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Woman searches for remains of stillborn baby sister, buried in 1940

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Posted at 9:51 AM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-22 11:51:35-04

A Billings woman who grew up in Lavina, wants to exhume the remains of her sister who was stillborn in 1940 and buried on her grandparents land.

A search for remains happened Saturday, on the family's homesteaded land about halfway between Broadview and Lavina.

The family's plan is to have a ceremony when the remains of the baby and the ashes of another family member are buried at the cemetery.

"My mom and I were standing up at the house and she told me about it and pointed right down here to this corner," said Claire Paulsen Webber.

Paulsen Webber says she was eight when her mother told her where her sister was buried.

"My mom had a stillborn baby back in 1940," Paulsen Webber said. "She was born in Billings. The hospital wrapped that baby in a blanket and gave it to my dad. And he came out here to the homestead place where his folks lived. And he and my grandpa just wrapped that baby in a blanket and buried it in the corner of the garden."

The Golden Valley Sheriff's Office and Western Montana Search Dogs out of Bozeman came to try to find the remains.

The dogs pointed to at least three places to search.

"(Babies') bones are so soft when they're born and they don't start getting brittle 'til their toddler age," Paulsen Webber said. "And so they tell me there's not going to be anything of that body left. We might find a tattering of the blanket."

If they find anything it will be buried at the Paulson family plot along with Claire's brothers ashes, which she will receive from his wife and children. Curt was born a year after the baby and died in 2009.

"I'm very blessed to have Curt moved home. I didn't take part in that decision because I didn't feel it was mine to take but his kids and his wife thought he needed to be home too."

Both will once again be close to parents Clifford and Eva.

"(The baby) was a girl and my mom named her Bess after my mother's mom who died when mom was only five," Paulsen Webber said. " So when I do the tombstone, I'm just going to put 'Baby Bess' on that."

As of late Saturday afternoon, the crew had not found any remains.

Paulsen Webber said the dogs are trained to smell human remains and all four responded to some dirt.

She will take that as the baby's remains to bury with her brothers ashes at the Lavina Cemetery.