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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hancocks of Caledonia Street

Left to right: 951, 947, 943 Caledonia

By Richard I. Gibson

The 900 block of Caledonia was home to four related families for much of the early 20th Century. Their diverse occupations connect us to much of Butte’s history.

The three similar homes at 943, 947, and 951 Caledonia were all built about 1898, probably by the same builder. They were the first homes on the block (and pretty much the only ones in the area), and were the only three houses here in 1900, but by 1916 twenty homes stood on the Caledonia-Excel-Woolman-Henry block, and there were only four vacant lots remaining as this area’s population exploded. A new fire station was just down the block.

In 1900, John Nance, a miner, lived in the new house at 943 Caledonia. Family history says that Native Americans were still living on Big Butte at that time, and would often knock on the door to beg for a bicky (a biscuit). The family maintained a cow, a horse, and chickens. When John worked the night shift, he would take his wife, Mary, to her parents’ home on East Park (probably 441 E. Park), picking her up on his return in the morning.

Left: duplex, 939-935 Caledonia. Right: 931 Caledonia.

Mary was the daughter of John and Ellen (nee Carne) Hancock. By 1900, the Caledonia neighborhood was growing fast, and by the early 1900s homes were built east of the Nance home at 943. The west half of the big duplex at 939-935 became the home of Mary’s parents. John, a miner, and Ellen Hancock had three daughters – Mary (Nance), Clara (Rowe), and Ethel (Downing) – who after marriage lived at 943, 931, and 935 (the other half of the duplex) Caledonia, respectively. The also had another daughter, Adeline, and a son, Joseph. Joseph lived at 939 with his parents in 1910 when he was a clerk at Hennessy’s.

Robert Downing, a collector for the Butte Miner Publishing Co. in 1900, had lived at 513 N. Montana before marrying Ethel Hancock and moving to 935 Caledonia Street. By 1910, he was the Advertising Manager for the Butte Miner newspaper, and in 1928 he worked at the City Corral. Their daughter Rosalind, living with them in 1928, was a clerk at the Paxson and Rockefeller Co., a drug store at 24 West Park.

John Nance advanced from miner to ropeman helper in the Silver Bow Mine (1910) to pumpman (1928). In 1928, John and Mary Nance’s children were living with them at 943. Harold was a chauffeur with the Canary Cab Co.; John was a miner for the Northern Development Co.; and Percy worked as a clerk at the Western Hardware Co.

Fred and Clara Rowe bought the house at 931 Caledonia in 1905, just five years after it was built in 1900, and they added the second story in 1909. Fred worked as a storekeeper at the Butte & Boston Smelter and in 1910 was a precipitator at the precipitation plant. By 1928 he was Assistant Foreman at the precipitation plant for the Anaconda Company, and his and Clara’s children were living at 931 with them. Margaret was a student; Theo was a laborer for the ACM company; and Wilbur was a teller at the Metals Bank. The Rowes lived at 931 into the 1950s, and their descendents live in Butte today.

947 Caledonia, at center in the top photo, was also connected to the family. It was owned by Richard J. Oates, a partner with Samuel M. Roberts, son of Elisha and Jane (Hancock) Roberts and  nephew of John Hancock and his sister, Elizabeth Anne Hancock Paull. Oates & Roberts, Inc. was established in 1893. They were the printers and publishers of books and The Tribune Review newspaper, located in 1900 at 200 N. Main, and later at 114 E. Broadway and 120 E. Broadway in Butte. The Tribune Review, a weekly published from 1898 to 1920, was in 1900 the official organ of the Republican Party in Silver Bow County, and was leased to the Republican Party during the 1904 election campaign Sept. 2 to Nov. 5. The newspaper also employed several members of the Dunstan family, including in 1900 Thomas Dunstan as an early partner in the enterprise (he lived at at 951 Caledonia, completing the triplet of homes in the top photo). Editor Samuel Roberts was prominent in Butte from the late 1890s into the middle 1920s. He was Clerk of the District court from 1900 to 1904 and was also Treasurer of the Miners Union for some time.

Resources: Information from Rhea Warnecke (great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Anne Hancock Paull, sister of John Hancock), including a letter from Viola Nance Briggs (daughter of John and Mary Nance) to the Butte Historical Society, August 22, 1984; Sanborn maps; city directories; historical plaque for 931 Caledonia. Oates & Roberts ruler photo courtesy of Rhea Warnecke; modern photos by Richard I. Gibson.

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