Montana Memoir Research – First stop: Livingston (Post 1/3)

Posted: September 12, 2013 in This 'n That
Tags: ,
Doing research... (Author photo)

Conducting research – Bill McGee (right) at the Clyde Park Tavern, Clyde Park, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Bill and I spent the month of September in his home state of Montana.

Objective: To research and fill in the blanks of Bill’s Montana roots for his upcoming memoir, Montana Memoir: The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942.

First stop: – Livingston (pop 7,000)
Like so many other small towns in the West, Livingston was established in the 1880s alongside the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

The wild and wooly town was situated on the Yellowstone River and was known as “the original gateway to Yellowstone National Park”. Tourists en route to the park had to change trains in Livingston and many spent the night in town before continuing their journey. By 1882, Livingston was a thriving community with 40 businesses, 30 of them saloons. Rough and tumble, the town attracted the likes of Calamity Jane, who is said to have lived in a local hotel with periodic stays in jail.

Bill was born at the  in Livingston in 1925. Bill’s father, Harry Ellwood “Mac” McGee, was homesteading in the Shields River Valley about 30 miles north of Livingston. When it was Bill’s time to be born, his “rich” uncle, Clyde M. Lyon, drove Bill’s mother, Vivian (Lyon) McGee, to the Lott Birthing Hospital in Livingston. Maternity patients at that time were not usually kept in regular hospitals. Numerous “maternity houses” – or “birthing hospitals” as they were also called – were scattered throughout Livingston before hospitals were thought appropriate for “lying in”.

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The Lott Birthing Hospital, 128 S. Yellowstone Street, was originally a private residence built in 1889 (the year Montana achieved statehood) in the affluent West Side neighborhood known as “Bankers’ Row”. From 1920 to 1929, the residence housed the Lott Birthing Hospital run by local nurse Edith Lott. Nurse Lott was known for her compassion. She never asked if a patient could pay. She  took care of “the ladies from B Street” (the Red Light District) with no questions asked.

Today, the former Lott Birthing Hospital is once again a private residence and on the National Register of Historic Places. Livingston’s historic Main Street is a reminder of the past, with grand old buildings that have been restored. The town is a haven for artists, writers, and actors, with good restaurants – and still a healthy number of saloons.

Related Posts
Montana Memoir Research – Second stop: Wilsall (Post 2/3)
Montana Memoir Research – Final stop: Helena (Post 3/3)

Leave a Reply