Idora Z. Smith Guthrie diaries, 1871-1937  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Guthrie, Idora Z. Smith, 1865-1937
Idora Z. Smith Guthrie diaries
1871-1937 (inclusive)
3 linear feet of shelf space
Collection Number
MC 201
This collection consists of diaries (1877-1937) kept by Idora Guthrie describing her daily life, family, activities, teaching career, mining and homesteading experiences, sales career, etc. Also included are two unidentified diaries (1871-1872), and miscellaneous clippings.
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Idora Smith, born August 25, 1865, was the eldest child of N.D. Smith, a farmer in Union Valley, Cortland County, New York. Other children in the family included Idora's brothers Clayton (b. 1873) and Warner (b. 1886), and sister, Rita, (b. 1887). In 1877 Idora wrote her first diary. That year she attended school on an irregular basis, as winter weather permitted and for three months in late summer. Her church attendance was on a regular basis; twice on Sundays and for special events during the week. The second diary was written in 1882, when Idora was seventeen, and she continued writing on a daily basis until her death in 1937.

In 1882 and 1883 she attended brief sessions at Cazenovia, a seminary in Cortland, to prepare her for teaching. Following that she taught in local rural schools for nineteen years. At the age of thirty-six, in 1901, Idora moved to Helena, Montana, to help her aunt, Mary Jane Haskell, in her boarding house located at 431 South Park. Within a few months Idora accepted a teaching assignment in Helena at $60.00 per month. She also taught in the Stearns area (near Wolf Creek) and in the Helena valley, living with her aunt and bicycling to school. In 19O3 Idora accepted a teaching position in Bald Butte, near Marysville. She met Herbert J. Guthrie, a native of Mumford, Wisconsin, who worked at a mine there. They were married on September 14, 1904, at her family home in New York and honeymooned at Niagara Falls. The couple returned to Montana and Herbert continued working at hard rock mining and locating placer ground to prospect. The Guthries set up cabins and moved from one location to another including Hope Gulch, Spring Gulch, and Bald Butte.

In 1907 the Guthries adopted a five-year old boy who was the son of a relative and named him Herbert Raymond Guthrie. Raymond lived in Helena all of his life, dying in 1963. Herbert's brother, Edmund D. Guthrie, also lived in Helena. Herbert Guthrie had frequent health and alcohol problems. Idora contributed to the family's livelihood by raising chickens and selling eggs, bread, and butter in the "mill" community. During the years 1914 through 1916 Herbert decided to try his hand at homesteading. The family built a homestead cabin near Bald Butte and bought horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens. Idora helped with farm chores, continued to work at the placer sites, and carried out all of the domestic duties including tutoring Raymond, washing, cooking, baking, milking, mending, and sewing. She was also a devoted letter writer, read books and papers from her home town, played cards, and took the train to Helena to attend church and Eastern Star meetings.

In 1917 Herbert was hospitalized in Helena and diagnosed as tubercular. The family moved to a house at 534 Highland, and the homestead and placer ground were leased for three years. Idora returned to her family home in Cortland in 192O, to be with her widowed mother, and remained there for six years. Raymond remained in Helena. Though her mother died in 1924, Idora stayed in New York and took a nursing care course and contracted to be a representative to sell Fifth Avenue Fashions door-to-door. She was able to support herself in this way for the remainder of her life. In 1926 Idora returned to Helena to care for Herbert who was seriously ill. He died on December 18, 1926, at the age of sixty-one. Idora remained in Helena earning her living selling women's and children's fashions and by renting apartments in her home. In October 1937 she was hospitalized with diabetes; she died on December 31.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Diaries. 1863-l937. 3 linear feet. The diaries of Idora Z. Smith Guthrie are a day-by-day account of her life, friends, family, activities, education, teaching career, domestic work, placer mining and homesteading experiences, sales career, etc. The diaries describe the social life and customs of rural New York, Helena, and the Marysville area and make note of events happening all over the world such as the Chicago fire and the death of President McKinley. Some of the volumes contain other information such as a listing of letters Idora Guthrie wrote and sent, her expenditures for stamps and church donations, etc. Two unidentified diaries (1871, 1872) are in the collection and discuss life in rural New York, social outings, farm labors, etc. There is also a file of clippings (n.d.) sent to or kept by Idora Guthrie.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


by series

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information available upon request

Separated Materials

Photographs and artifacts have been separated to the Photo Archives and Museum respectively.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection

Diaries Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 1
Diaries (re life in Union Valley (N.Y.), school, family, church, and social activities, chores,caring for brother Clayton, temperence lectures. etc.)
1877, 1882
1 / 2
Diaries (re social activities, friends, visit from Mary Jane Haskell, school exams, seminary, teaching, etc.)
1 / 3
Diaries (re teaching, maple sugaring, friends, social activities, domestic chores, expenses, salary, etc.)
1 / 4
Diaries (re domestic chores, expenses, salary, life in Union Valley (N.Y.), caring for brother, teaching, etc.)
1 / 5
Diary [loose pages removed from diary]
1 / 6
Diaries (re social activities, teaching, domestic chores, reading, farm chores, teaching, friends, etc.)
1 / 7
Diaries (re social activities, teaching, domestic chores, hospital work, etc.)
2 / 1
Diaries (re work at home, farm chores, church activities, chain letters, family celebration, painting classes, teachers' institute, teaching, etc.)
2 / 2
Diaries (re friends, examinations, interest in medicine, teaching, Republican meetings, friends, elections, etc.)
2 / 3
Diaries (re family and friends, finances, teaching at Pitcher, examinations, work at home, sewing, church activities, social activities, etc.)
2 / 4
Diaries (re family reunion, bicycle riding, criticism of father, brother's engagement, social activities, sewing, domestic chores, etc.)
2 / 5
Diaries (re train trip to Helena, Montana, trip to Yellowstone National Park, social activities, working for her aunt, a hanging in Helena, decision to teach, teachers' exam, teaching in Augusta and Stearns, return to Helena, social activities, sewing, Eastern Star, church activities, etc.)
2 / 6
Diaries (re teaching in Helena Valley, death of uncle, visit by President Roosevelt, train trip to New York, teaching at Bald Butte near Marysville, meeting Herbert J. Guthrie, wedding plans, honeymoon at Niagara Falls, visit to husband's family in Iowa, return to Helena, cabin at Bald Butte, etc.)
3 / 1
Diaries (re life and work at Bald Butte, Herbert's mine work, selling Larken products and home-made soap, surveying at Hope Gulch, Herbert's health, visiting local saloons, miscarriage, mine closure for winter, wages, etc.)
3 / 3
Diaries (re aunt's real estate, raising chickens and selling eggs, move to Spring Gulch and back to Bald Butte, Herbert's big gold nugget, Herbert's health problems, adoption of Raymond Win's child, Melville murder trial, etc.)
3 / 4
Diaries (re move back to Hope Gulch, flood in Marysville damaging placer claims, gold nugget, trip to New York, death of father, etc.)
3 / 5
Diaries (re move back to Hope Gulch, gardening,Italians in placer operations, selling butter, tutoring Raymond, sale of New York family farm, building a house, Herbert's farming efforts, Marysville fire, weather, health, forest fires, club memberships, etc.)
3 / 6
Diaries (re farming,Herbert's mine work, visitors, etc.)
4 / 1
Diaries (re farm work, Herbert's, mining, Raymond's schooling, disenchantment with lifestyle in mining camp, etc.)
4 / 2
Diaries (re local news, Raymond's schooling, fence building, farm work, mine work, difficulty sleeping, etc.)
4 / 3
Diaries (re visitors, cattle work, health, move to homestead cabin, Raymond's schooling, Herbert's health, parade for servicemen, etc.)
4 / 4
Diaries (re living in Helena, Herbert's odd jobs work, Raymond's work, fire in Cruse Block, leasing of placer mine to J.G. Hennebury, caring for sick families, work on 1920 census, attending lectures, new Shrine Temple, financial problems, trip to New York, separation from Herbert, etc.)
4 / 5
Diaries (re living in Cortland, N.Y., learning nursing care, scarlet fever quarantine, mother's illness, first aid class, correspondence with Raymond, Herbert's illness, local politics, etc.)
4 / 6
Diaries (re living in Homer, N.Y., social activities, Smith family reunion, selling shoes, trip to St. Paul, mother's health, return to Cortland, Raymond's marriage, door-to-door sales, Ku Klux Klan speech, etc.)
5 / 1
Diaries (re living in Cortland N.Y., after mother's death, door-to-door sales, Eastern Star, Raymond's wife Myra, Herbert's request that she return, Raymond's baby, Herbert's illness and death, etc.)
5 / 2
Diaries (re living in Helena, Montana, after Herbert's death, door-to-door sales, Lindberg Day, selling perfume and brushes, movie "Ben Hur", move to Rodney Street, running grocery store, Raymond's divorce, trip to Cortland etc.)
5 / 3
Diaries (re Raymond's motorcycle shop, grocery store, granddaughter, opening of New York Store, burning of Harvey Hotel, financial problems, relocation of store, psychology class, Mullen Pass forest fire, move back to Highland Street, etc.)
1929, 1931
5 / 4
Diaries (re Helena social life, Senator Walsh's death, movies, selling maple syrup, "colored" customers, reminiscing about 50 years ago, landlord Ed Minaugh, death of Burt Allinson Guthrie, primary election, political speeches, autogyro plane at airport, etc.)
5 / 5
Diaries (re living on Highland Street, Old Age Pension legislation, Unity meetings, Raymond's placer mine, movies at marlow Theater, earthquakes, legal problems, rebuilding damaged house, door-to-door sales, Eastern Star, remodeling of house into rental units, national politics, etc.)
6 / 1
Diaries (re sales work, rental unit problems, Ed Guthrie's legal problems, Methodist Church, health problems, application for Old Age Pension, hospitalization, etc.)
6 / 2-4
Diaries (unidentified)
1863, 1871, 1872

Transfers Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
6 / 5-6
List of transfers of photographs to Photo Archives and artifacts to Museum

Clippings Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
6 / 7
Marriages (predominantly Cortland, New York, area, but some are Helena, Montana)
6 / 8
Obituaries (predominantly Cortland, New York, area, but some are Helena, Montana)
6 / 9
Miscellaneous (includes vital statistics [1913] from Homer and DeRuyter, New York; Helena earthquakes; Randall family reunion; assault on Lester H. Loble; Mrs. George H, Hibes birthday; Elmer M. Williams hit by car; Benjamin Rowe sermon; humor)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Gold mines and mining--Montana
  • Mines and mineral resources--Montana--Lewis and Clark County
  • Rural families--Montana
  • Rural schools--Montana--Lewis and Clark County
  • Rural schools--New York (State)
  • Women homesteaders--Montana
  • Women teachers--Montana
  • Women teachers--New York (State)
  • Homesteading--Montana--1910-1920
  • Teachers--Montana
  • Teachers--New York (State)

Geographical Names

  • Bald Butte Mine (Mont.)
  • Courtland County (N.Y.)
  • Helena (Mont.)--social life and customs
  • Lewis and Clark County (Mont.)--industries
  • Marysville (Mont.)--industries
  • Marysville (Mont.)--social life and customs


  • Teachers