|Ad from Souvenir History of Butte Fire Department (1901). Scan by Butte Public Library.|
Although Thomas Lavell is sometimes referred to as a French-Canadian (I’ve done it myself) because he was born near Ottawa (Dec. 14, 1853) and came to Montana from Quebec, his parents were both natives of Ireland who emigrated to Quebec in the early 19th Century. Twenty-one-year-old Thomas followed his brother to a small town called Pioneer, in the original Deer Lodge County, in 1874, where they worked a lumber operation. They came to Butte in 1875 or 1876 and established a sawmill and lumber dealership, reportedly providing the material for the first buildings made of sawn wood in Butte.
|Lavell house at Park and Idaho. Photo by Dick Gibson.|
Thomas Lavell’s stable—advertising “omnibuses, hacks and baggage wagons meet the arrival of all trains”—became the largest taxicab business in Montana. It was doing well enough as early as 1887 for Lavelle to build the beautiful Second Empire-style home at 301 West Park Street where he and his wife Melissa lived and entertained for decades; Melissa died in 1923 and Thomas lived there until he died in 1941.