1959 Yellowstone earthquake – Revisited
On January 1, 2013 I posted a little story about the newspaper article concerning the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. (1)
In preparing that blog posting I created a little tree for the “The Provost Family” who were mentioned in the newspaper item and I thought I was done with that newspaper story.
Eleven months later I got a message from a person who was at Yellowstone in August of 1959.
I posted Donald Nelson’s message in an update to my little story about the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake and once again I thought I was done with that newspaper story.
Nine months later I got a message on my Ancestry.com account from Anita asking me for more information on the Provost’s. Her mother had died in the earthquake and she was writing a book about the twenty-eight (28) victims of that earthquake. (2)
I replied to her that I was not part of the family or tree; I had just found a newspaper item, created a tree and posted a story on my blog. I told Anita that I would send her all the information I had.
Anita’s message prompted me to start a family tree to hold the eleven (11) families and twenty-eight (28) victims of the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake.
I had worked on a similar project when I was researching the Civil War submarine “The Hunley”. (3)
Using the family tree structure on Ancesty.com allowed me to find records for each of the victims. (4)
I am writing this new posting in hopes of finding more people like Donald and Anita; people who were there, who remember the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake, also known as the Hebgen Lake earthquake.
I created the family tree with the eleven (11) different family branches so that I would have just one place to look for information about the twenty-eight (28) people who died in the quake.
As I work on the family tree, the twenty-eight (28) names are no longer just names on a National Park memorial plaque.
The family tree structure gives life to the twenty-eight (28) people; they are not just names on a tourist attraction.
What follows are the names and ages of the twenty-eight (28) along with some family history which I was able to piece together using the family tree records and the numerous newspaper accounts of the 1959 Earthquake. (5)
Sydney D. A. Ballard – age 45
Margaret Ballard – age 39
Christopher Thomas Ballard – age 9
Sydney D. A., Margaret and Christopher Thomas Ballard were a Canadian family from Nelson, British Columbia. Sydney married Margaret Fielder in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1942. They came from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1947 with their son Michael. Michael died of pneumonia on Christmas day 1952 at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver; he was ten (10) years old. Sydney Douglas Albert Ballard was a bus driver at the time of Michael’s death. He and Margaret had a two (2) year old son named Christopher and they lived at 488 E. 41st Ave in Vancouver.
From news reports of the 1959 earthquake I’ve learned that Christopher was a crippled nine-year-old who was in a wheelchair and he, his mother and father were asleep in their car when the earthquake hit. They were swept away by the flood waters of the Madison River and were buried in the subsequent mudslide. Again from newspaper reports I learned that Sydney’s mother came to Billings, Montana looking for information on her son but there was none and the sheriff did not write down her name. I found her maiden name “Goldsmith” on Sydney’s 1914 birth certificate.
Purley R. Bennett – age 43
Tom O. Bennett – age 11
Carole Bennett – age 17
Susan Bennett – age 6
Purley “Pud” was a truck driver for Atlas Building Center, he and his family lived in Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Idaho. Carole his oldest daughter was going to start her senior year in high school. Susan his youngest was going to start first grade. His wife Irene age 39 and son Phillip age 16 survived the earthquake but had to be rescued “dug out” from the mud slide. His wife Irene remarried three years after the quake to John Dunn her childhood boyfriend and went on to write a book “Out of the Night” about her experience and the process of healing. Phillip grew into manhood and married Robin.
Bernie L. Boynton
Inez Devda Boynton
Bernie L Boynton was a vice president for Billings Machine and Welding Shop Inc. He and his wife Inez lived at 2532 Longfellow Place. More records need to be collected for the Boynton Family.
Merle M (M.D.) Edgerton – age 48
Edna Mae Edgerton – age 49
Merle’s father was George and his mother was Lucy Perryman. In 1940 Merle was a salesman but going to school. He married Edna in 1939. They were on this camping trip with Harmon and Edna Woods (see below). I have to confirm Merle’s parent’s names but those are the names showing up on other family trees. More records need to be collected for the Edgerton Family.
Margaret Duffey Holmes – age 71
Margaret Duffey Holmes who died at a Bozeman hospital was from Billings, Montana. She and her two daughters, Verona age 45, Mary Germaine and Mary’s family were camping when the earthquake hit. Mary Germaine was married to Anton J. Schreiber and they had their daughter Bonnie, age 7 with them on this fateful camping trip. Margaret was the only one who died. Margaret was married to John James in 1911 at Harlowton, Meagher, Montana. John James Holmes was born in Nage, Ireland in 1886 to Joseph Holmes and Annie McDonald. Margaret’s parents were James H. Duffey and Zadonia Wells. Margaret may be alone on the monument plaque but she has a history, a family.
Myrtle L. Painter – age 42
Myrtle L. Painter is also alone on the plaque but she had a history and a family, as Anita will tell you in her book “The Twenty Eight”. You see Myrtle Lavina Oram was Anita’s mother. Myrtle was married to Norman Ray Painter in 1937 and at the time of her death they lived at 4345 Porter Ave, Ogden, UT.
Roger C. Provost – age 43
Elizabeth Findlay Provost – age 31
Richard Provost – age ?
David Provost – age 1
Roger C. Provost was Associate Warden at prison at Soledad, Monterey, California. He married Elizabeth Findlay in 1955 at Carmel, Monterey, California. Roger’s parents are P. Albert Provost and Katherine C Tanner, they were married in 1904. The Richard and David listed on the plaque are Roger and Elizabeth’s sons. The two boys may not have had a long life but they have family out there who will always remember them and we know their names because of the family tree. Roger’s sisters are Mary K, Dorothy L., and Barbara Jane. Elizabeth’s brothers and sisters are Phillip, Margaret Louise, Stanley Keith, and Lori Ann.
Thomas Mark Stowe – age 30
Marilyn Whitmore Stowe – age 20
Thomas Mark Stowe was born in 1929 at Murray, Utah to Thomas W Stowe and Leola Angela Bouler. He graduated from Jordan HS in 1947 and was in the Army in the Medical Corps. He served in Korea but not in the war. He graduated in 1951 from Brigham Young University. In 1954 he married Marilyn Whitmore at Salt Lake, Utah. Marilyn was born in 1934 at Salt Lake City, Utah to Rex Grange Whitmore and Ferrol Smith. She graduated from Jordan HS in 1952. Five years after her marriage she would die with her husband in the Yellowstone Earthquake. More records need to be collected for the young Stowe Family.
Edgar H. Stryker – age 38
Ethel M. Stryker – age 37
Edgar H Stryker was on this camping trip with his three sons and his wife Ethel M Stryker; the sons step mother. The sons; Martin 15, John 13, and Morgan 8 live with their mother (maiden name of Roberts) and spend the summers with their father. Martin, John and Morgan do not appear on the memorial plaque because they survived the earthquake and mountain landslide. They were in a tent only a few feet from the tent Edgar their father and Ethel his wife were sleeping in. Martin felt the earthquake in the middle of the night and woke to find their car smashed beneath a huge tree and his father’s tent smashed by a huge boulder. The newspaper reports tell his story about what happened on that day. Edgar and Ethel are no longer just names on the plaque we now know a little bit more about them, but much more needs to be uncovered. I have yet to do an extensive search for this Stryker family but I am sure I will have the needed information ready for Anita’s book.
Robert James Williams – age 32
Edith Coy Williams – age 30
Steven Russell Williams – age 11
Michael James Williams – age 7
Christy Lyn Williams – age 3
All the Williams Family is sadly on the plaque. Robert James Williams was a manager at a Plumbing and Building store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was born in 1927 in Idaho to Joseph James Williams and Effie May Bainbridge. In 1945 he married Edith Coy McBride in Los Angeles, California. Edith Coy McBride was born in 1929 in Idaho to Russell Oliver McBride and Francis Edith Butler Satterfield. Robert and Edith had the three sons who perished with the family. Through their marriage record I now know that they lived at 2312 1/2 London St. in L.A., that he was working for the U.S. Navy and that she was doing desk work at a laundry. I found many records for the Williams family but I am sure there are many more to be found. The Williams family will not be forgotten.
Harmon Woods – age 59
Edna Maude Woods – age 55
Harmon and Edna were camping with friends, Dr. Merle M Edgerton and Edna Mae Edgerton and they were mentioned in the very first newspaper item I found on the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. Both couples were said to be from Coalinga, California. Harmon was born on Feb 1900 in Aurora, Missouri, to Henry J Woods and Nettie J Veal. Harmon married Edna Maude Calkins on July 3, 1928 at Los Angeles County, California. In 1930 they lived at Kern County, California. In 1940 they lived at Coalinga, Fresno County, California. In the 1944 and 1949 city directories they are living in Fresno, California. They had one son Russell F. who was born in 1924 in Oklahoma and was 35 years old when his parents died in the 1959 Yellowstone quake. Edna Maude Russell’s mother was born in 1904 in Missouri to John R Calkins and Mary Ollie. Many more records need to be found on this family but I do know that Henry and Nettie are shown living with their son Harmon in the 1930 and 1940 census records so they must have been a close knit family. They are not just names on a National Park Service Memorial plaque.
I hope that you were able to learn a little bit more about the lives of the twenty-eight (28) people who are named on the National Park Memorial plaque.
I also hope that this blog posting will inspire you to create family trees which not only hold names and dates but tell a family story. Perhaps you want to document the fifth (50) wedding anniversary party showing all the family members, friends and guests who attended, now you know that it can be done, on one family tree structure.
Thank you for reading through this “War and Peace” size posting… come to think of it, I have just as many names as in “War and Peace”, except these names are easier to pronounce.
Take Care, have a Safe Journey through Life.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan
The following is a list of names used in this posting to help the genealogist in the crowd.
Bainbridge, Ballard, Bennett, Bouler, Boynton, Butler, Calkins, Duffey, Dunn, Edgerton, Goldsmith, Holmes, Hunley, McBride, McDonald, Nelson, Ollie, Oram, Painter, Perryman, Provost, Roberts, Satterfield, Schreiber, Smith, Stowe, Stryker, Tanner, Thon, Veal, Wells, Williams, Woods
The following items are references for further study.
- Link to 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake posting: https://newspaperproject2012.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/1959-yellowstone-earthquake/
- Message From: athon26 (Anita)
I was in the Yellowstone earthquake, camped in the same campground (Rock Creek) as were the Provosts. My mother also was killed in the quake. My father was critically injured. My two sisters and I were injured but were lucky to have gotten out of there alive. I am looking for any friends or family members of the Provosts. I recently wrote a book “Shaken in the night” about the earthquake. I am working on another called The Twenty Eight which is a book of remembrance of the twenty eight victims. All they have is a plaque with their names. I want the world to know who they were. Are you related in any way or know family members?
Thanks, Anita Painter Thon
Inbox Sep 15, 2014 3:00 AM GMT
- “The crewmen of the Hunley 1863 Family Tree” The Ancestry.com link – http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/72121756/family
- Yellowstone Earthquake – Montana – Aug 1959 Family Tree}
Ancestry.com link – http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/73371001/family
5.Links to web sites and to newspaper accounts: