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HISTORY & PREHISTORY

Dance and Stuart General Store

Dance & Stuart

This building, which represents a complete general store of the late 19th century in its present furnishings, is built on the site of the Dance and Stuart Store, one of the finest and most complete mercantile establishments of early Virginia City.

The building was first occupied by Nick Kessler, who operated a brewery and bakery here in 1863. Kessler later moved to Helena where his brewery became famous, and where he also manufactured the renowned Kessler bricks.

Dance and Stuart General Store

By the fall of 1863, however, Dance and Stuart had moved in the building, which they rented from William Reuman. The partnership of Walter B. Dance and James Stuart involved two of the Montana's oldest pioneers. Dance, born in Delaware in 1820, arrived at Gold Creek, Montana, in 1862. He was second postmaster of Virginia City, serving from May 9, 1864 to November 4, 1864, during which time the post office was undoubtedly located in this store. He served in the Territorial Council prior to his death in 1878. James Stuart and his brother, Granville, arrived in Montana in 1857 from Iowa. They set up the first sluice boxes in the Northern Rockies and together took part in every facet of Montana's development.

Dance & Stuart

Clubfoot George Lane was arrested in this store by the Vigilantes. But of far greater importance to Montana history, the Montana Historical Society was formed at a meeting held here on February 25, 1865. Montana is extremely fortunate to have a Historical Society and records dating back to such an early time.

In 1865 Dance and Stuart moved their store to Deer Lodge, and the partnership continued until 1870.

Dance & Stuart

In 1867, with George Thexton, the blacksmith who converted the Vigilante Barn up the street into a livery stable, they purchased the building and continued to own it until 1891. During this time it was used as a dwelling, and eventually became a Chinese house. One of the last residents was a Mrs. Parker, about 1900. The original structure was evidently torn down about 1925.

The present building, though a reconstruction built by the Boveys in the mid-1950's, is an exact copy of the original in every detail. The logs for it came from the Kearsarge mine buildings at Summit.

Special acknowledgements to: John D. Ellingsen, John N. DeHass, Tony Dalich, and Ken Sievert, Tom Cook and Ellen Baumler of the Montana Historical Society.

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