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The original item was published from 3/2/2015 8:45:07 AM to 3/24/2015 12:05:01 AM.

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Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: March 2, 2015

[ARCHIVED] Saving St. Patrick's: Hibernians hope others join in restoring cemetery

To many people here and beyond, St. Patrick’s Cemetery is sacred ground, one of the oldest resting places for ancestors who built Butte, Montana, and gave it soul.

The ancestors include those well-known or well-off in their day. Frank Walker, a longtime adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and a U.S. postmaster general, is among them. So is D. J. Hennessy, who founded a mercantile in Butte in 1886 that became a dynasty of department stores.

There are numerous priests and nuns buried there, too, and thousands of miners and ordinary folk.

“A walk around this holy ground will tell you more about the people of Butte than a week spent at the library,” said Jim Sullivan, one of 60 members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Butte.

Just a brief visit and look around at the cemetery on South Montana Street tells another story, too.

It’s one of sunken graves and leaning headstones, dead trees and matrimony vines, and a bushy shrub that -- despite its bright red-orange berries -- is a noxious weed that has split concrete curbing around family plots and uprooted markers.

There have been times in warm months past when weeds provided the only real greenery, and if there was growing grass, it went weeks without being mowed. It’s often dead and brown in the summer, since any systematic watering stopped decades ago.

“You can see what we’re up against,” said Sullivan, chairman of the Hibernians’ Cemetery Committee.

The “we” in that are the local Hibernians -- nationally one of America’s oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organizations -- who have done what they could in recent years and more in recent months.

They had weeds and tall grasses mowed this past fall and removed 24 dead trees. Thirty-five trees were trimmed from the ground to 14 feet high so their limbs weren’t draping headstones and blocking car paths.

A large steel box container was donated as a place to store lawnmowers and garden tools the AOH purchased. They say caretakers of neighboring Mount Moriah Cemetery recently mowed and cleared tall grasses and weeds on the cemetery’s west side.

Much more is planned for the coming months, and the Hibernians hope restoration -- through donated money or time or both -- becomes a community-wide project. It’s not only an effort to beautify the cemetery, they say, but to beautify Butte.

“Everything comes down to money, and as an organization we have a cemetery fund established, and we are setting money aside to continue what we’re doing here,” said Butte Hibernian Frank Walsh.

“We’re always open to donations,” he said. “It all goes right back into this property.”

How to donate
The Ancient Order of Hibernians says anyone wanting to contribute to the cemetery's restoration can send donations or memorials to the St. Patrick's Cemetery Restoration Fund in care of Granite Mountain Bank, P.O. Box 4899, Butte, MT 59702 or call Jim Sullivan at 406-494-7788.

St. Patrick’s is supposed to be maintained by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, which also oversees Holy Cross Cemetery in Butte, Resurrection Cemetery in Helena, and St. Mary’s Cemetery and New St. Mary’s Cemetery in Missoula...

Read the full story in The Montana Standard.
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