By Robert Lucke
She calls herself "Old 98" because she was born in Havre 98 years ago. Spend just a few minutes with her and you will find that she is the youngest 98 that you can imagine.
Louise Wigmore is her name and she was the only Clack sibling to be born in Havre. Her parents, John W. and Cora Clack, came here from Paris, Texas along with her brothers and sisters. Louise was born at 326 First Ave., the original Havre Clack home, right next door to the Stone House which was her brother, H. Earl Clack's home.
For a young girl, the farm home was more intriguing. Located just southwest of Havre it had been the post photographer's home at Fort Assinniboine.
"My dad moved the house from Fort Assinniboine," Wigmore recalled. "The whole east roof was glass. He got the house for nothing. Just had to move it. The house is still standing out there to this day."
After graduating from Havre High School, Louise went to work for Clack's Havre office. It was there she met and later married LeGrand Wigmore. They had one daughter, Cora May.
One of Wigmore's most prominent memories of early Havre might surprise you.
"I will never forget the boardwalks and all the mud. I remember those poor old Ford cars had plenty of trouble on those muddy streets," said Wigmore.
Biggest improvement to Havre in 98 years? That might surprise you as well.
"It was when Cash Taylor went into the cement business and had all the good cement walks built. Before that there were only boardwalks and I was a roller-skater and couldn't roller skate on boards," Wigmore said. "The only good skating was in front of the Stringfellow house on Second Avenue. Then Lawrence Devlin put in a roller-skating rink and everyone enjoyed that."
Mostly, Wigmore traveled from town to the farm by horseback.
"My brother H. Earl had a barn at the stone house. It was a barn where he kept his dray horses. I kept my horse there when I came to town," said Wigmore. "I remember that every winter my brother would get the sleighs out. He hauled coal. Every winter he would give a sleigh party for the children around town and then come back for cocoa at his house."
Wigmore's friends would bring their bicycles out to her house in the summer and all wanted to learn to ride her horse. Meanwhile, Wigmore who had no bicycle, always wanted to learn to ride their bicycles.
Louise Wigmore knew most of Havre's pioneers, both the good and the bad. Ask her about them and it is like she can see them in her mind's eye just as plain as day.
Jim Shawlee "Everyone knew Jim Shawlee," Wigmore said. "He made the best tamales. Everyone loved his tamales!!"
Frank Buttrey "Was a little short busy man. Just real busy. Mrs. Buttrey was a business lady, too. I went to Great Falls one time and bought a black seal coat. Later, I was in their store trying on clothes. I went out to see how something looked that I had on and when I came back into the changing room, there was Mrs. Buttrey checking out my seal skin coat," said Wigmore, laughing.
Long George Francis "Everyone knew Long George. Out where we lived, when we knew he was riding around, we all watched our livestock. He picked out what he wanted. Everyone was on the alert when he was around," said Wigmore. "My folks used to tell me when I went riding not to go too far or Long George would get me."
C.W. Young "He was a little short man. A good man. He did a lot of good things for the town. He had the Honky Tonk, but he was a good person. I can see him yet," said Wigmore, smiling again.
Leonard Christler "He was quite a character. Not especially handsome, but you would know who he was if you saw him on the street," said Wigmore. "We teenage girls followed his romance with Mrs. Carlton closely. We got a big kick out of that. You know Anna Christler, the wife was tall, stately and dressed in black. She was not all that attractive. She was a sad looking character."
Being a Presbyterian, Wigmore thought for a long while before she proclaimed Conrad Wellan probably Havre's most poplar Presbyterian minister.
"You know, he climbed mountains and had a ski jump in Havre right below the cemetery sort of where the football field is today," said Wigmore. "It was a good place to jump all winter long. I never skied, though. I can drive a Ford. That's about it."
With all her looking back, Louise Wigmore wonders about what 2001 will bring for the community she has seen so many changes in. She is ever optimistic.
"Things are moving so fast that most anything can happen here in 2001," said Wigmore. "Still though, it is a real good place to raise kids!"