January 19, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Sarah (Sallie) Gammon Bickford

Born into slavery, Sarah Gammon Bickford came west to Montana as the nanny for a Federal judge in 1871. Making Virginia City her home, she married a black miner with whom she had three children, all of whom died in childhood. She then married a white man and had four more children. Her second husband’s death left her the majority owner of the Virginia City Water Company, which she soon owned entirely after purchasing the rest of the stock. She was the first and only woman in Montana to own a utility. Sallie died in 1931.

Key dates

1855—Sarah (called Sallie) Eva Blair is born a slave in Tennessee.
1866—Freed from slavery, she moves to Knoxville, Tennessee to live with her aunt, Nancy Gammon. She takes Gammon as her last name.
1871—Travels to Virginia City, Montana, as a nanny for Judge John Luttrell Murphy.
1872—Marries miner John Brown, divorcing him eight years later.
1881—Ten-year-old daughter Eva dies.
1883—Marries Stephen (Dick) Bickford.
1890—Inherits two-thirds ownership in Virginia City Water Company.
1902—Purchases all remaining Water Company stock.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: sallie bickford, sallie brown, mrs. bickford, dick bickford, elmer bickford, virginia city water company

Written by Catherine W. Ockey