Three people are being honored with the Montana Historical Society’s Heritage Keeper Awards for their exemplary commitment, effort and impact in identifying and preserving Montana’s historical and cultural heritage for current and future generations.
Jerry Hanley of Maiden, Patricia Lewis of Boulder, and James Southworth of Billings were nominated for their dedicated commitment to projects that went beyond the requirements of professional employment. The Montana Historical Society’s Board of Trustees recently voted unanimously to present the awards to the three nominees.
The awards were announced by Molly Kruckenberg, director of the Montana Historical Society.
“This is a fine group of individuals who truly care about history and made lasting contributions to preserving it,” Kruckenberg said. “We’re proud to include them among Montana’s Heritage Keepers.”
Hanley is a historian, writer and railroad buff, known to be fastidious about the accuracy of historical information. He’s a lifelong Lewistown resident and an expert on the early days of the mining towns of Maiden, Gilt Edge and Spotted Horse, as well as the early railroads in the Lewistown area.
Hanley has given numerous ghost town and mine tours, with his home phone number listed on the sign welcoming visitors to the town of Maiden, just in case they want a tour or have question.
“Jerry is an extremely intelligent and literate man who has invested huge amounts of time and effort into making sure the history around him is accurately documented and preserved, particularly that of his family, mining, and railroading in central Montana. We are fortunate to benefit from him sharing his efforts,” Larry Hoffman of Butte said in making the nomination
Lewis purchased her family’s Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder in 1993, running it for 21 years before passing it to her nephew in 2014. She and her husband Berdette Anderson maintained and improved the grounds, buildings and headframes, and still store boxes of historic telegrams, mining stock certificates and hand-written testimonials from guests starting in the 1950s.
“During her 21-year reign of the mine, Patricia gave countless tours and passed along the history of this unique Montana facility to international visitors, journalists, guests and critical skeptics alike,” said her niece Leah Lewis. “Patricia Lewis is also a well-known figure around the Boulder Heritage Center as she has donated numerous items to the museum.”
Southworth is an author, bluegrass musician, avid genealogist and raconteur, known across Montana for his love for the state, his volunteer work and his family homesteading tales. His writings and storytelling focuses on his family’s experiences in Hope Valley just north of Park City, especially those of his grandmother, Lizzie.
“The Southworth clan came to Montana in 1914 with ‘cow, horses, chickens and machinery’ in tow, all tucked in Northern Pacific Railway cars,” MHS State Archivist Jodie Foley notes. “James describes in poignant detail the hard-dry years the family endured through the 1920s, using Lizzie’s letters to family members as his main source.”
He also participated in a joint oral history project between the Montana Historical Society and the Homesteading National Monument of America in Nebraska. The interview is in the MHS permanent collection to be used by researchers who seek insight into the lives and experiences of homesteaders.
Usually, the awards are given out during the annual Montana History Conference. Since that was turned into an online-only conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, the awardees will be recognized at the MHS Board of Trustee Zoom meeting on Oct. 15.
For more information, contact Eve Byron, MHS Public Information Officer, at 406/444-6843 or firstname.lastname@example.org