An event so momentous,
even the post office was closed.

By all accounts October 24, 1926 started off as a beautiful fall morning. But the day would not be remembered for how it started but rather how it ended. That night, at 11:30 pm, Charles M. Russell, the Cowboy Artist; a historian that recorded the fading West with paint and brushes, had died at the age of 62.

As a nation mourned, Great Falls, Montana, prepared to lay one of their heroes to rest. Schools, banks, and even the post office were closed on Wednesday, October 27th so that everyone could pay their respects. The inside of the Church of the Incarnation, the Episcopal Church at 600 Third Ave. N., was covered with flowers. To comply with one of Charlie’s final wishes to not be carried in a “skunk wagon”, a horse-drawn hearse was brought in from Cascade for the occasion. Thousands of mourners lined the streets to witness the procession as it made its way to Highland Cemetery south of the city. The hearse was driven by Ed Vance, a friend of Russell’s and experience stagecoach driver. Following the hearse was Dexter, the riderless horse, led by Charlie Biel and accompanied by Russell’s old roundup boss Horace Mann.

To celebrate the historic life and death of Charles M. Russell, staff from the C.M. Russell Museum made a similar pilgrimage to the artist’s gravesite to mark the 95th anniversary of his death. Join us as we celebrate this time with historical photographs from 1926 and a short video of the drive out to Highland Cemetery.

Sarah Adcock
Associate Curator
C.M. Russell Museum

Click on the images below to enlarge and see the captions.

The following video contains timelapse footage, viewer discretion is advised if you are prone to motion sickness.

If you would like to visit Charlie’s grave, it is located in the Highland Cemetery at 2010 33rd Ave S, Great Falls, 59405.

After entering the cemetery main gate, take the center road, veer right at the fork (at Paris Gibson’s memorial stone), then continue straight up the hill to the water tower and turn left. Charlie and Nancy are buried about halfway down that road, on the left side. Look for a large, rounded natural stone memorial.

The hearse is on display at the C.M. Russell Museum.