Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Memories in Stained Glass

Photo by Dick Gibson
The Ascension Window at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church recalls a devastating time in Butte. The window is in memory of Franz Arthur Benz, who died at age 23 in the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. His mother, Mrs. Arthur Benz, paid for the window in 1919.

I believe that the Benz family was that of Arthur Bentz, who lived at 210 S. Washington in 1915, apparently with two sons (August and Charles, ranchers, and Leo, a miner). This is unclear because there is no Arthur Benz or Bentz listed in the city directory later than 1915. In 1917, Mrs. Bertha (widow of John) Benz lived at 123 N. Idaho, and in 1918 she and (I assume) sons Henry and John lived at 722 S. Main. The directories for 1919-1922 are missing, so we don’t have a definitive connection for Mrs. Arthur Benz and son Franz.

By most accounts Butte accounted for a third of Montana’s 37,000 influenza cases—and of those 12,000, about 1,200 died, mostly in October, November, and December 1918. The flu struck disproportionately at young people, afflicting those in their 20s the most. Schools and theaters were closed; public gatherings of more than three people were forbidden. The epidemic was an enormous calamity for Butte; virtually no family was untouched by it.

The stained glass in St. Mark’s is unsigned, but much of it is high-quality opalescent glass, likely manufactured by one of the major stained glass houses in the east.

For more about the influenza epidemic, see John Astle's Only In Butte, p. 103-111.

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