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MONTANA HISTORY ALMANAC: First school opens doors in Virginia City

MONTANA HISTORY ALMANAC: First school opens doors in Virginia City

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March 5, 1866

Sarah Raymond wrote a book about her family’s travels by wagon train to Virginia City in 1865, but she didn’t include her first day teaching there when Montana’s first public school opened its doors.

The first legislative assembly had established a common school system a year earlier, and Virginia City organized the first district in January 1866. Severe weather prevented it from opening until March.

Classes were held in the Union Church. Miss Raymond, 25, handled the upper grades for a salary of $125 for six-hour days. She reportedly paid $6 in “clean gold dust” to take an exam at home to gain her teaching certificate. A Mrs. Farley taught the four lower grades, earning $75 a month for four hours of work each day. Eighty-one students were enrolled, and the school averaged between 50 and 60 students each day. The first session continued through the summer until Aug. 17.

Raymond married James Herndon and quit teaching the following year. She later served as Madison County superintendent of schools and lived in Virginia City until her death in 1914.

March 7, 1923

A black bull was the main beneficiary of a moonshine raid on the road between Anaconda and Butte.

Law officers in the early years of Prohibition made a bust at the home of one Charlie Jones. They arrested Jones and poured out 1,500 gallons of mash from a still that sat next to the house. The bull, which “presided over the destinies of the Jones herd,” pawed impatiently while the mash was being dumped, a Butte newspaper reported.

He then began to imbibe, and “each mouthful seemed to make the bull a little bullier.” Officers tried to shoo the animal away, but a merry time ensued before the pseudo-bullfighters managed to get the father of the herd back to his charges. Jones posted $300 bond in Butte, then hurried home to take care of his bull.

Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at

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