mt. hope cemetery
History Talks in a Boneyard
by Ellaraine Lockie

It began as Boot Hill
Separated by the town from Protestant
and Catholic cemeteries
From their public-park-like preservation

Here heathens and the impoverished
lie eternally under wild grasses
weeds, sagebrush and gopher holes
Corralled by a barbed wire fence
whose missing links create a gate

A few cement block headstones
as decomposed as the bodies beneath
whisper identities in broken English
kanji and hiragana
But the list at the library speaks
loud and clear enough to be heard over
three generations of neglect

With names of Chang, Tanisaki
Cloudy Buffalo, Fugimoto, Mutoo
Nakamoto, Flying Man, Jones, O’Neal
Kirschweng, McGrew and Monteath
Labels of Chinaman, Japanese, Indian
Poor House, Breed, Half-breed, White, Negro
French, Irish, German, Scotch and American

Listed causes of death as direct as the crows
that fly above the burial ground
As socially unsheltered as Montana cowboys
Suicide, alcoholism, gunshot wounds
murder, horse and railroad accidents
amputation, scalding, spasms
exhaustion and unknown

The name became Mt. Hope
A plea answered four times a year
when a Hill County worker
mows the gophers’ pasture
The boneyard guarded by an occasional
Chinese zodiac animal gravestone
guillotined by vandals and time

Originally published in Poetry Cemetery.

PHOTO: Sign at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Havre, Montana.

kay young 1979

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in a tiny wheat farming town in Montana, and my family made trips to the bigger town of Havre for weekly shopping, medical appointments, movies, etc. Even with those consistent trips, I was unaware of the existence of Havre’s two separate cemeteries. It wasn’t until one of my adult annual summer stays in my hometown, which still includes weekly trips to Havre for the same reasons, that I became aware of the ramshackle second cemetery where the non-Christians are buried. I was instantly interested in its history and traced it through the local public library. Of course, the poet in me went right to work.

PHOTO: Gravestones at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Havre, Montana, by Kay Young, 1979 (Library of Congress, Montana Folklife Survey Collection).

zazzle havre
EDITOR’S NOTE: About 50 miles from the Canada border in north central Montana, Havre was founded in the late 1800s to serve as a service center for the Great Northern Railway, due to its location midway between Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Originally named “Bullhook Bottoms,” the town held a series of meetings to determine a new name. The original settlers had the final decision, and thanks to a strong French influence, the town was renamed “Havre,” after Le Havre, France. (Source: Wikipedia.)

PHOTO: Saddle Butte, Havre, Montana, postcard designed by KermaB available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ellaraine Lockie’s recent poems have won the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Contest, the Nebraska Writers Guild’s Women of the Fur Trade Poetry Contest, and New Millennium’s Monthly Musepaper Poetry Contest. Her fourteenth chapbook, Sex and Other Slapsticks, has been released from Presa Press. Previous chapbooks have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch Magazine in England, and the Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. Her poems have found their ways onto broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, keychains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows, and cable TV. Ellaraine serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.