Posted: Nov 2, 2013 9:12 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
HELENA - Historian Ellen Baumler takes a walk through Helena's Benton Avenue Cemetery, where broken tombstones and uneven ground are traces of those who may be forgotten, but still have stories to tell.
Walking through the uneven rows of various styles of head stones, many of them broken, the impression is eerie. Benton Avenue Cemetery has markers that date back to the 1870s and Baumler said graves have been moved to and from Benton Cemetery long the after they were dead gone.
"People didn't want to be buried in an old pioneer cemetery that really wasn't taken care of," she explains, "In Helena people were dead and buried not once, but twice, and sometimes even three times."
An unsettling past makes this forgotten graveyard ripe for ghost stories and Baumler brings to light one real life account that's stranger than fiction.
Several years back a volunteer group was at the cemetery, doing restoration and clean up when a woman parked at the south side of the cemetery frantically started honking her horn and gesturing to those working among the tombstones.
"And she said to them, 'there are people walking around in the cemetery' and they said 'well, duh, we're walking around the cemetery,' and she said, ‘no, no, I mean there are dead people that are walking around in the cemetery.'"
"And she's dressed in a very elegant, long dress and she has two children." Baumler continued.
Baumler explains that one of the women who heard about the ghostly apparition, "happened to read an article that I had written about this diphtheria epidemic and I had written about Mrs. Dunphy, nursing those two little children."
Mrs. Dunphy, she explained was a practical nurse. She nursed the Kuehn children, who died of the horrific disease, and shortly after also succumbed to diphtheria.
"But I have never looked to see where they were buried," Baumler continued, gesturing to the southwest corner of the graveyard, "Mrs. Dunphy's buried here and the two children are buried back there so it makes perfect sense that the three of them might walk through the cemetery just making sure things are being taken care of."
The historian said that there are as many as one thousand bodies buried at Benton Avenue Cemetery and that an estimation made years ago supposes that only one-quarter of the graves are actually marked.
Click here to visit Baumler's blog called Montana Moments, where she posts articles and photos of Montana history.