Filed Under Helena

Benton Avenue Cemetery

Scattered wooden markers, tall marble obelisks, and iron fences enclosing family plots memorialize the pioneers who rest in this early burial ground. Lewis and Clark County established the cemetery in 1870. In 1875, remains from the original mining camp cemetery on Warren Street were disinterred and moved to Benton Avenue; a few of these graves date to the 1860s. Benton Avenue then became Helena’s main nonsectarian, Protestant burial ground. Frequent interments continued through the 1890s. Among the prominent Helenans buried here are John Kinna, Helena’s first mayor; Lewis Reeder, the builder of Reeder’s Alley; and Edwin Toole, brother of the state’s first governor. Masons, a cornerstone of the state's foundation, are a strong presence in the northeast section. Stones predating statehood are often designated M.T. (for Montana Territory), and graves of veterans from all branches of the service represent varied military experience. Poignant memorials to children speak to the heavy toll of epidemics in the early community. After 1900, few placed loved ones in this simple pioneer burial ground. The iron fence, added in 1928, marks the symbolic end of Benton Avenue’s active history. By 1966, when Helenan Lucy Baker organized volunteers to preserve the cemetery, it was a tangle of neglect and debris. In 1998, the newly reorganized Benton Avenue Cemetery Association took the lead in recognizing and maintaining this Helena landmark. Under its leadership in 2003, Lucy Baker’s dream of National Register listing came to fruition.

Images

Benton Ave Cemetery View of Historic Sign Source: iPhone SE digital image Creator: Dan R-A Date: June 2022
Benton Ave Cemetery View of Modern Informational Sign Source: iPhone SE digital image Creator: Dan R-A Date: June 2022
Benton Ave Cemetery View of Cemetery facing north Source: iPhone SE digital image Creator: Dan R-A Date: June 2022
Benton Ave Cemetery View of Cemetery and Mt Helena facing southwest Source: iPhone SE digital image Creator: Dan R-A Date: June 2022
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. View of the front gates of the cemetery, facing west to southwest from the sidewalk on North Benton Avenue. Mount Helena in the background to offer perspective. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jesse Aber Date: Nov. 2002
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. Overview map of the cemetery to show the size and perspective of the property. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Montana Department of Transportation Date: 1989
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. A view of a weathered headstones within the cemetery, facing west to southwest near the middle of the property. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jesse Aber Date: Nov. 2002
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. A view of larger, wooden obelisk, facing west to southwest from the cemetery grounds. Mount Helena is in the background to offer perspective on a cold, snowy day at the cemetery. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jesse Aber Date: Nov. 2002
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. View of another obelisk monument surrounded by others, facing west to northwest within the cemetery grounds. The Scratch Gravel hills peer in the background to offer perspective. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jesse Aber Date: Nov. 2002
Benton Avenue Cemetery Benton Avenue Cemetery. View of an obelisk monument enclosed by iron fencing for a family plot, facing north to northwest on the cemetery grounds. The Scratch Gravel hills are featured in the background to offer perspective. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jesse Aber Date: Nov. 2002

Location

Benton Avenue, Helena, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Benton Avenue Cemetery,” Historic Montana, accessed December 7, 2022, https://historicmt.org/items/show/796.