John Riley

HELENA (KPAX) — Prominent Montana historian and award-winning author Ellen Baumler has died. According to sources familiar with the situation, Baumler had been battling cancer for a while. She was 74.

Baumler was an interpretive historian at the Montana Historical Society from 1992 until her retirement in 2018.

Her work includes developing and writing walking tours of historic districts, creating interpretive signs for historical sites such as the Montana Department of Transportation historical markers, and helping Montana landmarks and sites receive National Register recognition.

She authored numerous books and dozens of articles on diverse Montana topics including “Montana Chillers: 13 True Tales of Ghosts and Hauntings” and “Spirit Tailings: Ghost Tales from Virginia City, Butte, and Helena.”

The Montana Historical Society said on Monday, December 18, 2023, that they were deeply saddened to hear of her passing.

“Ellen’s contributions to the field of Montana history were nothing short of remarkable,” noted Montana Historical Society Director Molly Kruckenberg. “She was a champion advocate for the preservation of Montana’s historic places. She spent countless hours inspiring students and life-long learners to study history and to make history accessible. She excelled at making the past relevant, understandable, and enjoyable, making her a respected and beloved Montana historian.

“Ellen’s contributions to Montana history were as big and wide as our skies and she will be greatly missed.”

Baumler’s career can be described as helping make history accessible for all.

“A lot of times people write academic articles, and they have interesting information, but nobody ever gets to learn that stuff. And so, making it available to the public really is my mission, has always been my mission. And I feel like I’ve been fairly successful,” Baumler told MTN News in August.

Baumler had a particular love for the unusual bits of history she discovered during her research including the funny, bizarre, and interesting. She also had a great passion for the Treasure State’s ghost stories.

In 2011, she received the Governor’s Award for the Humanities. Earlier this year she received the Montana Heritage Keeper Award from the Montana Historical Society.

Baumler earned her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in English, classics, and history.