A LOVELY PLACE IS BLODGETT
ESTABLISHED 100 YEARS AGO JUNE
Sometimes builders build better than even the most farsighted
among them knows. Such could certainly be the case of the Bitter Root pioneer
Lyman J. Blodgett who came to this valley in 1869 and made it home until he
died May 12, 1908 leaving lasting monuments to his name.
Blodgett creek is named for Lyman Blodgett. So is Blodgett
mountain and he and his wife Mary, who he married in Utah before the couple
came to Montana, left descendants who continue to this very day in helping
to build the Bitter Root. Although he left his name upon geographical points
of interest in the Bitter Root, perhaps equally important was Lyman's foresight
when he daughter, Mary Catherine, died at the age of 14 years, 9 months, and
12 days. That day, the Blodgett family gathered on a hilltop overlooking Blodgett
creek and laid the child in rest. At the same time, Lyman Blodgett set aside
three acres on the hill top as a family cemetery.
That cemetery exists today and will for many years into
an unforeseeable future. Today, there are 31 graves of family members in Blodgett
cemetery. They include resting spots of the following well-known Bitter Root
people who have passed away: Mr. and Mrs. Lyman (Mary) Blodgett, Mr. and
Mrs. Newman (Margaret) Blodgett, Mr. and Mrs. Charles (Martha) MacRae, mr.
and Mrs. Victor (Clara) Shults, Joe Blodgett, Mr. and Mrs. Hallie Blodgett,
Mr. and Mrs. Ted Blodgett, Lawrence McNeal, Archie McKillop, to name a few.
After the establishment of the cemetery, it grew slowly
in occupants and the family acquired two additional acres to add to the original
three given by founder Lyman Blodgett. Now the cemetery tract begins at the
west end of the hill extending almost due east to the point where the hill
ends abruptly, in an almost vertical cliff, above the former home of Newman
"Dude" (Rita) Blodgett. To the south, you look down from the cemetery upon
the Ray Browning farm, formerly the Joe Blodgett place, through which today
Blodgett Creek is roaring with flood water. To the east, the main stem of
the valley can be seen and to the north spreads farm land of the north Blodgett
bench. It is a staggering view which is high-pointed by the view of the snow-capped
Blodgett Peak atop Blodgett Mountain to the west.
So, yesterday, June 6, was the 100th anniversary of the
establishment of the unique, picturesque, and well maintained family cemetery.
As you drive into the cemetery, you depart from the north road to take the
south lane which leads you past a sign which was placed in the cemetery Memorial
Day by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin (Frances) Reynolds who brought it from their home
in Oregon where Mrs. Reynolds fashioned it of squared timbers upon which she
wrought the words "Blodgett Cemetery."
The cemetery part itself is surrounded by a stout woven
wire meshed fence about six feet high, completely about the part now reserved
for graves. Entering the reserved section in the midst of a well kept green
thick lawn are monuments at the head of the graves. Tallest among them is
the monument to Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Blodgett, tall and carved of dark stone
with a large round ball upon its summit.
The cemetery plot is irrigated by a sprinkler system
with water originating upon the tract from a spring on the south side of
the hill, well to the west. This water system also is fashioned so it can
irrigate other portions of the 5-acre tract, and small ditches have been
dug which water a line of newly planted trees along both sides of the north
lane. They include 200 tiny ponderosa and 50 tiny Colorado spruce.
Members of the family who have been joining with "Dude"
Blodgett in improving the family cemetery are Mrs. Ila Lovell, Ellen Sheridan,
Ed and Glenn Shults, and Mary Nichol, all of Missoula; Hugh and Roy McKillop
and Louise Oertli and Clara Bohler, all of Hamilton; Harry Blodgett, Deer
Lodge; Bernard Blodgett of Gallogly Springs, and members of their families,
as well as other family members whose residences are more distant. But, the
main labor has been provided by "Dude" since his retirement, which turns out
not to be much retirement. He put up the steel wire enclosure fence since
March of this year, has installed the irrigation system to a large extent,
filed on the spring water, planted the little trees, and otherwise provided
maintenance of which the family has a right to be proud. If the trees planted
by Newman Blodgett prosper, it would be interesting to return to the cemetery
on its second hundred year anniversary, June 6, 2072, and see how tall grew
Another interesting thing about the area of the cemetery
is the geological phenomenon which occurred the the night of June 5. Yesterday
morning "Dude" discovered, as he was about to enter the cemetery, that an
area which crosses the entrance way had cropped several inches, with wide
cracks in the earth. These cracks run parallel to one another and at one point
are 15 paces from the north crack to the south creek, which is in the road
to the west of the cemetery and parallels the east line of Henry Oppegaard's
place, and then extends into the Oppegaard place. There are other cracks between
the major ones. This fall-away of the earth extends no less than 100 yards
and possibly longer in a generally east-west direction. The same phenomenon
was noticed about a year ago by Oppegaard and Blodgett. This would be a good
spot for a geologist or earthquake specialist to view and explain to the
The Western News, June 7, 1972
BLODGETT DEATH RECALLS
VALLEY PIONEER EPOCH
When Lyman Johnson Blodgett brought his family from Utah
to the Bitter Root Valley in 1867, and took up a homestead in the west Woodside
area, there wasn't any Woodside. In fact, there was no settlement bigger than
Corvallis which about that time was known as "Sunflower City." More children
came after the Montana homestead had been hewn out of the woodsy hill country
and all told, Blodgett's youngest child, Mrs. V.L. Shults recalls, "There
were 11 of us and I was the youngest." Proof of that is that she is still
called "Babe," and "Aunt Babe," by those who are left of the Blodgett clan.
The recollections came with the gathering of the clan
last week to attend last rites for Hallie W. Blodgett, 64, and to go on out
to the old homestead and its "Blodgett Cemetery," a truly old-time family
burial ground. Mrs. Shults' story said in part: "My folks lost one little
girl in Utah before they came here, and that was Sally. While they were on
their way to Montana, another little girl, Polly, died and she was buried
on the prairie; they were both two-year-olds when they died. After they (her
parents) got settled here, Katie, who was 15, sickened and died, and Father
set aside a burial plot, hers the first grave. Now there are 23."
"My brothers were George, Horace, Newman, and Joe; my
sisters Katie, Melissa, whose grave was second in the plot, Minnie and Mattie.
The wives and husbands and children and grandchildren make up four generations
of graves in the three-acre cemetery."
The Blodgett burial ground is shadowed on the west by
the picturesque cliffs of Blodgett Canyon. Not too far away is the old abandoned
frame and log house of that 1867-97 Lyman Blodgett homestead, in its time
a community landmark with the proverbial "Latchstring always out" rule of
pioneer hospitality giving it an aura in the sparsely settled neighborhood.
Mrs. Shults will be 80 years old in January, but she
is still keeping the Blodgett tradition intact and it was in the Shults home,
Thursday, that the 42 relatives of Hallie, her nephew, assembled for a family
dinner and visit after the return from the old homestead burial ground. "Aunt
Babe," her given name is Clara, and "Uncle Vic" were the beloved hosts who
kept the occasion from too much sadness and made it a reunion. And the couple
had many memories to pass along to the Lyman Blodgett grandchildren, great
grandchildren, and great great grandchildren.
The Western News,