James J. Fitzpatrick

James J. Fitzpatrick was born 6 July 1859 in the family home known as “Happy Hollow Farm” just about a mile northeast of Vankleek Hill, Prescott County, in eastern Ontario, Canada.  He was the eighth of sixteen children born to an Irish immigrant, George Fitzpatrick, of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, and his bride, Elizabeth Kenny, of Quebec.   “Jim” was less than a year old when the American Civil War broke out.

The growing family worked hard to cultivate a meager existence from their small farm and several of the children developed a strong desire to spread out beyond the confines of their hamlet to see if there wasn’t a better life awaiting them somewhere west of Vankleek Hill.

Among the first to leave home was James, who along with his older brother, William, and a sister Laura Jane, and her husband, made their way to Butte, Montana.  Butte was one of the wealthiest towns on earth and experiencing a huge boom due to gold, silver, copper and other precious metals found in that area.  Young people were converging there from all around the world hoping to strike it rich.  James was in his early twenties at the time and the allure of gold was exciting enough to lead him to leave his family’s farm far behind.

By 1884 the three siblings mentioned above had relocated to this wild and colorful city, where each of them soon claimed land in Browns Gulch, about five miles NW of the town. 

Silver Bow County was just being formed (breaking away from Deer Lodge Co.) and the first record of Jim was for his purchase, on 4 Dec. 1884, of a “one story log house being the first house south of and adjoining Becki Browns House and being on the west side of Town Gulch.” 

In addition to trying a bit of mining from time to time, and buying shares in various mining claims, the Fitzpatrick boys bought farmland.  Jim also bought a team of horses and a wagon and made good money freighting ore from the mines in Butte to the railroad terminal four miles west in Rocker.

Shortly after settling in Browns Gulch, Jim met a pretty young girl – Cora Bell Geery, daughter of Reuben and Fannie Geery.  Her father was also farming in the Gulch and freighting ore and may be the reason Jim got into a similar line of work.  The Geerys came from Pike Co, Missouri about ten years earlier. 

The first marriage record in the new county was for Jim and Cora’s wedding on 4 August 1887.  The young couple remained in the area until their first two sons were born, Robert (1888) and John (1890).  Then, Jim, along with his older Brother, decided to stake a claim on 200 acres of land in Columbia Falls, MT, near Glacier Park.  Here the family had their remaining five children: Pearl Belle – 23 Sep. 1891, followed by a sister, a bother, and then twin girls at the end. 

The beautiful farm was along the Flathead River and up against the Mission Mountain range.  It was ideal for hunting and fishing and the whole family enjoyed their life there. 

Jim applied for US citizenship, which was granted on 4 Aug. 1894 (his 7th wedding anniversary). 

Life seemed to be just about perfect for the growing family, but then, in 1906, his brother, William, with whom he had spent most of his life, suddenly died; and just a year later, his beautiful bride, Cora also passed away on 8 Aug. 1907 after a terrible fight with cancer.  The following year, 1908, one of the little twins, Mildred, just nine years old, suddenly died of appendicitis. 

It was difficult for Jim to stay in the home that had so many memories.  He sold his farm and moved south to a place outside of Polson, then to other brief stopping places in the area before eventually ending up in Oliver Gulch, MT, west of Ronan.

For a time, Jim served as a deputy Sheriff in Flathead County, and at other times he served as a state cattle inspector, or in various appointed governmental offices, but most of his later years were spent on his cattle ranch in Oliver Gulch, MT.

In 1914 his second son, John, became very ill with Tuberculosis and was sent to Arizona in hopes that might help, but he worsened and died there in 1917.  As World War I came along, the oldest son, Robert, went away to fight in France.  He eventually returned, became a young Sheriff of Flathead County, but then died in 1925 due to infection after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with his gun while apprehending an outlaw. 

That same year, one of his daughters, Myrtle, suddenly died of appendicitis on 20 June 1925 – the day that was to have been her wedding day.

This left Jim with no wife and only three of his seven children.  But his oldest daughter, Pearl was happily married to Thomas McDonald in Seattle, WA on 11 April 1918 and she gave Jim three grand-children: Jim (1919), Donald (1923) and Betty (1925).  This last one was born just eight months before Jim’s death, which occurred in St. Ignatius, Montana on 26 Nov. 1925, at the age of 66.

James J. Fitzpatrick as a young man at about the time he came west to Montana.

Cora Bell Geery Fitzpatrick in Butte, MT, at about the time of her marriage to Jim Fitzpatrick

Mildred Fitzpatrick (left) and Cora Fitzpatrick (right)

Twin daughters of Cora Geery and Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick in his 50s.

Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick with his granddaughter, Betty Elizabeth McDonald


James J Fitzpatrick                    Mini Bio