April 6, 2010

Exploring a Montana History Connection Online

Reference requests often lead us in surprising directions, and sometimes the resources we find are all available online. Last week a gentleman sent us a scanned photograph of a man named Grover Cleveland Crosswhite lounging in front of a curious-looking little hut. The sign above the door read “South Butte Camp No. 6127 South Butte, Montana.” The gentleman who wrote us wanted to know where the photograph was taken – and he thought it might be a place where people with tuberculosis were sent.

The first place I checked in my search was the online newspaper archive. I searched for “Camp” and “6127” in Butte, Montana, newspapers between 1900 and 1939. A handful of articles came up – it turns out that South Butte camp No. 6127 was affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefit society. The articles mentioned lodge elections and dances, but nothing about tuberculosis.

I next visited the Modern Woodmen of American website and navigated to their “About Us – History” page. In addition to a timeline, I noticed a very interesting link – “Tuberculosis Sanatorium.” I clinked on the link and learned that between 1909 and 1947, the Modern Woodmen operated a tuberculosis sanatorium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sanatorium served thousands of members free of charge (they only had to pay for transportation to the sanatorium) and it boasted a 70% recovery rate. This web page also includes pictures of the sanatorium, showing small huts just like the one Grover Cleveland Crosswhite sat in front of. So perhaps South Butte camp No. 6127 sponsored Mr. Crosswhite’s recovery hut. A quick search on Ancestry.com returns a Grover Crosswhite in the 1963 Colorado Springs, Colorado, city directory – let’s hope he made a full recovery.

And there we are – another interesting Montana history connection discovered through some online sleuthing.

View a slideshow with interior and exterior pictures of the tuberculosis huts as they appear today and possibly a Youtube video of a 1933 promotional film for the sanatorium: