1959 Yellowstone earthquake – Revisited August 2019

Update 10 Aug 2019: see below, at end.

Also updated the Provost entry on 30 Aug 2019, per the request of Jackie of California.

On January 1, 2013 I posted a little story about the newspaper article concerning the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. (1)

In preparing that blog posting I created a little tree for the “The Provost Family” who were mentioned in the newspaper item and I thought I was done with that newspaper story.

Eleven months later I got a message from a person who was at Yellowstone in August of 1959.

I posted Donald Nelson’s message in an update to my little story about the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake and once again I thought I was done with that newspaper story.

Nine months later I got a message on my Ancestry.com account from Anita asking me for more information on the Provost’s. Her mother had died in the earthquake and she was writing a book about the twenty-eight (28) victims of that earthquake. (2)

I replied to her that I was not part of the family or tree; I had just found a newspaper item, created a tree and posted a story on my blog. I told Anita that I would send her all the information I had.

Anita’s message prompted me to start a family tree to hold the eleven (11) families and twenty-eight (28) victims of the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake.

I had worked on a similar project when I was researching the Civil War submarine “The Hunley”. (3)

Hunley Crew Family Tree 1863
Hunley Crew Family Tree 1863

Using the family tree structure on Ancesty.com allowed me to find records for each of the victims. (4)

Yellowstone Earthquake 1959
Yellowstone Earthquake 1959

I am writing this new posting in hopes of finding more people like Donald and Anita; people who were there, who remember the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake, also known as the Hebgen Lake earthquake.

I created the family tree with the eleven (11) different family branches so that I would have just one place to look for information about the twenty-eight (28) people who died in the quake.

As I work on the family tree, the twenty-eight (28) names are no longer just names on a National Park memorial plaque.

Names on Plaque
Names on Plaque

The family tree structure gives life to the twenty-eight (28) people; they are not just names on a tourist attraction.

Web Page
Web Page

What follows are the names and ages of the twenty-eight (28) along with some family history which I was able to piece together using the family tree records and the numerous newspaper accounts of the 1959 Earthquake. (5)


Sydney D. A. Ballard – age 45

Margaret Ballard – age 39

Christopher Thomas Ballard – age 9

Sydney D. A., Margaret and Christopher Thomas Ballard were a Canadian family from Nelson, British Columbia. Sydney married Margaret Fielder in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1942. They came from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1947 with their son Michael. Michael died of pneumonia on Christmas day 1952 at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver; he was ten (10) years old. Sydney Douglas Albert Ballard was a bus driver at the time of Michael’s death. He and Margaret had a two (2) year old son named Christopher and they lived at 488 E. 41st Ave in Vancouver.

From news reports of the 1959 earthquake I’ve learned that Christopher was a crippled nine-year-old who was in a wheelchair and he, his mother and father were asleep in their car when the earthquake hit. They were swept away by the flood waters of the Madison River and were buried in the subsequent mudslide. Again from newspaper reports I learned that Sydney’s mother came to Billings, Montana looking for information on her son but there was none and the sheriff did not write down her name. I found her maiden name “Goldsmith” on Sydney’s 1914 birth certificate.

Ballard Family Tree
Ballard Family Tree


Purley R. Bennett – age 43

Tom O. Bennett – age 11

Carole Bennett – age 17

Susan Bennett – age 6

Purley “Pud” was a truck driver for Atlas Building Center, he and his family lived in Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Idaho. Carole his oldest daughter was going to start her senior year in high school. Susan his youngest was going to start first grade. His wife Irene age 39 and son Phillip age 16 survived the earthquake but had to be rescued “dug out” from the mud slide. His wife Irene remarried three years after the quake to John Dunn her childhood boyfriend and went on to write a book “Out of the Night” about her experience and the process of healing. Phillip grew into manhood and married Robin.

Bennett Family Tree
Bennett Family Tree


Bernie L. Boynton

Inez Devda Boynton

Bernie L Boynton was a vice president for Billings Machine and Welding Shop Inc. He and his wife Inez lived at 2532 Longfellow Place. More records need to be collected for the Boynton Family.

Boynton Family Tree
Boynton Family Tree


Merle M (M.D.) Edgerton – age 48

Edna Mae Edgerton – age 49

Merle’s father was George and his mother was Lucy Perryman. In 1940 Merle was a salesman but going to school. He married Edna in 1939. They were on this camping trip with Harmon and Edna Woods (see below). I have to confirm Merle’s parent’s names but those are the names showing up on other family trees. More records need to be collected for the Edgerton Family.

Edgerton Family Tree
Edgerton Family Tree


Margaret Duffey Holmes – age 71

Margaret Duffey Holmes who died at a Bozeman hospital was from Billings, Montana. She and her two daughters, Verona age 45, Mary Germaine and Mary’s family were camping when the earthquake hit. Mary Germaine was married to Anton J. Schreiber and they had their daughter Bonnie, age 7 with them on this fateful camping trip. Margaret was the only one who died. Margaret was married to John James in 1911 at Harlowton, Meagher, Montana. John James Holmes was born in Nage, Ireland in 1886 to Joseph Holmes and Annie McDonald. Margaret’s parents were James H. Duffey and Zadonia Wells. Margaret may be alone on the monument plaque but she has a history, a family.

Duffey Holmes Family Tree
Duffey Holmes Family Tree


Myrtle L. Painter – age 42

Myrtle L. Painter is also alone on the plaque but she had a history and a family, as Anita will tell you in her book “The Twenty Eight”. You see Myrtle Lavina Oram was Anita’s mother. Myrtle was married to Norman Ray Painter in 1937 and at the time of her death they lived at 4345 Porter Ave, Ogden, UT.

Painter Family Tree
Painter Family Tree


updated Aug 2019 (see bold below)

Roger C. Provost – age 43

Elizabeth Findlay Provost – age 31

Richard Provost – age 15 (had just turned 15 on 27 Jun 1959)

David Provost – age 1

Roger C. Provost was Associate Warden at prison at Soledad, Monterey, California. He married Elizabeth Findlay in 1955 at Carmel, Monterey, California. Roger’s parents are P. Albert Provost and Katherine C Tanner, they were married in 1904. The David listed on the plaque is Roger and Elizabeth’s son. The Richard on the plaque is Roger’s son with his first wife, “Roselyn Dayle L Bussey”.  The two boys may not have had a long life but they have family out there who will always remember them and we know their names because of the family tree. Roger’s sisters are Mary K, Dorothy L., and Barbara Jane. Elizabeth’s brothers and sisters are Phillip, Margaret Louise, Stanley Keith, and Lori Ann.

Provost Family Tree
Provost Family Tree

Update: Here is a newspaper article about the Provost family


Thomas Mark Stowe – age 30

Marilyn Whitmore Stowe – age 20

Thomas Mark Stowe was born in 1929 at Murray, Utah to Thomas W Stowe and Leola Angela Bouler. He graduated from Jordan HS in 1947 and was in the Army in the Medical Corps. He served in Korea but not in the war. He graduated in 1951 from Brigham Young University. In 1954 he married Marilyn Whitmore at Salt Lake, Utah. Marilyn was born in 1934 at Salt Lake City, Utah to Rex Grange Whitmore and Ferrol Smith. She graduated from Jordan HS in 1952. Five years after her marriage she would die with her husband in the Yellowstone Earthquake. More records need to be collected for the young Stowe Family.

Stowe Family Tree
Stowe Family Tree


Edgar H. Stryker – age 38

Ethel M. Stryker – age 37

Edgar H Stryker was on this camping trip with his three sons and his wife Ethel M Stryker; the sons step mother. The sons; Martin 15, John 13, and Morgan 8 live with their mother (maiden name of Roberts) and spend the summers with their father. Martin, John and Morgan do not appear on the memorial plaque because they survived the earthquake and mountain landslide. They were in a tent only a few feet from the tent Edgar their father and Ethel his wife were sleeping in. Martin felt the earthquake in the middle of the night and woke to find their car smashed beneath a huge tree and his father’s tent smashed by a huge boulder. The newspaper reports tell his story about what happened on that day. Edgar and Ethel are no longer just names on the plaque we now know a little bit more about them, but much more needs to be uncovered. I have yet to do an extensive search for this Stryker family but I am sure I will have the needed information ready for Anita’s book.

Stryker Family Tree
Stryker Family Tree


Robert James Williams – age 32

Edith Coy Williams – age 30

Steven Russell Williams – age 11

Michael James Williams – age 7

Christy Lyn Williams – age 3

All the Williams Family is sadly on the plaque. Robert James Williams was a manager at a Plumbing and Building store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was born in 1927 in Idaho to Joseph James Williams and Effie May Bainbridge. In 1945 he married Edith Coy McBride in Los Angeles, California. Edith Coy McBride was born in 1929 in Idaho to Russell Oliver McBride and Francis Edith Butler Satterfield. Robert and Edith had the three sons who perished with the family. Through their marriage record I now know that they lived at 2312 1/2 London St. in L.A., that he was working for the U.S. Navy and that she was doing desk work at a laundry. I found many records for the Williams family but I am sure there are many more to be found. The Williams family will not be forgotten.

Williams Family Tree
Williams Family Tree


Harmon Woods – age 59

Edna Maude Woods – age 55

Harmon and Edna were camping with friends, Dr. Merle M Edgerton and Edna Mae Edgerton and they were mentioned in the very first newspaper item I found on the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. Both couples were said to be from Coalinga, California. Harmon was born on Feb 1900 in Aurora, Missouri, to Henry J Woods and Nettie J Veal. Harmon married Edna Maude Calkins on July 3, 1928 at Los Angeles County, California. In 1930 they lived at Kern County, California. In 1940 they lived at Coalinga, Fresno County, California. In the 1944 and 1949 city directories they are living in Fresno, California. They had one son Russell F. who was born in 1924 in Oklahoma and was 35 years old when his parents died in the 1959 Yellowstone quake. Edna Maude Russell’s mother was born in 1904 in Missouri to John R Calkins and Mary Ollie. Many more records need to be found on this family but I do know that Henry and Nettie are shown living with their son Harmon in the 1930 and 1940 census records so they must have been a close knit family. They are not just names on a National Park Service Memorial plaque.

Woods Family Tree
Woods Family Tree


I hope that you were able to learn a little bit more about the lives of the twenty-eight (28) people who are named on the National Park Memorial plaque.

I also hope that this blog posting will inspire you to create family trees which not only hold names and dates but tell a family story. Perhaps you want to document the fifth (50) wedding anniversary party showing all the family members, friends and guests who attended, now you know that it can be done, on one family tree structure.


Thank you for reading through this “War and Peace” size posting… come to think of it, I have just as many names as in “War and Peace”, except these names are easier to pronounce.

Take Care, have a Safe Journey through Life.

Jose from Clarkston, Michigan


The following is a list of names used in this posting to help the genealogist in the crowd.

Bainbridge, Ballard, Bennett, Bouler, Boynton, Butler, Calkins, Duffey, Dunn, Edgerton, Goldsmith, Holmes, Hunley, McBride, McDonald, Nelson, Ollie, Oram, Painter, Perryman, Provost, Roberts, Satterfield, Schreiber, Smith, Stowe, Stryker, Tanner, Thon, Veal, Wells, Williams, Woods


The following items are references for further study.

  1. Link to 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake posting: https://newspaperproject2012.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/1959-yellowstone-earthquake/
  1. Message From: athon26 (Anita)

I was in the Yellowstone earthquake, camped in the same campground (Rock Creek) as were the Provosts. My mother also was killed in the quake. My father was critically injured. My two sisters and I were injured but were lucky to have gotten out of there alive. I am looking for any friends or family members of the Provosts. I recently wrote a book “Shaken in the night” about the earthquake. I am working on another called The Twenty Eight which is a book of remembrance of the twenty eight victims. All they have is a plaque with their names. I want the world to know who they were. Are you related in any way or know family members?

Thanks, Anita Painter Thon

Inbox Sep 15, 2014 3:00 AM GMT

  1. “The crewmen of the Hunley 1863 Family Tree” The Ancestry.com link – http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/72121756/family
  1. Yellowstone Earthquake – Montana – Aug 1959 Family Tree}

Ancestry.com link – http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/73371001/family

5.Links to web sites and to newspaper accounts:













Update:  The 60th anniversary of the quake will be next Saturday and Sunday August 17 and 18 2019, and Anita has sent me reminders about it, once a week since January… well almost once a week; would you believe two reminders. I might be able to make it.

In the mean time I thought I would review the tree and the blog once again after all these years and in so doing I found an interesting web site that I thought my readers would like to see.

Earthquake Lake
An apocalyptic seismic event creates a deadly chain reaction that ends with a 6-mile long lake developing within weeks.



19 thoughts on “1959 Yellowstone earthquake – Revisited August 2019

Add yours

  1. Update:

    Richard Roger Provost – age 15
    David John Provost – age 1

    This is what was in the old posting: “The Richard and David listed on the plaque are Roger and Elizabeth’s sons.”

    This is an update to that relationship: Richard Roger parent’s were Roger and Roselyn (Bussey) Provost, Elizabeth was his step-mother.

    1. Thank You for stopping by my blog and for the offer of more info. I am in touch with you on Ancestry.com and have sent a copy of your message to Anita who is writing a book about the 1959 Yellowstone Quake.

  2. Thank you for doing this. Harmon and Edna Woods were family friends who we called Grandma and Grandpa Woods. I sent information about them to Anita, and she included it in her book The Twenty Eight.

    1. Thank You Diana for stopping by my Blog. I bought the two Anita books and will look for the info. I will put you on the tree as guest so that you can see what new things get put on it. Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

    1. Thank you Jerry for stopping at my blog post. There are many things that I will share with you at your e-mail address.

      Take Care
      Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

  3. It is interesting how the Yellowstone Quake has affected so many people and because I have this blog and a Family Tree on Ancestry.com which contains all the family branches, I get messages posted from all over. Today July 11, 2016 I got this message posted as a comment on the Family Tree file (http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/73371001/family/familyview) :

    The Comment:From: cjcrum

    Had friends from Cottonwood Arizona who were camping there that night. The Bennets.. The father was paralized from the waist down and the kids were about 11 and 14. They were in a camper and heard and felt the quake. They and their mother immediately got their father and put him on a blanket and dragged him up the hill and then the lake poured over into the campground and everyone else remaining. Their first instincts saved their lives. Alwasy gives me an erie feeling the couple of times I have gone through since then. Can’t bring my self to camp there.

    1. Thank You for giving us the correction and for stopping to read the item. I updated the address name and read their section. I guess I didn’t have much info on them and if you would like to add information about them I would appreciate it and post it on an updated blog.

  4. Merle & Edna Edgerton lived in colinga CA. They had one son Wallace. Merle had a half brother Thrador Climer from his mother 1st marriage. her husband died. He had two sisters Nola, & Louise. Two brothers Amstel, & Bernard. I no nothing on Edna. I am Merle’s niece Saundra (Groves ) Tannehill naughtier of Nola. I have lived in Springfield MO my whole life so I have no other information on the family.

    1. Thank You Saundra for information and for stopping by my blog. I have passed your information on to the author of books on the Yellowstone Earthquake.
      Jose from Clarkson, Michigan

    2. Saundra, I added the information you gave me on to the tree and have updated Wallace’s information using the tree created by Anita Painter Thon. Anita is the person who wrote three books about the Yellowstone Earthquake. I just learned about her third book and will have to order it. The one book that has the Edgerton information is “The Twenty Eight” published in 2015.

  5. Hi, I have no relations whatsoever with any of the victims. I actually just learned about this disaster earlier tonight, and nothing really tells you anything of the victims. I enjoy learning history and I really wanted to know their story. So, thank you so much for doing this, for the families and others who want to learn about this. You’ve touched me, and brought me to tears. I feel better knowing now. Because, these human beings need to be remembered. Remembered as individuals just like us, with families and children, living life…anything can happen at any moment. It has been over 50 years, yet that doesn’t matter, May the victims of this horror, Rest In Peace…

    Take care.

  6. My name is Ally Edgerton, I am the grand-daughter of Dr Merle and Edna Edgerton. They had one child, my father Wallace Edgerton, a young man in his early 20’s. Flew out here for the 60th anniversary. This event changed our family forever.

  7. Hi from the UK. Sidney Ballard would be my wife’s 3rd cousin, and I found this blog whilst researching the farther reaches of her family tree. I must say it has stopped my researches in their tracks as I’ve been finding out all I can about the earthquake, which I hadn’t heard of previously. I’m not on Ancestry (I find FindMyPast more useful for UK research), so I cannot see the trees you have built for the various families affected by the tragedy, but what I can see suggests that Sidney’s mother Agnes and sister Cicely may have followed Sidney and his family to Canada some time after his father died in 1949. Are you able to shed any light on their lives?

    1. Thank you Andy for finding my blog and taking the time to add a comment. I can put you on the tree. I think… I have put many people on the tree as guest but all those people were in the USA. If you send me an e-mail I will have your e-mail address and then can put you (maybe) on the tree where you can see for yourself some extra information about the Ballard family. Send me an e-mail to naujelyk at aol dot com, I look forward to hearing from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: