The Boothill Cemetery in Billings Montana is on the National Register of Historic Places and served as the cemetery for the town of Coulson, a town that no longer exists. The first burials at the cemetery that sat on the hill over looking the town were in 1877. Deaths were caused by such events typhoid outbreaks, accidents, suicides, and murders. Boothill Cemetery today sets within the city limits of Billings and is the only remaining physical evidence of Coulson’s existence.
The Boothill Cemetery’s most popular burial is Muggins Taylor, who at the time of his death was holding the office of Deputy Sheriff. Taylor is known for being the scout who carried the news of Custer’s Last Stand to the world. The fearless officer was slain by J. P. Lump, whom the deputy had gone to arrest on a charge of abusing his wife. Lump was convicted of the crime and served 14 years in the state prison.
The Cemetery was deeded to the City of Billings, in 1927 by ID O’Donnell. Mr. O’Donnell had acquired the land 20 years earlier from the Billings Land & Irrigation Company in 1907 for a fee of “one dollar currency of the United States of America”, with the intent of maintaining the site as an historical monument.
The cemetery runs 170 feet north and south, by 165 feet east and west (.64 acre). There never were any tombstones on the plot. Nevertheless , two monuments were created later, and a small pile of rocks added many years ago to denote some graves. When a person was buried there it was practice to shove a small piece of sandstone from the nearby bluff, into the ground at either the head or foot, or both, to mark the grave. No permanent markers were made to denote the actual burial.
The last burial record recorded l was in 1887, although others were buried there until at least 1889. Many persons were buried under their known names, and not their real ones. With the exception of one mass grave that marks smallpox as the cause of death. none of the other known graves records a death by natural causes. In addition to death buy gunshot or arrow, intoxication, accident, drowning and suicide lead the list.
As the city of Billings grew up around this cemetery, and inadvertently isolated it with roads on all four sides which makes it somewhat difficult to find. The easiest way is to look for the “Boothill Inn” motel at the corner of E. Airport RD & Route 87. The cemetery is located directly behind the motel. There is a paved lot with about four parking spaces and a paved trail leading up to the cemetery. Despite its age, the cemetery is very well maintained, with several interesting signs and monuments to read while still maintaining an “old west” feel.
Here is a charming video of the Boot Hill Cemetery in Billings Montana whose stark and barren landscape becomes a haunting reminder of the city’s wild west past amid the urban sprawl of 21st century America: