Cemetery History

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How It All Began

One of the most persistent legends of Sunset Hills Cemetery has been centered around the untimely death of Mary Blackmore on July 19, 1872. Wife of wealthy English railroad investor William Blackmore, Mary fell seriously ill during a trip she and her husband were taking to the newly established Yellowstone National Park. Stricken during the stagecoach ride from Helena to Bozeman, Mary was taken to the home of Lester and Emma Wilson to recuperate while her husband continued his journey south to the Park.

Mary died within days, and William returned to bury his wife on the brow of the hill overlooking the town. Shortly thereafter, again on route to the park, William encountered rancher Nelson Story, who informed him that his wife's grave actually stood on ground owned by Daniel E. Rouse. The Englishman requested Story to head up a committee to purchase the property for its permanent establishment as a public cemetery.

Story, along with Lester Wilson, Charles Rich, and John Mendenhall paid Rouse $250 on December 1, 1872. The money for the purchase likely came from Blackmore, as did elaborate instructions for a mausoleum to be built over the unique pyramid-shaped tombstone he had ordered for Mary's grave.

For some unknown reason, the Wilsons' never had the mausoleum erected and afterwords incorrectly assumed the aristocratic English couple were Peers of the Realm.

In later years, the Wilson family had a plaque set in Mary's tombstone identifying the couple as "Lord and Lady Blackmore", giving William credit for the purchase of the land as a public cemetery in gratitude for the care the townsfolk had shown his wife during her fatal illness. (As taken from the Sunset Hills Cemetery information booklet available upon request at City Hall and the Cemetery office)

A quick stroll through the "Old Section" (Northwest side) of the cemetery will prove to be a living testament to Bozeman's and the Gallatin Valley's long and exciting past It is here that one can find the graves of Bozeman, Story, Rouse, Mendenhall, and countless others who laid the groundwork for a City we can be proud to call home.