Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Ghost

There is a beautiful house on Helena’s lower West Side that has been home to a number of tenants in the past twenty-five years. Some of those who have been associated with the house report odd experiences that I have detailed in Haunted Helena: Montana’s Queen City Ghosts. For the Scott family, the house was a magical place that holds special memories of family and one unique Christmas dinner. The house was built in 1877, and its longtime owner was Christmas Gift Evans, whose pioneer hardware firm of Sanford and Evans was a well-known, reputable Helena business. Chris Evans was born in Deerfield, New York, on Christmas Day in 1840. His parents felt so blessed at his birth that they named him Christmas Gift.

The Christmas Gift Evans House, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a rare example of the French Second Empire style. Its Mansard roof has elegant wrought iron cresting and inside, the handsome dark woodwork evokes another time. Original built-in furniture includes a dining room breakfront with exquisite beveled glass. The house has seen its share of tragedy including the death of Evans. Suffering from circulatory problems in 1915, Evans died in the house after the surgical amputation of his leg.

Christmas Gift Evans, born on Christmas Day, 1840, still likes to celebrate his birthday.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
Garth Scott was a single parent with two children when the family moved into the house in 2004. During the year they lived there, the Scotts thoroughly enjoyed the historic home and created some wonderful family memories. But it was Christmas that year that was especially memorable. Garth’s mother cooked a huge family dinner for some thirty family members who gathered around the dining room table. They took many photographs to capture Christmas memories. An extra guest appears in many of the photos, reflected in the beveled glass of the breakfront. The image of a man with a distinctive goatee does not match any of the guests seated at the table.

The family later discovered a portrait of Evans in a drawer of the breakfront. The identity of the image is certain. Christmas Gift Evans, perhaps in celebration of his birthday, apparently shared the family’s Christmas dinner.

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