Pine Butte School

W of Bozeman, Bozeman, Montana


Pine Butte School

Photo taken by David Jones in March 2016




"Gallatin County, Montana’s first settled agricultural area, had many small communities upon statehood in 1889. State law allowed as few as four residents to petition for the financial assistance needed to establish a school district. Gallatin County especially seized this opportunity. At one time the county had 77 individual school districts. District #53 was established in 1895 and the Pine Butte School built shortly thereafter. Lillie Railsback was the first teacher. She taught her 14 diverse students all subjects at different levels. The school year varied, but most teachers were itinerant, staying in one place for a term of three to four months, then moving to the next assignment. The “Smart School” was Pine Butte’s nickname because the land was purchased from Silas G. Smart. There were three Smart families, and over the years 15 Smart children attended the school. However, 17 Todd children also attended Pine Butte. Descendants of many former students still live in Gallatin County. A classic example of the western one-room schoolhouse, Pine Butte School was a simple gable-ended rectangle with three windows on each side. During the 1920s, the vestibule was added. Circa 1940, the west windows were removed because cross lighting was thought to cause eyestrain. Two of the west windows were added to the east side. Students managed without electricity until 1949, and the one remaining privy reveals a lack of plumbing even today. Pine Butte School served local children until 1955. In 2000, the Pine Butte community acquired this local historic landmark." - NRHP/Montana Historical Society plaque

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 21, 1981
Reference number
Areas of significance
Education; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
School; Secondary structure
Current function
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899; 1925-1949
Significant years
1887; 1920
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 3

Update Log 

  • August 5, 2019: Updated by Richard Doody: Added historical information
  • December 3, 2018: New photos from David Jones