BUTTE — Alma Higgins was a Butte resident who achieved fame for her pioneering conservationist work and building beautiful gardens in Butte. Ironically, you have to sift through litter and overgrown bushes to find her memorial plaque and some people say that’s a real shame to her legacy.
“Butte’s better than that. She was a part of our heritage, and we need to be building on that heritage, not neglecting it,” said concerned Butte resident R. Edward Banderob.
Born in Deer Lodge, Higgins moved to Butte with her husband in the 1920s and was disappointed at the lack of vegetation in Uptown Butte due to the mining. She helped form more than a dozen gardening clubs with about 400 members.
“Her philosophy was to restore it one flower box at a time,” said Banderob.
In 1962, Butte established a memorial garden in her honor the year after she died, located next to the Covellite Theater on Broadway. Though it was maintained for decades, it has since fallen into neglect. Shari Curtis can see what’s left of the memorial from her window at the Butte Library.
“Every time I have volunteers here in the building when we run out of things to do we go across there and clean up and pull the weeds,” said Curtis.
Curtis hopes to restore the garden once it is approved by the city, which owns the land. Higgins also painted flowers and was known nationally for her conservation work.
“She also led the effort for the first living Christmas tree at the United States Capitol. At one point they had candles on it and it caught on fire, so the original Christmas tree is not there, but they did replant one,” said Butte archivist Lindsay Mulcahy.
Butte has a community garden off East Park Street that many people use to grow flowers and vegetables as a way to honor Higgins.
“I think she’d love it, yeah. And we’re going to expand the garden. Fence that in and maybe put some fruiting trees in there,” said Curtis.