Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Earthquakes rocked the Helena valley in October of 1935, leaving four people dead, a community terrified, and widespread destruction in the aftermath. There was significant damage in the 6th Ward, especially at the National Biscuit Company, the Northern Pacific depot, and along Railroad and Helena Avenues.

East Side of the National Biscuit Co. Factory, Taken from Boulder Ave.
Photo from Helena As She Was
 One family on Boulder Avenue was buried under rubble when their house collapsed. The father dug himself out and rescued his injured wife and their two small children.

Charles Purdy and his wife and two small children were buried under the rubble of their house (at left).
Photo from Helena As She Was

In the nearby commercial district that had grown to serve the Northern Pacific Railroad, many small businesses suffered, and one grocer lost more than just his building. For many years this grocer had specialized in fresh turkeys he plucked and dressed himself. No one seemed to notice that the birds from this particular grocer never included gizzards. This is because he had a secret. His turkeys arrived via the Northern Pacific from an area that had once been extensively placer mined; the turkeys pecked around in the tailing piles. When he butchered the turkeys, he found that the stones collected in their gizzards were sometimes not just pebbles, but gold nuggets. The grocer kept his golden treasure in a huge jug he kept hidden in his basement. Over the years, his stash of nuggets had grown so that the jug was almost full. When the earthquake struck, his building collapsed in on itself, forever burying the jug full of golden nuggets. Neighbor kids talked about the 6th Ward’s buried treasure for years, and it became legendary. That jug full of treasure remains buried somewhere in the commercial district to this day.

P.S. You can see more photos of the earthquake damage on the Helena As She Was site.

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