Like most cities in the West, Missoula is full of quirky, and fascinating stories about the first settlers. It was a time when lawlessness, wide-open opportunity, and ambition plus inventiveness knew few boundaries.

And in our day and age, Missoula's history buffs are doing their best to keep those stories alive, even when the protagonists are not.

Welcome to the annual "Stories & Stones" event at the Missoula City Cemetery.

In what has to be one of the most unique, and somewhat scary, events any city has ever staged, the "Stories & Stones" tour brings Missoula's characters back to "life" by visiting their final destinations.

Local volunteers and history experts don period-appropriate costumes and perform the life stories of many of the city's founding fathers (and mothers). And some other "historically important" famous, or infamous residents.

Dr. Robert Brown as C.P. Higgins; City of Missoula photo
Dr. Robert Brown as C.P. Higgins; City of Missoula photo

Heroes and scoundrels

Reenactments bring noted figures like legendary architect A.J. Gibson and Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin to life. But many of the more fascinating stories delve into the lives of the not-so-famous.

That includes Julia Grant Higgins and Kate Higgins McCormick, wives of two of Missoula's leading men. William Houston, who was a friend of "Wild Bill" Hickok, a stagecoach guard, railroad worker, and an early Missoula County Sheriff chased out of office for setting up a moonshine still in the jail.

Or, Mary Gleim, the "Madam of Missoula" who served time in prison, and her niece, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Gibson, who inherited her vast fortune.

Pamela Nation as Mary Gleim; City of Missoula photo
Pamela Nation as Mary Gleim; City of Missoula photo

Acknowledging many cultures

The event also includes presentations on Missoula's sizable Chinese community and an explanation of the cultural symbols found on many of the tombstones.

This year, "Stories & Stones" will run from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Missoula City Cemetery on the Northside of town. For more information about this year's historical sketches, you can check the city's website.

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