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Friday, December 15, 2017

City councilor brings former mayors back to life at city hall (slideshow 3)

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Hanging on the walls of the city council chamber of Glendive City Hall is a small slice of local history, a row of photographs of all the city’s mayors throughout the years. For years, however, that photo collection was incomplete, with empty frames hanging amidst the photos of mayors past, marking a gap in the city’s historical memory. But with a little research and can-do tenacity over the past year since she was appointed to office, Councilwoman Avis Anderson has successfully put faces to all of Glendive’s former mayors and the photo collection now stands proudly complete.

Anderson, a retired Lutheran minister and high school history teacher with a penchant for historical research, said the empty frames hanging on the wall just bothered her when she was first seated on the council in July 2016, especially since she had to sit and look at them from her seat at the council table, and she resolved from the start to do something about it.

“I’m kind of OCD when it comes to things, and the other fact is I have to sit in that chair and look at that wall,” Anderson said. “So my OCD said ‘Let’s do something about it,’ and I just love to research.”

Besides the missing photos, of which there were eight, Anderson said the photos that were there didn’t have any names or dates on them either. Her first step was to fill in those gaps. Once she had tracked down that information, then it was on to tracking down photos of the missing former mayors. While it took her a while to do so, she said for six out of the eight that were missing, it turned out to be relatively easy.

“The only two that were really hard to find were (C.E.) Dove and (W.E.) Martin. The others, once we found family members, they got us photos. It just took a little while,” Anderson said.

Chasing down the final two missing mayors, Dove and Martin, took a little extra doing. The first problem was that all Anderson had to go on was initials for their first names, which she wasn’t easily able to find any reference to. With Martin, she figured it out on a lucky guess.

“Martin, that was kind of odd because I didn’t know what his first name was. So I made a guess that it was William, and then he showed up,” Anderson said.

She found a photo of Martin in the Montana Historical Society’s special collection of Montana Department of Transportation photos. Dated 1922 and very grainy, Anderson said the photo shows Martin standing in front of city hall watching MDT pave Glendive’s city streets for the first time.

Chasing down a photo of Dove took even more effort and proved to be the last piece of the puzzle, found only in the last couple of weeks. Like with Martin, Anderson’s search was complicated by the fact there was no evidence of what his initials stood for.

“The problem with Dove too was his name, because I didn’t know what the C.E. stood for,” Anderson said, noting that her first guess, “Charles Edward,” proved fruitless.

Ultimately, while searching through an online list of Dove family names, Anderson happened upon a “Chester Earl Dove” who had just moved to Palm Beach, Fla., circa 1920. Following that thread, she found out that was indeed former mayor C.E. Dove of Glendive, who had retired to Florida with his wife. Anderson was even able to locate the Doves’ graves in West Palm Beach.

Having tracked down the right C.E. Dove, her next step was to find a photo of him. Typing in his name, a PDF file popped up from the collection of the American Osteopathic Association held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., as Dove was an osteopathic doctor. Anderson called the National Archives and spoke to an archivist there, asking for a photocopy of the Dove photo to verify it was the right person. Once she saw the photocopy, she had her “Eureka!” moment.

“And at the bottom of the photo it said ‘Wing Studio, Glendive, Montana,’ and I said ‘Yes, that’s the one!,” Anderson said.

Having completed her self-appointed project, and having learned a little bit more about Glendive’s former mayors in the process — like that Dove and another former mayor, Dr. J.H. Stroud, were both osteopathic doctors who attended the same college in Missouri, as did both of their wives — Anderson said she feels just a little bit closer to Glendive’s past.

“It’s kind of fun to look at them and think about what was going on in Glendive during those years,” Anderson said. “The stories are there, you just have to do the research, and I think you begin to develop a close personal relationship with these people.”

While proud that she has completed the project, Anderson said there’s one more thing missing from the wall of former mayors that she hopes is taken care of before too many more years go by. In Glendive’s nearly 130 year history, all of its mayors have been men.

“Now we just need to get a woman up there one of these days,” Anderson said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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