Historical Photos and Video
Intermountain Historical Timeline
Brother Van and Louise Stork convinced the Wesleyan University board to convert the abandoned campus in the Helena Valley into the Montana Deaconess School. On September 14, 1909, the school opened with nine students. Miss Stork described the scene: “By the time we got there and unloaded it was quite dark. The lights from Helena already began to glimmer in the distance. . .The coyotes were howling seeming not far away. . . It took real courage to enter.”
There were 72 children in attendance at the Montana Deaconess School. The monthly tuition was $20.
The Montana Deaconess School accepted boarding and day students ages five to fourteen. In 1914, Charles McCaffery brought his daughter Maxine and her four siblings after their mother died.
During the 16 years of the existence of the Deaconess School, it has cared for 1,174 children. Of that number, 182 have been part pay and 90 entirely free. All money for free work came through the work of Rev. John Chirgwin, a close friend of Brother Van. -quote from a fundraising brochure circa 1925
Helen C. Piper became principal and served through her retirement in 1950, serving 37 years. She is credited with guiding approximately 4,000 children to adulthood. Her aim was to make the school, “a real home” and to have the children “live a free and joyous life.”
Henry Longmaid, first board president, left $10,000 to the school from his estate. This gift, along with other donations, large and small, kept the school solvent during tough economic times through the Great Depression.
Floy Syness Peterson, a tuition day student at, ‘The Deac,’ remembers the night of the earthquake on October 18, 1935, when her parents, Lloyd and Frances Synness with the help of others, evacuated many children to safety.
The school moved into Helena to Mills Hall, the former home of the Intermountain Union College on 11th Avenue.
Buildings across 11th Avenue, now the site of Captial Hill Mall, were acquired from the college, which had by then moved to Billings to become Rocky Mountain College.
For seven-year old Luanne Richter it was, she recalled years later, the first time in her entire childhood that she felt secure. “At the Deaconess School we never felt we did not belong because we were all equal in the eyes of the
housemothers,” said Richter. The home’s mandatory church attendance provided Luanne and her siblings a solid unwavering faith that lasted into her adulthood.
Intermountain moved to its current location and was renamed Intermountain Children’s Home. Children and adolescents were able to live in cottages with house parents in a family-like setting.
During Bob Wix’s tenure, in 1971, the move was made to the current Residential Campus at 500 S. Lamborn Street in Helena, Montana.
“Our kids come with such handicaps that limit how they will function in our Home. An emotional problem may keep a youngster’s stomach tied in knots for months.” Bob Wix, Administrator, 1963-1981
Based on a new understanding of what troubled children really need to heal and grow, Intermountain adopted a unique approach. It was called “relational therapy.” Professional counselors replaced house parents.
Dedicated the Bob Wix Center, an on-campus school and physical education center. Intermountain expanded services focused on prevention and intervention.
The Adoption & Family Support Program celebrates it’s seventh anniversary of placing children in permanent homes and providing extensive training and support to help families build secure and trusting relationships.
Transforming the next century, Intermountain is a symbol of our larger community’s commitment to address the struggles facing children in today’s world. We look forward to another 100 years of providing care and restoring hope for generations to come.
Intermountain brings all of its Helena community services under the same roof when they open the Intermountain Community Mental Health Center. Intermountain also begins construction on two brand new cottages on the Residential Campus.