis and Clark County. The Cowboy brought the herds from Texas to the lush grasslands of Montana and was a mainstay of the economy for many years. The Holter sawmill near what is now Holter Dam provided shingles and lumber for many of the homes and businesses in early Helena. The cattle industry provided one of the oldest partnerships in Montana History, the Stadler-Kaufman livestock operation. These two men were Helena residents and their homes still stand, side by side on Helena’s West side.
Probably one of the most famous vehicles of commerce was the Broadwater Natatorium and Hotel. The spire in the center of the painting is from the old Hotel building. It has been restored and can be seen just east of the St. Peters Hospital complex. The Natatorium in its day was the largest indoor heated pool in the world and was a favorite gathering place in the early days of Helena. The 1935 earthquakes cut off the source of hot water and a slow decline marked the end of the Hotel and Spa.
The Drumlummon Mine on the right was the richest gold mine in the area and was founded by Thomas Cruse, citizen, prospector and philanthropist. Although he could neither read nor write this man was a major contributor to the construction of the beautiful St. Helena Cathedral. It is said that the Drumlummon produced over forty million dollars in gold during its heyday. Cruse sold the mine to a British Syndicate and went so far as to finance the purchase himself.
The sheepherder is still a familiar sight in Lewis and Clark County. Along with his faithful dogs, he shepherds the flock through weather, good or bad, hot or cold, keeping the predators at bay and delivering the flock that was entrusted to him.
In the center of the painting stands T.C. Power, sometimes referred to as “the Merchant Prince of the Plains”, probably one of Helena’s best-known early businessmen although they were legion. Involved in freighting, both on the Missouri River with the famed Block P Steamboats and the cross-country mule, oxen, and horse freight outfits, Powers amassed a fortune in trading, construction, and hardware. He has left more structures in Helena and Montana than any other entrepreneur. His West side mansion still stands, the Power Block in downtown Helena is still occupied and lively and the historic Steamboat Block all are testaments to his leadership. He finished out his distinguished career as a United States Senator from Montana.
R.F. Morgan '05
Helena is unique in many ways, one being the seat of Government, not only City but County and also the State Capital. Every two years we welcome the State Legislature and slowly but surely the machination of State Government unfolds. In the background of this painting is the State Capitol as originally constructed sans the two wings added in later years. To the left is the original City Hall and Fire Station, all lost in the 1935 earthquakes.
On the right is the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse, again as it appeared prior to the earthquake of 1935. The seat of County Government moved to this Federal building a few years ago, although a number of County Offices still remain in the original building.
In the center of the painting we show Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and an avowed Pacifist who cast votes against war in 1917 and again in 1941. To her left is Senator Thomas Walsh, who in the 1920’s had headed the investigation, which exposed the Teapot Dome oil scandal. This action was not lost on President Franklin D. Roosevelt who later appointed Walsh to the Post of Attorney General of the United States. Walsh would never serve as Attorney General as he died before taking office. On the right you see former Mayor of Helena, “Jack” Haytin. Haytin owned and operated a women’s hair dressing salon just down Sixth Avenue, near the Power Block. He was instrumental in getting a new airline terminal for the City and made many improvements to the City itself and utilities were modernized. He was as some said at the time a “very modern Mayor”.
In the foreground you see various badges, banners and posters representing the varied moods of politics, while in the middle ground you see the campaigning feminine faction working for the Prohibition Amendment or Votes for Women. Altogether a most fascinating history and only the “tip of the iceberg”.
R.F. Morgan '05
Lent by the Montana Historical Society, Gift of the Dennis and Vivian Connors Family
The three large murals in Commission Chamber of the City-County Building are part of a series of paintings collectively titled The History of Montana. They depict Exploration and Settlement (south wall), Transportation north wall, left side), and The Arts, Education, and the Sciences (north wall, right side).
Saloon manager Kenny Egan commissioned artist Jack Beauchamp to paint the series in 1943 for his Mint Cigar Store and Tavern, which was located at 20-1/2 North Main Street in downtown Helena. Less than twenty years after they were completed, the murals were painstakingly removed from the walls of the Mint prior to that building’s demolition. In 1981 the Dennis and Vivian Connors Family donated the masterworks to the Montana Historical Society where they were carefully stored and cared for in anticipation of the day when they could be returned to public exhibition. In 2006, in a project jointly funded by the City County Administration Building Board, the Montana Historical Society, and the Helena Public Art Committee, the three paintings were restored and installed in these Commission Chambers.
The artist, John W. “Jack” Beauchamp (pronounced “Bee-chum”), was born in Marion, Indiana, on June 22, 1906. Shortly thereafter his family relocated to the Treasure State where Beauchamp spent his formative years, first in Fort Benton and later in Helena. After graduating from Helena High in 1924, he attended DePauw University in his native Indiana and then continued to study and paint at various East Coast locales.
About 1940 Beauchamp returned to Helena where, in 1941, he was appointed director of the Helena Art Center at Carroll College (among Beauchamp’s pupils at the Art Center in the 1940s was a young, first-time art student by the name of Robert F. Morgan, whose own murals now grace the west wall of the Commission Chambers). During the years he spent in the capital city, Beauchamp’s work was highly acclaimed, widely exhibited, and enthusiastically collected. Larger markets called, however, and in the mid-1940s he joined his brother, D. D. “Bud” Beauchamp, who was working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. In California, Beauchamp continued to find success as both a portrait painter and muralist. He died in Hollywood in 1956.