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a1113: Samuel W. Lewis: Orphan leaves mark on Bozeman (fwd)
From: JD Lemieux <email@example.com>
March 2, 2002
Listers: This article is from the Billings Gazette of Billings
Montana. I found it an interesting human interest story with a
big Haitian connection. I hope you enjoy it.
March 2, 2002
Samuel W. Lewis: Orphan leaves mark on Bozeman
By MARY PICKETT
Of The Gazette Staff
Samuel W. Lewis was one of Bozeman's earliest settlers. When he
died in 1896, he also was among its most respected and loved
Lewis was born in Haiti in 1835 and came with his parents to the
United States was a child.
After his mother died, his father remarried a Chippewa woman who
bore Lewis' half-sister, Edmonia.
After his father died when Lewis was 12, the boy became a
In 1852, he left for California and opened a barber shop in San
Francisco. He moved on to the gold fields, where he did some
mining and barbering, making enough money to travel to Europe.
He returned to the American West, eventually working in Idaho
and then mining camps in Montana.
He displayed an entrepreneur's spirit that even several
financial setbacks couldn't dim. Lewis lost $5,000 in gold when
two San Francisco firms failed and two buildings that he had
constructed in Idaho burned.
He came to Bozeman in 1868, when the fledging town was only 4
As he had done in other towns, he set up his barbering business
along Main Street and became part of the town's commercial life.
Starting in 1874, his name begins to appear in the local
newspaper, The Avant-Courier. Several references describe him
renovating, expanding and painting his "apple-pie order"
By 1883, he finished construction of his own home on South
Lewis also built four rental homes, including two that still
stand today on South Tracy.
Blacks made up less than 1 percent of the population in
territorial Montana, according to a paper written in 1978 by
Marilyn McMillan of Bozeman. Lewis was one of only 10 blacks in
Bozeman during that time.
In 1884, Lewis married Melissa Bruce, a widow with six children.
The couple would have one son, Samuel E. Lewis.
Samuel Lewis died at the age of 63 on March 28, 1896 after a
The Avant-Courier's lengthy obituary paid tribute to Lewis as a
"firm friend, an enterprising, public spirited citizen, a
pleasant neighbor, a kind husband and affectionate father."
The funeral was in his home, and his pallbearers included
"The funeral was largely attended, hundreds of our citizens
going to the residence to pay their sincere respect to the
memory of the very worthy old-time citizen, and a large number
of our citizens in carriages joined the sad procession to the
'silent city of the dead.' "
Lewis was buried at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman in a grave
still marked today by a obelisk monument.
Melissa Lewis died in April 1927 from flu and was buried in the
Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.
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