June 17, 2020

Lizzie Strohl Sketchbook

By Kirby Lambert, Outreach and Interpretation Program Manager

Sketchbook cover: Drawed by Elizabeth Strohl, Victor, Mont, 91 Years Old, Now Deceased.

Museums love to have the complete provenance, or history, of the artifacts in their collections. By knowing the “who, what, when, where, and why” associated with each item, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of the lessons that objects can teach us about our past. In spite of our best research efforts, however, sometimes it is simply not possible to uncover the untold stories about the materials we hold. Even so, items with little or no known story, can still educate and entertain us, while connecting us to the past in meaningful ways.

One example is the Lizzie Strohl sketchbook housed in our museum collection. This is what we know about the artist: Lizzie Buchanan was born in the community of New Chicago in Granite County, Montana Territory, on September 19, 1873. Her parents were Thomas and Luella Hatfield Buchanan. She married John Strohl in Deer Lodge on July 19, 1892. As reported in the New Northwest, the ceremony was held at the “Scott house” and was officiated by Judge Hartwell. The Strohls were farmers and had at least two sons—John, Jr., and George. Lizzie died on July 31, 1964, in Victor.

Dad Likes Jim; Susie Jane Likes Phillip So There is a Misunderstanding

These facts aren’t much to summarize a life of ninety-one years. No doubt Lizzie celebrated triumphs, suffered losses, loved her family, and endured the drudgery of hard work. For the most part, the sketches in her notebook document the quiet moments of daily life, with the chasing of a cattle rustler thrown in for a little excitement.

Clearly, Lizzie had no training in art and, most likely, only limited access to art supplies. So why did she choose to record her memories in this manner? And when did she create the drawings? At first glance, we might assume that this is the work of a child, but based on the presence of a car and the styles of some of the clothing depicted, we know that at least some of the images were not drawn before the 1920s when she was in her fifties. Or, maybe none of the scenes were executed until Lizzie neared the end of her life and she sought to record her fondest memories. We just don’t know.

These primitive drawings may always raise more questions than they answer but—for some of us at least—they still provide a heart-felt connection to the past and the lives of ordinary Montanans from long ago.

Noon Hour
Just a Pick Nick
Farmers Having a Chat Out in the West
In the Rockies, at a Prospectors Camp in Montana
After Cattle Thieves in the Rockies
Elk in Montana, Near the Black [sic] River
Cattle on the Range Near Drummond, Mont
Just Sweet Hearts at their Meeting Place
Out on the Home Stead
A Hereford Cow from One of the Herds from Dinwall Ranch in the Flint Creek Vallie, Mont