UNKNOWN SOLDIERS East Helena, Montana

If you want to honor an unknown soldier this Memorial Day, where would you have to go? How about right here in East Helena? There are 4 graves of unknown soldiers at the old East Helena Cemetery on Montana Avenue, East Helena.



Looking across Wylie Drive from the end of Main Street. This is the construction site for a new 26,000-square-foot Town Pump that includes a 22,500–square-foot convenience store and 3,500-square-foot Lucky Lil’s Casino. Town Pump will include 11 fuel pumps with 22 fueling stations and 4 RV dumps. Completion is scheduled for March/April 2024.  The $14.4 million project at Wylie Drive and Highway 12 will be one of the chain’s largest stores.

Just a sign of the times — our little town is growing up.

Current plans are for East Helena to more than quadruple its housing capacity over the next decade. Our current population is about 2,000 with approximately 900 housing units.

Major housing and commercial developments are being planned by Helena Area Habitat for Humanity, Power Townsend, and other housing companies, which stand to gain more than 2,300 mixed-income housing units in the next couple of years. A manufacturing facility and a new commercial district south of the highway are also planned.

The local Habitat and Power Townsend’s proposed projects incorporate 300 homes, including single-family units, smaller townhomes, and a multi-family apartment complex. Additionally, a planned Power Townsend manufacturing facility is in the works. Clearly, our little town is growing up. Valley Drive/Montana Avenue needs to be able to support this progress.

Valley Drive/Montana Avenue 

The bridge crossing the canal on Valley Drive (near Custer Ave.) has been reconstructed and widened during Spring Break: March 27 through April 2.
This work is preliminary to the full reconstruction of Valley Drive/Montana Ave. which should begin sometime in the next year. Exact dates are unknown but when complete Valley Drive traffic (as pictured below) will be greatly reduced.

PPJ’s favorite auto repair shop, J4 AUTOMOTIVE, is updating the front office/waiting room!

• The top photo shows the current state of construction.

• The middle photo shows J4 before construction began.

• The bottom photo shows an artist’s rendering of the finished building.

• Completion of the project is anticipated for early April, 2023.

Montana Environmental Trust Group Website:

NOW OPEN! New Soil Repository on Smelter Road! CLICK HERE for full information!

METG video showing 2022 progress made at the East Helena site

Watch this video to see the progress that Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) made in 2022 at the former ASARCO Smelter Site in East Helena.

 As trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, METG managed remediation of the 80-acre Wylie Drive parcel on Prickly Pear Creek, enabling the Greenway Trail to open in mid-2022. The Prickly Pear Creek bypass channel – built to relocate the creek – was substantially removed in 2022.

 The multiyear removal of unfumed slag from the 16-million-ton slag pile for reprocessing in South Korea continued in 2022.

 Not least, having sold or donated nearly 800 acres of former ASARCO lands for public and private projects, METG is actively pursuing sale or transfer of the remaining ± 900 acres of former ASARCO lands.

Click on this banner to use a SEARCH BUTTON to find a name on the Servicemembers Monument.

Call: 406.227.5750

East Helena Branch

16 East Main Street, East Helena
10 am to 6 pm Monday – Wednesday
10 am to 5 pm Thursday – Friday
10 am to 1 pm Saturday

Closed Sunday

(Click on these images to view full-size.)

East Helena Branch Library May Happenings          (Use Scroll Bar)

For Children:
Storytime on Wednesdays at 10:30am. Enjoy a picture book or two with a like-themed activity to make and take home. All ages are welcome. Activities are geared towards pre-school ages with adult assistance. All ages welcome. May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

Movie for K-12: How to Train Your Dragon will be shown on May 24th, 4-6pm. Popcorn and soda will be provided. Movie is rated PG and runs 98 minutes.
Teens (6th-12th grades):
TeenTime on the 1st Thursday, May 4th (Star Wars Day), after school until 5:00pm. Snacks are provided. Project/Craft will be Star Wars Origami!

The Democracy Project on Tuesday May 2 & 9, 4-5pm. Snacks are provided. The Democracy Project is a teen-led, non-partisan initiative supported by local libraries, community partners, and Humanities Montana. This program gives teens the resources to effect change and know their role in an evolving democracy through direct civic participation. Students work for six months on projects they feel are vital to their community, ending with a public showcase.

Reading Circle Book Group meets every last Friday of the month at 3:00pm. For May, the meeting is the 26th. The title this month is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. A limited supply of books are available to share among the group.
Movie based on Reading Circle Book from April: May 5th 3-5pm. Arrival is rated PG-13 and 116 minutes long. Popcorn and soda provided.

All Ages:
Wizard Wednesdays: May 17th from 4-6pm. This program recurs on the third Wednesday of every month in 2023 in East Helena. Patrons may bring in their tablets or phones for one-on-one assistance with online library services, including downloading e-books and audiobooks and managing family library accounts. (Disclaimer: We cannot help with non-library apps, hardware issues, or lost passwords / locked devices.)

Board Game Saturday on May 20th from 10am-1pm. The library has board games to choose from or bring your own. We’ll provide a hot or cold drink while participants enjoy playing board games with other patrons.

Quarterly Craft Swap: Drop off/Donate slightly used or new crafts on May 22 & 23. Shop for free and new-to-you crafts on May 24 & 25.

I posted this a couple of years ago. Recently a few people have asked that I pull it from the Archives Page and re-post:


East Helena, once called Prickly Pear Junction, came into being as a stagecoach station. The stagecoach route between Helena and Martinsdale passed through Prickly Pear Junction. The original station was built a few years before East Helena was founded. The Prickly Pear House, stagecoach station, and hotel were located on the Northeast corner of Main and Montana Streets. It was operated as a “Way Station” to provide customers with food and lodging and as a changing place for drivers and horses on the stagecoach route during the 1870s and early 1880s. The stagecoach barn was located at what is today 408 East Main Street.

The origins of East Helena can be traced back to the mid-1860s as pioneers were heading west through the Helena Valley. East Helena’s current business district was frequently used as a camping area for freight wagons. 

The townsite of East Helena was filed in the office of the Lewis and Clark County Clerk and Recorder’s office on September 29, 1888.

The City of East Helena, Montana was incorporated on August 7, 1927.

If truth be told, I rather wish we were still called Prickly Pear Junction.


Read stories from past editions of
Prickly Pear Junction!

Contact Us ~ Click Here!

View 8 more Panos: Click Here

Saint Chales Hall, Carroll College, Helena, Montana ~ September 8, 2002
All photos and panoramas by david george hill.


Help is right here!

Times are tough but nobody should go hungry or be left out in the cold! On this page are some resources to help you and your family:

Dept. of Public Health and Human Services: administers SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Call: 1.888.706.1535

Salvation ArmyEmergency food, clothing, shelter, and utility assistance. Call: 406.442.8244

God’s LoveProvides food, shelter, clothing, and any other basic necessities for transients and families. Call: 406.442.7000

LIEAP – Low Income Energy Assistance Program: pays part of winter energy bills for those eligible. Can also help in emergencies if your power is cut off for non payment. Call: 406.447.1625

Rocky Mountain Development Council: https://www.rmdc.net/

If you know a family in need,
please share this information with them.

East Helena Mobile Pantry Update

The East Helena Mobile Pantry is open with service Mondays and Thursdays. The Lewis Street Pantry in Helena is open for Choice Shopping and is open Monday through Friday. If you are in need of food support, please come see us. We have food for all who need it. There is no need to provide an ID – just let us know the number of people in your household.

Mobile Service:
50 Prickly Pear Avenue N.
East Helena, MT 59635
(406) 443-3663

Monday 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

There will NOT be service in Helena during the holidays on

Mondays, Dec 26 & Jan 2
 Nor in East Helena on
Mondays, Dec 26 & Jan 2,
and Thursdays, Dec 29 & Jan 5

See helenafoodshare.org/get-help/locations-and-hours/
for schedule updates.


         In 1993, Gary Thomas bought a building on Main Street in downtown East Helena, Montana for a practical reason: it was the closest commercial space to his house that he could afford. His plan was to change the nature of his business from retail to mail-order and do away with most of his products to concentrate on making sheepskin slippers. It turned out to be a great decision because of something he didn’t initially expect – East Helena is a truly great place to run and operate a business. It’s a small town that should brag about itself more often than it does. Downtown may only be a couple of blocks long, but it has filled up with incredible business owners who are all in it for the long haul. It’s a quiet place in good country.

            There are several reasons for why East Helena works out so well for an independent business. The commercial real estate is reasonably priced yet still easily accessible to the nearby population of the Helena area. Bank access, postal service and City Hall are a few things that are just down the street. The primary element that makes East Helena such a great location is its abundance of amazing neighbors – both in the business community and residents of the town. One of those neighbors that we would like to single out is our incredible local Post Office. We are a mail-order business, and we ship out over 2,000 packages each year. The East Helena Post Office is a local partner that we could hardly do without. Everyone on staff really goes out of their way to streamline the process and get our goods into the postal stream as effortlessly as possible. We owe those folks a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Our Founding
         High Plains Sheepskin was started in the cold and windy basins of southern Wyoming (hence the name “High Plains”) in 1975. Gary’s first shop was in Laramie, WY. After nine years, he moved to Last Chance Gulch in Helena, MT. Then, in 1993, Gary moved one final time to our current location at 5 West Main Street (formally known as Prickly Pear Junction) in East Helena, MT. We are right across the street from Dave and Annie’s restaurant, Main Street Easts (best breakfast around!), and next door to Stacks Clothing CO. & Antiques. This is our factory, warehouse, shipping center and retail outlet all rolled into one.

         Prior to starting High Plains, Gary had several years of experience in the tanning and industrial sheepskin industry. In the tannery, he worked as a sheepskin finisher and grader. As an apprentice under an old school Czech craftsman, Gary made sheepskin paint rollers, industrial applicators, and saddle pads. His passion for doing what he loved led him to work for himself, building High Plains Sheepskin from the ground up. Gary employed many ambition and talented people throughout the years who helped him build and sell his slippers, mittens, and hats. Spencer Haire was his final trusted employee and worked alongside him until Gary made his last pair of slippers. Gary Thomas tragically passed away in August of 2019 leaving Spencer and his wife Casey Sasek to purchase High Plains and continue providing his beloved sheepskin slippers to tens of thousands of customers around the country. They make a good team. Spencer manages the shop and makes all of the products while Casey’s background in banking allows her to handle the books and marketing. In 2020, they welcomed their first son, Jackson, to the wonderful world of sheepskin slippers.

         The new management of High Plains has also hired their first employee, Trevor Held, who is an East Helena native and part of the first graduating class of East Helena High School. Go Vigilantes!

         High Plains Sheepskin has always been a small business. We work all year to make thousands of slippers, mittens, and other products that we then ship to all 50 states, Canada and overseas. We enjoy what we do and love being a part of East Helena’s small but growing community. 

(Click this image to see full size)

Now Open!

PureView East Helena Clinic opened on May 20, 2019 and provides East Helena residents easier access to medical, dental and behavioral health services. The Clinic is a partnership between PureView Health Center, Intermountain and East Helena Public Schools and is located on the grounds of Prickley Pear Elementary School at 250 Academic Street.

The PureView Pharmacy will make daily deliveries to the East Helena Clinic, meaning less travel time for you and your family.  

All forms of insurance are accepted and a sliding fee scale is available for those who qualify.

The Clinic is open Monday-Friday,
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

For quality, affordable care in East Helena, look no further than the PureView East Helena Clinic.

For appointments: 
Call 406.457.8880 or 406.457.0000.

We look forward to serving you.

You can pick up your medication at the PureView East Helena Clinic or have it delivered to your door.  Delivery service is free within a 20 mile radius of PureView Health Center located at 1930 9th Avenue in Helena.  This service covers the entire city of East Helena!

CLICK HERE to see Duke’s crew in action!

J4 Automotive
Visit J4 Automotive Website

Kit and Vi Johnson started J4 Automotive over 22 years ago in 1994 with an SBA loan, some help from family members and a lot of prayers. Fast forward to today and we find the shop doing close to 1 million dollars in gross sales and still family owned and operated. The second generation of Johnson’s are now working in the business, with Kit and Vi’s daughter Nikita and her husband Chris carrying on the strong tradition of outstanding automotive repair and service and giving back to our community. The third generation of Johnson’s (the grand kids shown sitting with Viola) are growing up in the shop just like their mothers did and will most likely continue the family tradition well into the future.

J4 Automotive’s mission statement stresses community service, which they do a lot of. The yellow veterans ribbons, the kids activity tent in the Christmas stroll, sponsor of the spring school clean-up, the Halloween movie in the park and Frite-night are but some of the events Kit and Vi and the J4 Crew organize and participate in. Their experienced staff of seven, including three Master Mechanics, fix all makes and models of vehicles and are the recipient of many awards. The National Technician of the Year, and the Helena Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year are just a few examples of their commitment to excellence.

J4 Automotive is a Better Business Bureau A+ rated member, AAA Top Shop and NAPA AutoCare center that enjoys a 5 star Google and Yelp rating. Give them a call next time you need advice or maintenance and repair on your vehicle and use their convenient pick-up service while you work! 227-8622 or make an appointment on line at j4 Automotive.com.

Our helpful service advisors, Kit Johnson, Chris Pratt and Ryan Pellerini will take care of you and your auto needs!

Contact Us ~ Click Here!

Sales of my artwork and art books on the ETSY Art/Craft website help support
Prickly Pear Junction “CLOUD”.
Click HERE to visit my ETSY Shop!

contact Prickly Pear Junction (Click)> david@davidhill.tv  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026