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MSUB professor and students dig into the history of Boothill Cemetery in Billings

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:55-04

BILLINGS – A Montana State University-Billings professor and his students are digging deeper into the history of Billings by analyzing Boothill Cemetery.

Atop the Rimrocks, pink stakes representing grave sites of possibly 150 people or so. That’s what Professor Thomas Rust, an MSUB history teacher, and his five students have gathered through research.

“There were markers that were put up we didn’t have much faith in the accuracy of some of those markers. But we knew that there was a number that were unmarked based on our pedestrian survey when we walked through the cemetery,” Rust said.

Through pedestrian surveying, magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar, Rust and his students hope to collect enough data to find out just how many bodies could be buried in Boothill Cemetery. 

“You know, I really like the research side of it and understanding the history of wherever you’re at. It became interesting as we started to learn more and more about the area. Not just Billings history. (Also) Coulson’s history and this whole valley’s history,” said Levi Mattson, one of Rust’s students.

Rust says, “In the 1920’s they came out, some time in the 50s and the 80s, they came out and put new markers up. And so each time they did that the question becomes, ‘what were they basing what they were doing on before?'” 

Rust says it will take some time to analyze the data but he is anxious to see the results. He hopes to have the results in the next month or two.