Forestvale Cemetery

490 Forestvale Road
46.653552, -112.032680

All Photos Courtesy of Forestvale Cemetery, via
Paul E. Paulsen Jr., Unless Otherwise Noted


Founded in 1890 as the Helena Cemetery, Forestvale Cemetery occupies 150 acres (according to current tax records) in the Helena Valley. The name was changed to Forestvale in 1901.

There are over 14,000 individuals buried at Forestvale, including many notable Montana pioneers. It is also the final resting place of motion picture star Myrna (Williams) Loy, a Helena native.

The documents listed as sources for the information presented here are available for download and/or linking at the end of this feature.

"In 1888, there were three public cemeteries in Helena, all of which were owned and operated by religious organizations: a Catholic cemetery, Jewish cemetery and the Benton Avenue Cemetery, which was generally populated by Protestants. As the city of Helena was expanding rapidly, growing from a population of 3,000 in 1880 to over 13,000 in one decade, the city government recognized the need for additional burial space outside of the city limits. During the summer of 1889, a group of Helena investors began to investigate suitable sites of the establishment of a new cemetery, and purchased 140 acres located about 2-1/2 miles from town, for $3500 from Charles C. Colber and his wife."-- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990

"There were over 400 exhumations from other cemeteries reinterred in Forestvale. These
reinterments came from the abandoned Catholic Cemetery south of the State Capitol,
City Cemetery behind Central School, Catholic Cemetery on Oakes, Benton Avenue Cemetery and Mountain Home Cemetery. They were also removed from several ranches in the Helena area, other towns in Montana, and many were removed from Beaver Creek when Canyon Ferry Reservoir flooded the area." -- Forestvale Cemetery Tour Guide, 2003


Paul S. Paulsen (1886-1952)

Paul S. Paulsen, a native of Denmark, was the caretaker at Forestvale from about 1912 to his death in 1952. Many thanks to his grandsons, Paul E. Paulsen Jr. and Guy Duncan, for arranging the scanning and forwarding of many of the photographs for this feature. And of course, special thanks to Forestvale Cemetery for making the photos available.

Thanks also to Helena historian and author Charleen Spalding for her Forestvale photos and invaluable information.


Annotated 2015 Map of Forestvale
Map Courtesy of Charleen Spalding

Forestvale was designed by Vermont native Harry Vespasian Wheeler (1850-?), a civil engineer working in Montana. He also laid out Missoula's City Cemetery in the 1880s. Forestvale's design, featuring curving roads, a water feature, and abundant plantings, was part of the "garden cemetery" or "rural cemetery" movement of the 19th Century. Read more about it on Wikipedia.

Wheeler lived in Southern California both before and after his years in Montana..





Main Gate
of Forestvale, 1890

"Originally the entrance had a castellated top, according to an etching depicting the new cemetery in the 1890 publication Helena; Its Past and Future. The words: 'The Helena
Cemetery' were cut in the stone at the top of the entrance. The name stone and the castellation may have been removed when the name of the cemetery was changed to Forestvale in 1901, or these alterations may have occurred in 1936 when post-earthquake
repairs were made on the gateway." -- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990

At least one post-1901 photograph of the castellated entrance exists, so the top was likely removed after being damaged by the 1935 earthquakes. Here is the gate photographed from the northwest in 1913...

 


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Only one lake of the two proposed was dug; it has been dry since about 1920, and in the 1930s was given over to burials. It was informally called the Sunken Garden, and is now known as the Arbor Garden section. Also never constructed was the chapel, meant to be next to the receiving vault, near the main gate.

According to another 1890 article in the Independent, the road leading to the main gate of the new cemetery, now known as McHugh Lane, was to be named Winnie Boulevard. No further mention of that name in connection with the road was found in newspaper archives.

 

Road and Rail to Forestvale, 1899 Topgraphic Map Detail


The Receiving Vault
Located Near the Main Entrance


"A small stone building located just inside the cemetery grounds was built during the 1890s as a receiving vault to store bodies during the winter months until the ground thawed and allowed for burial. In 1930, three crypts were added to the interior of the building. The heavily rusticated, uncoursed stone bearing walls feature five buttresses on each side. The arched entry has double metal doors hung on exaggerated strap hinges." -- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990

On November 8, 1891, James E. Binford, from Marysville, was the first person recorded to have been placed in the vault. He is buried in the Glendale section of the cemetery.


Receiving Vault Doors, 2016


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East Side of the Receiving Fault, 2016


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West Side of the Receiving Vault, 2016


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1930s Crypts Inside the Receiving Vault


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING

Old Views of Forestvale

Crossroads Near Main Gate, Aug. 12, 1953 • Photo by Les Jorud


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Looking East Toward the Main Gate, 1913 • Photo by Emil Keller


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Office Building
Built 1890s - Demolished 1990s
Photo by Les Jorud, Aug. 12, 1953


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The office building was described thusly in the 1990 National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Forestvale:

"The office was erected during the 1890s and is a small gableroof, blonde brick building. The gable ends are clipped and the roof is covered with deteriorated wooden shingles. The office has not been used in a many years and is in poor condition. The windows are blocked with plywood. A small wooden awning covers the entrance stoop."

The building has since been torn down.

A fountain featuring a sculpture of two children, one holding an umbrella, was in front of the office building. The sculpture is now at Shodair Hospital in Helena.

 

 

Remnants of the Fountain at Forestvale
Statue Now at Shodair Children's Hospital in Helena


PHOTO BY PAUL E. PAULSEN JR

 

The Forestvale Fountain Figures, at Shodair Hospital


PHOTO COURTESY OF RIC SEABROOK

 

Was This Fountain in the Broadwater Natatorium?


PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING

Still under study is the possibility that this fountain -- or one identical to it -- once stood on the rock waterfall inside the Broadwater Natatorium. If anyone can shed light on this, please contact me. See the images below...


Interior of the Broadwater Natatorium, Showing Location of Fountain


Comparison Views

Old Views of Forestvale

Nicholas Family Plot • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Veterans' Stones • Photo by Les Jorud, Aug. 12, 1953


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Forestvale Roads • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Forestvale Roads • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913




The Lake
Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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"During the 1930's, after the lake had been left dry for many years, the area was surveyed and prepared for lot sales. The depression in the "Arbor" section of the cemetery is still
quite evident, although now covered with sod and used for burials." -- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990

 

Weeping Birch on Former Lake Island
Photo by Les Jorud, Aug. 12, 1953


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A Recent Photo of the Arbor Garden


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING

Old Views of Forestvale

Lillian Stoakes Cullen Figural Monument • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Masonic Section, Photo Attributed to Les Jorud


 

Rotwitt and Harper Memorials • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Holter Obelisk • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


 

Greenlawn Section • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Perkins Monument • Photo by Emil Keller, 1913


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Gillette and Auchard MonumentsPhoto by Emil Keller, 1913


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING



Windmill and Pump House
Photographed in 1913 by Emil Keller


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

"The pump house, located at the southern edge of the cemetery grounds, was built in 1893 according to plans developed by Helena architect George S. Appleton. Frank A. Sutton won the contract for the building at a price of $850. Originally, irrigation water was pumped by a windmill into an overhead storage tank. In 1932, the windmill was damaged in a wind storm and the Cemetery trustees decided to purchase a 4500-gallon steel pressure tank from Caird Engineering to replace the original holding tank. An electric pump was installed and the windmill arms were removed at this time." -- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990


Paul and Harold Paulsen, 1919


COURTESY OF CHARLEEN SPALDING

In the background can be seen what are thought to be greenhouses, possibly constructed after 1909 by local florist Henry Winter, who was the majority shareholder and manager of Forestvale from 1909 to 1919.

 

 

Garage, Shed, and Remnant of Windmill, 1970s



"The triple-bay, wooden garage that is attached to the pump house was constructed in 1936. This building is of wood frame construction and features double, 6-light, wooden doors to the bays. The shed roof is covered with asphalt shingles. An open, two-bay, wood frame, shed-roofed machine shed is situated near the garage was built during the early 1930s." -- National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale Cemetery, 1990

The wooden garage and shed have been replaced by modern utility buildings on the same site. All traces of the windmill are gone.


Current Forestvale Utility Building and Wellhead, 2016

1935 Earthquake Damage

Neill Obelisk Askew


FROM HELENA EARTHQUAKES BY C. R. ANDERSON AND M. P. MARTINSON, 1936


FROM HELENA EARTHQUAKES BY C. R. ANDERSON AND M. P. MARTINSON, 1936

China Row
Photos by Kennon Baird, 2016, unless otherwise noted


THOM BRIDGE, INDEPENDENT RECORD



Located just north of the Lakeview and Glendale sections of Forestvale is "China Row". Between 1890 and 1955, over 200 Chinese individuals were buried there. The site includes a few headstones bearing the name and place of birth of the deceased, written in a mixture of English and Chinese characters. In addition, the area has a partially intact brick funerary burner used by the Chinese to honor their dead through various cultural rituals.

The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Forestvale includes this about China Row:

"At the northwest corner of the cemetery grounds, a small burial ground for Chinese persons was set aside during the 19th century. Within 'China Row', at least 130 burials occurred between 1890 and 1929. After 1930, an additional 23 burials occurred in 'China Row', and seven Chinese persons were buried in other parts of cemetery, including the six members of the prominent Wong family who were buried in the Mountain View and Davidson sections of the cemetery during the late 1940s-1980s. The last burial recorded in 'China Row' occurred in 1955.


A local legend persists that the graves of persons in 'China Row' were disinterred in the 1950s and the remains were removed to China. However, no documentation has been found to substantiate this claim and physical evidence indicates that only four or five
graves in this area may have been disturbed.


Only nine marble headstones remain in the 'China Row' section, although a number of deteriorated and illegible wooden and metal markers may be found in the vicinity amidst the overgrowth. The inscriptions that note the village and county of origin of the deceased are in the Pinyin system and mark the graves of eight men and one woman, most of whom came from the Tai Shan area.

The remains of a brick oven are found amidst a heavy scatter of glass, metal clasps, buttons, and other distinctively Chinese artifacts such as bits of opium pipes and celadon porcelain in the 'China Row' section. Apparently as part of the Chinese funeral services, food would be prepared and cooked at the cemetery and placed as offerings on the graves of the deceased."

China Row, Independent Record Article 2015


 


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Pottery and Glass Shards 


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New McHugh Lane Gateway Under Construction,2016


PHOTO COURTESY OF PAM ATTARDO

Histories of Forestvale Cemetery

National Register of Historic Places
Registration Form for Forestvale, 1990
Download PDF file



Forestvale Cemetery Tour Guide, 2003
Download PDF File




Online Histories of
Forestvale Cemetery:

Archives West (historical note)
Forestvale Burial Index at Rootsweb


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