The Elkhorn Cemetery sign has stood for 25 years without being damaged.
That is, until March, when the sign was found to have more than 80 shots fired through the metal, completely defacing its appearance.
Bruce Bell, with the Jefferson County Museum and member of the Elkhorn Cemetery Society, said they not only counted the number of holes, but also noticed that they were of varying calibers.
“They even shot it with a shotgun,” he said of the sign that recounts the history of the cemetery and its relationship to the town.
Whoever fired the shots also took the time to pick up their spent shells, he said.
As the vandalism is thought to have been done in March, whoever did it would have had to walk up the mountain to the cemetery, as snow was still on the ground, said Bell.
Bell said some Elkhorn residents remember hearing shots, but there is also a shooting area below town at Turnley Creek.
Bell said the Museum is looking at what it would cost to replace the sign, and whether or not there is a template available from the original they could use. Bell believes the photos came from the Montana Historical Society.
During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown period, town residents had reported more traffic in Elkhorn, which is also a state park. That might have been because other venues were not available, he said.
“It was a weird year with COVID-19,” said Bell, adding that they are interested in finding out who did the shooting.
Interestingly, the sign recounts another time of illness, a diphtheria epidemic that led to the deaths of many of the town’s children from 1884-1889. During that time, the town’s school was also shut down, not unlike schools this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bell thinks the vandalism might have been premeditated as there was no other damage beyond the sign, and whoever did it, took the time to pick up the “brass” out of the snow that was on the ground at the time.