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Boothill Cemetery in Billings, Montana

Mary Piper
December 18, 2020

Billings, Montana, is a town full of history, culture, and modern-day amenities. Whether you visit to sip on some beer in Billings or want to relive western culture at one of the many historical or natural sites in the area, Billings has something for everyone. For history lovers, the area is incredibly diverse. The Battle of Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand took place just an hour away from Billings, and a state park memorializes the area. Or, go way back in time and explore caveman drawings at Pictograph Cave State Park. Another historic site that is worth a look at is the Boothill Cemetery in Billings, MT.

History of Boothill Cemetery‍

Red crosses in the cemetery

The Boothill Cemetery in Billings, MT, is all that remains of the old-west town of Coulson. The city was a bustling river settlement in the mid-1800s, but Billings became a prominent and more attractive area to live once the railroad was built. Coulson was founded in 1877 but was considered a ghost town not even ten years later. Citizens of all ages were buried in the cemetery. The cemetery's name honors those who were laid to rest while fighting or defending themselves. The inscription that marks the area reads, “In memory of those who blazed the trail and showed to us our West, in boots and spurs they lie and on this hill find rest.”

Accurate records were hard to come by at the time, so how many people are buried in the area remains a mystery. The original gravesite markers were gone by the early 1900s. The 50 or so crosses that currently stand at the site result from local scouts who revitalized the cemetery and placed markers to memorialize the number of people they believed was buried there. However, the crosses currently there aren’t indications of where the Coulson citizens were laid to rest. Current estimations from local historians assert that 25-50 people were buried in shallow graves at the site. The cemetery became a part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Notable occupants‍

This small cemetery on the outskirts of Billings has a few notable citizens laid to rest there. One such citizen is H.M. “Muggins” Taylor, Coulson’s deputy sheriff and one of the first people to notify Bozeman about the massacre at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was killed in the local laundry when attempting to stop the laundress’s husband from abusing her. Other notable gravesites include soldiers who died in a battle near Big Timber, as well as many of the town’s cowboys, rail workers, law-enforcement officers, women, and children who were laid to rest during the town’s foundation. The last burial occurred in 1884.

Boothill Cemetery - Graveyards

Visiting Boothill Cemetery in Billings MT‍

Residents, for its historical nature, have embraced this small cemetery. Volunteers, such as boy scout troops and local organizations, helped maintain the cemetery by adding crosses and walkways throughout the area for visitors to reflect on the town’s history. The cemetery is now maintained and operated by the Parks and Recreation department. Boothill Cemetery is located on a hill on the Rimrocks' east side at Main Street and Airport Road.

Step Back in time in Billings‍

Billings, Montana, has a long history of ranchers, pioneers, and the Old-West. Discover the town’s past when you stay at the Dude Rancher Lodge, a historic hotel near many of Billings’ top attractions. Visit our blog to learn more about the town’s history and things to do in the area!

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