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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mrs. E. Creighton Largey (1884-1939)

Largey mansion, Broadway at Washington Street. The multi-columned home directly to the left is Largey Flats, built for visiting relatives and friends of the Largey family. It survives; the mansion burned down c. 1965. See below for more images.

By Richard I. Gibson

Even though Urusula Largey and Julia Coughlin only lived about seven blocks from each other, it’s pretty unlikely that they ever met. The divide between 223 East Granite and 403 West Broadway was deeper than the Mountain Con.

Ursula March was a well-known actress on the New York and traveling stage in the early 1900s. She played the female lead in the musical fantasy “Land of Nod” for two seasons about 1905-07. Butte’s E. Creighton Largey followed the company from town to town, courting Miss March, and they were ultimately wed July 22, 1908 (many sources say 1907, but it is almost certainly 1908), with write-ups on the wedding in New York theater gossip columns.

Creighton was the younger scion of Patrick Largey, often called Butte’s fourth copper king. Patrick started in Butte managing the Butte Hardware Company, but by 1890, when Creighton was three years old, Patrick had established the State Savings Bank, was a partner in Butte’s first electric and power generating company, and helped start the Inter Mountain Publishing Company. He would be a millionaire well before his murder in 1898, an event which set Creighton up as heir and co-manager of the estate.

After Ursula and Creighton married and set themselves up in the Largey mansion in Butte, directly across the street from the Charles Clark mansion (Arts Chateau), they became central to Butte’s social whirl.

In February 1910 Mrs. E. Creighton Largey threw a party to honor the first wedding anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. Phil Carr. It was a lavish affair, with Ursula and Creighton receiving at least 34 guests in the second floor red drawing room, likely comparable in size to one floor of Julia Coughlin’s home. An “elaborate, delicious” supper was served at midnight; miniature railroad cars honored the Carrs; “immense wedding bells of cotton sparkling with crystal dust” decorated the premises along with white satin streamers and asparagus vines; the edible ices were designed as flowers, doves, and hearts. Place markers at table were commissioned works of art. Guests included Dr. and Mrs. Frederick McCrimmon and Fred McQueeney.

The hostess wore a satin gown of orchid hue, and “her only adornments were diamonds.” She performed an impromptu musicale, recalling her stage career.

It was at a party similar to this one, also hosted by Ursula Largey, but across the street in the Charles Clark Chateau which the Largeys then owned, that the state song of Montana was written.

When Creighton and Ursula “tired of a life of ease” and left Butte in 1915, they headed to Los Angeles, where among other things Ursula helped form and directed the Venice Community Players, part of the growing “Little Theater” movement. She died in 1939. Creighton survived her by 24 years, dying in Los Angeles in 1963.

Resources: The Butte Evening News, Feb. 27, 1910; New York Dramatic Mirror, August 1908. House photo from A Brief History of Butte, Freeman, 1900, scanned by Butte Public Library.

Photo that is almost certainly the Largey House. Courtesy Sara Rowe (Sassy's Consignments) The central bay shows some changes from the photo above, but it is very similar to the drawing below.
Largey house, circa 1902-03, Artist W.H. Thorndike, republished in Montana Standard, 12/16/2014.


  1. Hello! I'm researching my Dyer family from Butte circa 1880-1900. Joseph Dyer's confectionery was in the "building adjoining the telegraph office", which was in the "Largey House on the NW corner of Broadway and Idaho street". I checked Google Maps and was sad to see that the house on the corner looks rather new. I was curious to see what the "Largey House" actually looked like and found your wonderful post here. Thank you so much for these images! What a cute little area, and the perfect place to have get-togethers and a candy shop! :)

    1. Hello and thanks for your note - but it confuses me!The telegraph office in Butte was, I'm quite sure, always at the heart of town, and would not have been in a private home anyway, especially not by the time the Largey house was built c. 1897. Nor would a business like a confectionery have been in this upscale residential neighborhood (it's not impossible that your ancestor had a business in his home, which could have been somewhere near here). So I'm curious as to the source of the quotes about the confectionery, telegraph office, and Largey house. I only have a few of the Butte city directories here at home but I can't find a Joseph Dyer or Dyer Confectionery in the 1885, 1891, 1893, 1895, or 1900 volumes. Cheers - Dick.

    2. Following is from Rory Triscuit (I inadvertently clicked delete instead of publish): Ah, of course, Joseph sold his business in 1881, and died in 1895 so you won't likely find anything about him past 1881.

      Butte Daily Miner. Tuesday, September 23, 1879. Minor Items. "..Besides the interior improvements lately noted Mr. Dyer is putting in a glass front at his place of business, west Broadway"

      Joseph and his wife Jane can be found on the 1880 census in Butte. He is listed as confectioner, she as "works in shop".

      Butte Daily Miner. [page 3] Wednesday, August 24, 1881. Changes in Business. "Yesterday Mr. Joseph Dyer sold to Mrs. Kate M. Shodair the bakery and confectionery business carried on in the building adjoining the telegraph office, on West Broadway."

      Montana Butte Standard. July 4, 1939. "The first telegraph office in Butte was in the Largey home which stood on the northwest corner of Broadway and Idaho street."

      The only records I could find of them in phone directories are of Jane, his widow, who moved to Great Falls after his death in Belt in 1895.

      I tried to leave a second comment yesterday but it sadly wasn't going through. Basically, I'm pretty confused, too! *chuckles

      Perhaps what once was a telegraph office later became the Largey home? I see in your post on Telephones in 1880s Butte that the Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company shared an office with Western Union Telegraph at 260 Main, between Park and Broadway by 1884. Hmm. Perhaps I should be looking at Main and Broadway. Or perhaps there was another telegraph office in 1881 before those companies settled into a building on Main St?

      Thanks so much for your quick response! Given that you can't find Joseph in the 1885 and on volumes, I can now surmise that they moved to Belt or Great Falls before then.

    3. It's possible, I guess, that there was an early telegraph office in some home of the Largeys but I doubt if the Largey house at Idaho and B'way was built by then. I'll have to do some more checking - thanks!

    4. in 1885, Shodair's Ice Cream Parlor was at 12 W Broadway (i.e. just west of Main) which would be reasonable. Doesn't prove Dyer wasn't in his home at Idaho, but really there wasn't much as far west as Idaho st in 1879-81. Not impossible, just unusual and not likely IMO.

    5. Here's my other point of confusion: Was it actually at Broadway and Washington (I mean, obviously the above pictured house was at what is currently Broadway and Washington) or was its address at the time Broadway and Idaho? Was there a separate Largey house at Broadway and Idaho? The Largeys owned a lot of properties, of course, which may be adding to the confusion.

      Another site (http://www.helenahistory.org/telephone-history.htm) reports that Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company came to Butte in early 1882.
      So I guess it wasn't Rocky Mountain's building in 1881 to which Joseph's confectionery was attached. I'll dig around to see when Western Union arrived.

      I look forward to seeing what you turn up! Thanks again. :)

    6. The 1885 directory has the Largey house at 200 W Broadway, which would be at Montana (note the one above, is not at Idaho St but at Washington, a block further west).

  2. Oh, thank you for that tidbit! I'd begun digging into Mrs. Shodair and had only found she'd invested in a few businesses and remarried in 1886.