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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Skagway Connection

By Richard I. Gibson

Mollie Walsh is a name that’s renowned in Skagway, Alaska—there’s a statue in a park named for her. Tour guides tell her story, for she’s one of Skagway’s treasured historical personalities. This reputed dance hall queen helped establish Skagway’s first church, and her grub tent high in the mountains helped save hundreds (some say thousands) of miners' lives as they trudged into the Klondike in 1897-98. She earned the name “Angel of the White Pass Trail,” but was murdered by a former lover in a Seattle alleyway in 1902 at age 30. It’s a movie-worthy saga.

What’s less well known is that Mollie lived in Butte for seven years.

She arrived about Thanksgiving, 1890, at age 18, from St. Paul. She apparently worked mostly in laundries, including the Troy Steam Laundry at 51 West Mercury (later at 232 S. Main). Mollie lived at 69 West Broadway in 1895, a small single-story rooming house. She also lived at 128 W. Granite – not the building there today (Venus Coffee Shop) but probably a rooming house (now gone) on the southeast corner of Granite and Montana—the address scheme changed in the 1890s.

The photo here is one of the most common ones of Mollie that you see around the internet. But usually the bottom caption is cut off; it reveals that the photo dates to 1894 in Butte. The Palais Studio was on the second floor at 120 North Main—in the Events Center building that still stands against the Hennessy Building.

Thanks to Nicole von Gaza for some of the information in this post, and to Cindi Shaw for finding the photo. Research continues to piece together Mollie’s Butte story.


  1. I love knowing that photo was taken here in Butte! Good ol Mollie Walsh.....I spent a lot of time in her park in Skagway. Thanks for this, Dick!

  2. Thanks Dick and Nicole! Butte was truly a crossroad for the adventurists, dreamers and doers...Still is!