In 1889, the year Montana became a state, the growing city of Helena realized its need for a cemetery in addition to the three sponsored by religious bodies. A group of investors purchased these 160 acres, which a local newspaper called “bleak and unattractive and too remote” from town—it was two and a half miles away from Helena, treeless and covered only by prairie grass. But the Helena Cemetery—as Forestvale was called until 1901—was landscaped by civil engineer Harry V. Wheeler in a park-like style, including a small artificial lake centered with a tiny island. Since drained of water, the lake is visible today as a depression in the ground. Here are buried many pioneer public figures of Montana—from Vigilante leader and U.S. Marshal John X. Biedler to Methodist missionary “Brother Van” William Van Orsdel, who preached in mining camp saloons and founded some 50 churches—as well as many prominent political and business figures who helped build both Helena and Montana. The “China Row” section, located outside the formal cemetery plat at the northwestern corner, recalls Helena’s once-thriving, but segregated, Chinese community.

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490 Forestvale Road, Helena, Montana ~ Private