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. Many of these blog posts have been converted to podcast episodes, available at KBMF.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thomas Lavell

Ad from Souvenir History of Butte Fire Department (1901). Scan by Butte Public Library.
By Richard I. Gibson

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.
The brothers expanded into the delivery business by buying Warfield & Hauser’s Butte Transfer Company in 1885, operating the stable at 122 East Park Street (variously known as Lavelle & Hart, Windsor Stables, and Butte Transfer Stable). Thomas ran that company and brother Geoffrey continued the lumber business, which was sold in 1895 when Geoffrey left Montana for Oregon.

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.

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