Born and raised in north central Montana, Geraldine resident Hank Armstrong has always loved learning about the land he’s called home 92 years. He’s even written books and given tours- but this history buff is now looking towards the future. MTN News spent the day in Chouteau County with the historian, who is leaving a legacy of his own.
Armstrong and his family have always shared a passion for preserving the past. They’ve worked hard to gain national recognition for historic sites, including the old Square Butte Jail. “It was put on the National Register in 1998,” he said.
Over the years, the two-cell structure once created for criminals has seen its own share of trials. “At one time we had a table here with the sheriff’s report his ledger and that sort of thing his gun,” he said. “There’s still there but that’s it. It’s been, it’s been robbed a little.”
Now, Hank is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. “It’s just a shame.” He said.
He’s been the sole caretaker and jailkeeper of the crumbling cage, keeping history under lock and key in the hopes that future generations may learn about the lockup from a lifetime ago.
It’s not just the jail’s history that Hank has unlocked; he’s always on the move, navigating through the area’s memory lanes in search of stories long forgotten. He’s hoping to do his part in preserving the past by sharing his knowledge with the next generation of bygone buffs.
Born and raised in the area, Hank says he found his place in history early on: “There’s only two things I could get an A in school that was art and history.”
The 92-year-old is already seeing his own story live on. In the Square Butte Country Club hangs a portrait of Hank - alongside other community members who won’t be soon forgotten.
Hank has written a handful of books- all focused on the history of the area, and he’s proudly known by relatives as the family historian, and is working to pass down on the honor to his granddaughter.