Daniels County Courthouse

The settlement of Old Scobey relocated here from the Poplar River flats to greet the approaching Great Northern Railway branch line in 1913. By the time the first train arrived on Thanksgiving Day, the two-story Commercial Hotel—today the south half of the courthouse—was the new townsite’s largest building. It served passengers and visitors until 1915 when Minnie “One-Eyed Molly” Wakefield arrived from Kansas City to purchase the building. Molly expanded the hotel to include gambling and live entertainment. She and her sons kept pit bulls for fighting staked between her hotel and the Tallman Hotel next door. In addition to drinking, gambling, and dog fighting, women were a main attraction. Much of the hotel’s first floor was devoted to this pursuit while a large sleeping room upstairs accommodated legitimate overnight guests. Molly left town in 1917 when Prohibition and federal closure of red-light establishments put a damper on her business. In 1920, voters chose Scobey 964 to 358 over Madoc as the seat of newly designated Daniels County.  County officials purchased the hotel and remodeled the interior. In 1927, an addition on the north doubled the space, preserving and extending the original false front. The Western False Front architectural style, once common across Montana, gave young communities like Scobey the look of instant prosperity. The upper porch was long used as a speaking platform for governors, senators, and visiting dignitaries. Painted a crisp white, the building is Montana’s last functioning false-front frame courthouse and perhaps the West’s only bordello converted to government use.

Images

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

(blank verso) b&w print | Source: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

(blank verso) b&w print | Source: Official records of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

Daniels County Courthouse, streetview

The former Commercial Hotel served Great Northern Railway passengers until it became a brothel and later a courthouse. | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena MT | Creator: Photographer unknown View File Details Page

Street Address:

Scobey, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

“Daniels County Courthouse,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed March 24, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/289.

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