Room and Board in Butte 1906 

By Missoula PowerHouse, Judy Helm Wright

Meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh green beans cooked with bacon and onions, big yeast rolls, and of course, chocolate cake for dessert.  Sarah Elizabeth Turman, or Sadie as the borders called her, was an outstanding cook. Butte, Montana was once home to numerous boarding houses, where many unmarried miners lived. 

Because she was such a good cook, kept the boarding house clean and was able to heal the frequent injuries, the miners were willing pay top dollar to stay. Top dollar meant ten dollars a week for room and board. Most of the boarding houses charged eight dollars a week, but only changed the sheets monthly! 

In 1905, after my grandfather Manford Cleveland Turman was released from the Spanish American war, he and Sarah had eloped to Butte.  Their goal was to work hard there, save their money and homestead in Southeastern Idaho.  

My mother and her sister were born in Butte, but by the time the next baby was due, the young couple had saved enough to apply for the homestead.  Many of their relatives and friends homesteaded in the same area of Hamer, Idaho, so they had a built-in caring community. 

Dry farming was not profitable on only 160 acres and many just gave up and walked away from their homestead. Manford, ever the shrewd businessman, realized that by working in the mines and leaving his family, he could earn enough to buy up some of the homesteads that were being sold for back taxes. Many of the bachelors that the Turmans had befriended in Butte, followed them to Idaho and they became part of the extended family. 

Sarah Elizabeth and her mother Sarah Catherine were from a line of women who were known to have “healing hands.”  Sarah Catherine was an herb doctor and Sadie was a midwife.  So, in addition to proving up the homestead while her husband was away earning money, Sadie was on call for any medical emergencies in the growing community. 

I am proud to say that DNA of healing hands and good cooking has continued with the women in that line.  Many of Sadie’s daughters, grand daughters and great granddaughters have gone into nursing, midwifes, and social work. 


The complete story of the M.C’s, Life Stories of Early Idaho Pioneers is available on Amazon or www.ArtichokePress.com  

Judy Helm Wright—Author/Blogger/Intuitive Wise Woman 

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