Poor Farm Cemetery in Choteau, Montana

The “Pauper’s Cemetery,” above, is located north of Choteau. In the photo at right is the only wooden marker found on our visit. Some graves had no markers; most graves were marked only with a flat concrete slab.

In last week’s edition we reported on a ceremony held in Helena to bury unclaimed human remains.

After we went to press, we received additional information from the Lewis and Clark County Coroner’s Office.

The Coroner gave the Sun Times a more precise accounting of the numbers. Fifty-three sets of remains were buried during the ceremony held at Lewis and Clark County Cemetery. Prior to the burial, eleven sets of remains were claimed by next-of-kin. Seven sets were found to be veterans, and those were sent to Fort Harrison.

The coroner’s office also explained to the Sun Times that the county does not cremate unclaimed bodies.

The story did raise the question as to how unclaimed remains are processed in Teton County, and if there are currently any remains that have not been claimed by next-of-kin.

We asked Teton County Sheriff, and he responded:

“As of right now, there are no unclaimed human remains in Teton County, but I am sure there have been in the past.  As Coroner, it is my job to identify deceased persons and determine cause and manner of death.  Those that die who do not have family or anyone willing to take responsibility for the care of the deceased, are referred to the Teton County Public Administrator.

The Public Administrator’s job is to basically take care of their estate.  With that, if there are enough funds or property in the estate, those funds and/or property from the estate are utilized to pay for their burial.  If the person has no money or property, there is an indigent fund managed by the County Commissioners that pays for the final burial of that person.” 

The Sun Times asked Sheriff Van Setten about a cemetery at the Teton County Poor Farm and was told that there was a “Pauper’s Cemetery” north of Choteau. The cemetery was located, but we were not able to find any names on the headstones during our brief visit.

The records of the Poor Farm document the residents who stayed at the farm, including those who died while there.

The records we examined covered a period starting in the 1890s and ending in the mid-1900s. We hope to have more details in the future.