Once a year local historians gather at the old Post Cemetery at Fort Missoula to tell the stories of those buried on site. There are a lot of stories to tell, stories of empty graves, stories of a man who died tragically in a hunting accident, stories of soldiers, their wives and their children.
The present Post Cemetery was plotted out when the locations of the buildings and utility areas were being laid out June 1877, the beginning of Fort Missoula. The cemetery is approximately one square acre, about 43,560 square feet and was built to hold as many as 400 burial sites. The main cemetery is divided into two main sections, with each section being divided again into two equal halves.
When walking through the site, it’s obvious there was little planning when it came to the organization of the cemetery. The alignment and spacing of the headstones is not uniform within each section, and there is little organization by date. There are a total of 239 headstones, but upon historical research and information available on the headstones, there are over 250 individuals buried in the cemetery. There are eleven graves with more than one individual buried, including a set of still born twins and the entire Velde family buried together. The headstone of Pvt. Edwin McCall is over an empty grave as the body was removed to another cemetery.
The very first burial in the cemetery occurred in 1878, marked by the headstone of Private William Gerrick. The military caste system is very prevalent in the cemetery as the second oldest grave, that of 1st Lt. Thomas S. Wallace from 1878, is marked far across the cemetery. The first woman to be buried at the site was Mrs. Matilda Clinchey Tatje, a laundress for Co. E, 3rd Infantry.
Join us, Sunday June 10 from 1-3pm to hear the stories of these individuals. Find out why 37- or perhaps 39- bodies were removed from Fort Ellis, Montana and moved to Fort Missoula, and why there is a two-person discrepancy. Hear the story of the grave marked “U.S. Soldier,” an individual that may actual have the oldest grave, possibly dating back to the War with Mexico from 1846-1848. Find out why the headstone of Lieutenant Thomas Salter Wallace is not quite the same as everyone else around him.
Learn about two Medal of Honor recipients, 1918 Influenza Epidemic victims, S.A.T.C. students, the life of a frontier officer, who the local V.F.W. post is named after, the life of an Ordnance Sergeant, the post mascot, and others.
It’s all Sunday, June 10 from 1-3pm at the Fort Missoula Post Cemetery!