Great Falls Montana boasts a history that includes a cowboy artist, famous explorers, a Hollywood actor, an athlete, and more. Experience Great Falls history, both living and dead. The legacy of Great Falls is the history of Montana!
The annual Waking the Dead tours highlight the history and legacy of Great Falls and the people that built Great Falls. The tours, in honor of Paris Gibson, are a unique part of what makes Great Falls Montana’s basecamp for Art & Adventure and a preferred destination for history buffs. Every story is painstakingly researched for authenticity and accuracy to ensure each person’s legacy is respectfully honored. When available, family members tell the stories! Each ticket includes a free book with histories of each person featured in the tour, and participants have the option of walking the length of the tour, or enjoying a hay ride as the stories are read. Graves to be featured in the tours are Paris Gibson read by David Otey; OC Seltzer read by Henry Mitchell; Governor Edwin Norris read by Dirk Larson; CM Russell read by Bill Bronson; Great Falls Librarian Josephine Trigg read by Karen Conway; Victor Ario read by Greg Kinder; Timothy Collins read by Jerry Schmidt; Robert Vaughn read by Cory Larsen; Billy Colgan read by Jeremy Watterson; Donald Goodman Holt (World champion bull rider) read by Austin Haney; HP Rolfe (surveyed Great Falls) read by Ken Robison; Royal Caufield read by Dwight Smith.
Great Falls, as an early Basecamp for Adventure in Montana, is home to hair-raising stories from our early settlers to turn-of-the century residents. St. Peter’s Mission, located just outside Great Falls in Cascade, was founded 15 years before Montana earned statehood when Sister Amadeus and three other Ursuline nuns came to Cascade. St. Peter’s Mission was a boarding school/academy for Native Americans. When Sister Amadeus became ill, Mary Fields also known as Black Mary, an indentured servant of her family, came to Montana to live with her. Black Mary stayed in the area and there are quite a few stories written and told about her. At the time of Black Mary’s arrival, St. Peter’s Mission buildings were in need of repair. Mary, 6′ tall, heavy, tough, and as strong as any man, soon became the foreman of the project. She died in 1914 in Cascade, Montana and was buried in the Hillside Cemetery in Cascade, marking the spot with a simple wooden cross that still exists today.
The dead among us have given Great Falls amazing stories that reverberate throughout the soul of the city even today. Every year, painstakingly-researched stories are presented every year in full, gory detail during the Great Falls Ghost Tours. If you’re brave enough to take the ghost tour, you’ll ride the Great Falls Trolley to visit the locations featured in these stories, and a ghost might visit you along the way!
The home of Great Falls founder Paris Gibson is known to be one of the most haunted in Great Falls and today, his grave can be visited and his legacy is present throughout the city. Adjacent to a ghost sign in Downtown Great Falls, a mural was recently unveiled that honors Paris Gibson. The city’s oldest building is named after Paris Gibson and holds hair-raising stories and a haunted history that continually intrigues people. Paris Gibson Square is full of ghosts, including that of a boy who drowned in 1916 in the basement’s swimming pool. In 1930, a young girl died in the building when it was a school. She can still be seen in the 2nd floor music room, and staff has heard singing in the room and when they investigate, no one is there.
There are countless stories that are a part of the Great Falls’ history, and as Montana’s basecamp for Art & Adventure, you will always find someone to tell their favorite story of the dead among us and of our city’s history. We invite you to explore Great Falls and learn about the adventures that have built this great city!
A very special thanks to Norma Ashby-Smith for the content and photos used in this trip idea.