Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Christies Recall Some Butte Adventures

Longtime Butte residents Colin Leys Christie and his wife, the former Ruth Lindsay, reminisced on the occasion of their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary in 1972. Ruth was the daughter of Judge John Lindsay who came to Butte in 1895 as legal counsel to Marcus Daly. Lindsay was later one of Butte’s two district judges. Christie was the son of Alexander Christie, a partner in Leys Jewelry, a family business established in 1888. Colin Christie became a certified gemologist and was the manager at Leys. The Christies told reporters that the key to their successful marriage was a long engagement; theirs lasted four years. When they finally tied the knot in 1912 at the Lindsay home at 831 W. Granite, the famed hack driver Fat Jack delivered the bridegroom and his best man to the wedding.
Ruth and Colin had vivid recollections of childhood in Butte. Colin’s parents were Scotch and tight with their money, so he never had an allowance. When a fossilized mastodon was unearthed during the excavation of Hamilton Street, the construction company charged ten cents for a look at the skeleton. Colin didn’t have a dime, so he never got to see it. And Ruth remembered that the children had to wear scarves over their faces because of the heavy sulfur in the air, and horses wore bells to announce their approach.

This c. 1920s photograph of North Main in Butte shows Leys Jewelry in the lower right corner. The sign is still faintly visible on the side of the building. Photo courtesy Ghost Signs of Butte.
Christie’s uncle, James Leys, started the jewelry business in a log cabin and later moved to Main Street. When the Centennial Hotel burned, it prompted a third and final move to 20 N. Main. The business had its ups and downs. During Prohibition, bootlegging tenants rented rooms above the store and did $1,000 in damages. Then robbers drilled a hole in the floor and stole $2,000 worth of watches. And Christie recalled giving away two thousand white roses when the store remodeled after World War II. After a long business life, Leys closed when Christie retired in 1965.

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