By Alkali Springs Correspondent
Here is hoping that when you are reading these words, we have had lots of rain and maybe even some snow. The fires are all out and Beaver Creek Park is open. And folks are having no problem finding places to hunt. At this writing, there is a change in weather coming. Hope it is drastic without being a flood!
Meantime, how about a story. You know that lots of people ask us about landmarks around the community and in the mountains. However, we probably get asked most often about the old rock fireplace chimney just about a half mile out south of town on the Beaver Creek Highway, on the east side of the road. What a story that old chimney reminds folks of who know it.
It was the chimney of a brand new large house belonging to Havre Episcopal minister Leonard Christler. It is not a stretch to say that he was beloved in this community, much in the same way that Brother Van was. He started the Episcopal church here and in many other places along the Hi-Line. From Auburn, N.Y., he was known out here as the Bishop of all outdoors. He had built the beautiful Episcopal church that stands to this day on the corner of Third Avenue and Sixth Street in Havre.
The Bishop of all outdoors had feet of clay. He was having an affair with a young girl. Some have said that the girl was the church secretary. We don't know about that, but we do know that he was married and that Mrs. Christler had gotten wind of the affair and declared that it had to end or Christler would be disgraced in Montana. Mrs. Christler would see to that.
One evening there were shots heard in the Episcopal Rectory of that time. When neighbors ran over to investigate, they found Rev. Christler and the young lady both dead.
Now like a great symphony, here comes the theme and variations. The theme is that they were both dead. Most think that Christler told the girl the affair had to end and she in turn told him that if she couldn't have him, no one could and shot both of them. Other variations include Christler doing the shooting himself and, of course you know, that the tale has been told that the wife was somehow involved and killed the both of them. Sort of poetic justice.
Doesn't matter what the variation you choose to believe all these many years later. But now about the chimney.
Christler had a small farm where the chimney stands to this day. He called it "Hill Top" farm. There is a picture of the first house at the farm. A flat roofed neat looking home in Grit, Guts and Gusto. The first house looks like a house out of Dick Tracy. Maybe a house that Gravel Gertie would live in. Anyway, the Bishop of all outdoors had prospered and had built a brand new large and beautiful house in that spot. After the tragedy it sat empty for a few years, never finished and never lived in by anyone. It is said that a few high school kids had a party in the house one night and burned the house down by mistake. Our father, Bee Lucke, was supposed to have been one of the culprits. A story he never denied. Anyway, all that was left was that magnificent chimney that sported at least two fireplaces in the house which can be seen to this day and like so much else, faded dreams, smashed by ugly reality and feet of clay.