Kalispell founder’s granddaughter dies

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On July 24, Alicia “Timmie” Vick, the granddaughter of Kalispell founder Charles E. Conrad, died in Missoula at 89. She was one of the last people to have actually lived in the Conrad Mansion, now maintained as a museum in Kalispell.

Born on Jan. 15, 1921, Timmie was the daughter of Alicia Conrad and her first husband Walter McCutcheon. Her extended family played an enormous role in the development of the West and Montana in particular, according to information compiled by Northwest Digital Archives and the Conrad Mansion Museum.

Her grandfather Charles E. Conrad lived a life that seems plucked from a novel, beginning with his birth to a gracious lifestyle in 1850 to Maria and Col. James Warren Conrad on a plantation called Wapping in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

As in “Gone with the Wind,” the Civil War changed forever the life of his huge family that included 12 siblings. His father joined the Virginia militia regiment while Charles and his brother William rode with the famed 43rd Partisan Rangers under legendary John Singleton Mosby in the last two years of the war.

With their plantation unable to support all 13 children after the war, Charles and William headed West in 1868 with just a silver dollar between them to seek their fortune. They found it with I. G. Baker & Co. in transportation using riverboats and ox-drawn freight wagons to develop the regions that became Montana and Alberta.

Sometime before 1876,  Charles married Sings-in-the-Middle, daughter of a Blackfeet leader of the North Peigan, and they had one son, Charles Edward Conrad Jr. She returned to her tribe in 1887 where she later died of influenza, but their son remained with Charles and was educated in Canadian boarding schools and colleges. He made his adult home in Montreal.

Charles used his tribal connection in 1877 to help bring peace as a successful negotiator of a treaty between the British government of Canada and the five tribes of the high plains after the Nez Perce War and terrible massacres on the United States side of the border.

In 1881, he married Alicia Davenport “Lettie” Stanford, who was running a school for children and young ladies in Fort Benton. About a decade later, Charles and his brother sold their I. G. Baker & Co. to their competitor, the Hudson’s Bay Co., to take advantage of opportunities from the coming of the transcontinental railroads.

The brothers subsequently founded the Conrad Banking Co. of Great Falls, Kalispell Townsite Co., Conrad National Bank of Kalispell, Conrad Price Cattle Co., Conrad Circle Cattle Co. and Queen of the Hills Mining Co. They founded the towns of Conrad and Kalispell where Charles built the mansion for his family.

He hired Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter to design the 13,000-square foot grand home with arches, gables and bay windows. Completed in 1895, the mansion featured a Norman-style interior with quarter-sawn oak trim, eight sandstone fireplaces, diamond-paned, leaded glass windows and 11 panels of Tiffany-style stained glass.

Along with the exquisite mansion, Charles made another contribution to posterity by helping prevent the extinction of the buffalo by maintaining a herd of 50 animals. His breeding stock eventually seeded more herds in Canada and became the basis of the national bison herd in Moise.

Charles and his wife Alicia D. had three children. The first two, Charles Davenport and Catherine “Kate,” were born in Fort Benton. Alicia, Timmie’s mother, was born in Kalispell in 1892.

Charles died at 52 in 1902 from complications of diabetes and tuberculosis before Alicia’s marriage to Timmie’s father, Walter McCutcheon, an employee of the Kalispell Mercantile Co. The Conrad Mansion Web site, wwwconradmansion.com, features a photo on its home page of Alicia at 22 in her exquisite gown on her wedding day of June 10, 1914.

 Timmie, their only child, was born in Portland, Ore., in 1921. The couple divorced in 1924.

Her mother’s second marriage was to George Henry Campbell of Great Falls, an engineering graduate of Yale who joined his father to form a central Montana land management firm. They had one son, Charles “Joni” Campbell who now lives in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Timmie moved with her mother, step-father and brother to the Conrad Mansion in 1933 during the Depression when she was 12. It remained her mother’s primary residence until she donated it to the city of Kalispell in 1974. She died at 88 in 1981.

Timmie’s recently-published obituary detailed her life including graduation from Flathead County High School in 1938 and her career in the radio business as a show host, a newscaster as well as a copywriter for KEVR in Seattle. She married Richard Vick in January 1949 and the couple had three children, Sharon Durado of Kalispell, Richard Vick of Boise, Idaho, and Christopher Vick of Seattle.

Timmie and her husband moved to Missoula in the early ’60s where she worked at Holy Spirit parish for 23 years and was a partner in their family business, Vick Gallery. Richard preceded her in death in 2008.

Michael Kofford, Conrad Mansion museum director, posted a photo on the mansion’s Facebook page of Timmie at 4 in a fetching frock sitting before the huge cookstove in the mansion. He said that Sylvia Murphy, whose husband James wrote “Half Interest in a Silver Dollar” about the Conrad family, vividly remembered her as a child.

“She said that Timmie was the most beautiful child she had ever seen,” he said.

Kofford learned quite a bit of information about the mansion from Timmie’s son Christopher. Kofford never met Timmie but she was hoping to visit here when her health declined before she could make a last pilgrimage to the estate now preserved as a memorial to her pioneering family.

People may take hourly tours of the Conrad Mansion located on Woodland Avenue between Third and Fourth streets East in Kalispell. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 for children under 12 for tours that run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays through Oct. 15.

Christmas tours begin the day after Thanksgiving and run through Dec. 30. For more information, check the Web site listed above or call 755-2166.

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at cchase@dailyinterlake.com.

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