During the current pandemic, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives will be sharing stories of good deeds, inspiring citizens and community togetherness to uplift Butte.
Caroline McGill was born in Ohio in 1879. McGill attended and graduated with the first doctoral degree awarded to a woman from the University of Missouri. McGill then moved to Butte after accepting a position at the Murray Hospital in 1910. She told her family she was “making the biggest fool mistake” by moving to Butte. Instead she fell in love with the area and dedicated her life and work to the people of Montana.
McGill was hired on as the first pathologist and female physician in Montana. McGill left Butte shortly after accepting her position at the Murray Hospital but only to further her education and graduated from John Hopkins in 1912. She then worked for the Mayo brothers before returning to Butte in 1913. She worked in the Murray Hospital until buying the building across the street from the hospital at 58 West Quartz in 1919. The building was constructed in 1910 and used a boarding house for the nurses as well as a laundry center for the hospital. There was a tunnel connecting the two buildings.
McGill opened her own clinic upon buying the building as well as continuing the boarding house for women. McGill treated a variety of patients from all walks of life from miners and their families to the women of the red light district. She would take payment in the form of barter and amassed a collection of porcelain artifacts from her Chinese patrons among other items.
In 1936 she bought the 320 Ranch in Gallatin Canyon where she started a stockpile of items she felt were disappearing in order to create a museum someday. Her collection became so large that Montana State University in Bozeman allowed three World War Two Quonset huts to be put on campus for it. In 1957 the Museum of the Rockies (originally named the McGill Museum) was founded.
In 1955 McGill received an honorary doctorate from Montana State College for her “outstanding service to Montana for over four decades in the medical profession”. That same year she was also named “Woman of the Year” by the Butte Business and Professional Women’s Club for her career achievements but also for her “unfailing assistance in worthy civic activities”. She retired in 1956 to the 320 Ranch. McGill died at age 79 in 1959.