Melrose, Butte

Melrose, Montana, once known as "Camp Creek", had its early beginnings as a tiny stage stop along the Big Hole River that would eventually become a terminus for the railroad, a shipping and receiving point for the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company and Bryant Mining District, consisting of Hecla, Lion City, Greenwood, Norwood, and Glendale. The area along the Big Hole River was settled as early as 1870, three families shared the valley, Jefferson McCauley, John Stone and William Bowe. In 1875, William Bowe bought out two squatters giving them a combined total of $250.00. William Bowe pre-empted 160 acres of land and subsequently added 80 acres of Desert land.

William built himself a modest home in 1875 and later purchased a structure in Rocker which he moved to Camp Creek (later Melrose), establishing himself as a Stage Stop and Hotel Entrepreneur. On December 25, 1876, William was married to Lucina Phillips who had recently divorced Adam Fleser of whom "Fleser Mountain" was named. She brought four children from this marriage and settled with William Bowe in their Hotel/Stage Stop. Lucina was no stranger to greeting and caring for travelers as her ex-husband Adam also operated a tiny stage stop along the base of Mount Fleser. It is likely that the married couple mutually agreed to operate the stage stop together as Lucina could tend to the meals and needs of the traveler while Billy could provide stable and other services.

The arrival of the Utah Northern's narrow gauge in the spring of 1881 made it possible and profitable for the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company to ship silver and lead bullion (once hauled out by wagon road) to the refineries for further smelting. Hauling ore by wagon was not only costly but time consuming. The arrival of the railroad greatly reduced the costs and overhead of the company and improved profits, helping bring in the necessary supplies, machinery, and charcoal needed to supply the furnaces at Glendale. The railroad arrived at Melrose in the Spring of 1881, marking an end to an era of freighting for Melrose and the communities within the Bryant Mining District.

With the railroad nearing, William Bowe platted the Town site of Camp Creek and named it “Melrose”. William Bowe began selling off lots of this newly platted town around 1880. Business houses and homes quickly sprang up as the railroad inched closer. Miners and their families arrived and went to work the mines of the Hecla Company, miles west of Melrose. Melrose Is situated on the Big Hole River and sits within Silverbow County, Montana. The only thing separating the two counties of Silverbow and Beaverhead is the Big Hole River which runs directly through town.

There have been many theories on how Camp Creek came to be known as "Melrose". One such theory involved Henry Knippenberg, whom arrived in April of 1881 to act as General Manager of the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company. Legend states that because of Knippenberg’s influence and position with the Company, he named the town. This is not likely or probable as Henry Knippenberg arrived on the scene long after Melrose had been established. Obviously, the privilege of naming the new town belonged to the man who owned the land, his name was William Bowe. It isn't reasonable to assume that Knippenberg, being an outsider, would deserve the privilege of naming a community that was well established prior to his arrival, nor had he, any personal connection. I believe this theory came to life as a result of Henry Knippenberg leaving Montana many years later and upon returning to Indianapolis, naming his beautiful mansion, "Melrose Cottage" which was inscribed on one photograph.

Upon naming this newly platted community, William Bowe chose the name of his much loved, Step-daughter Melrose Fleser. Melrose went by "Rose" and to close family members, she was "Melrose". This is the name recorded in the Fleser family bible in Jacoby Lowney's private collection. Melrose would later marry Sherman Vance and they would have children. Melrose died in 1897, and his body was buried on the hilltop overlooking the town that bears her name. Her grave records the name, “Rose” however her name was “Melrose".