The City of East Helena is currently in the construction process of building a new 1-million-gallon water storage tank and upgrading the McClellan Creek well sites. As a result, treatment of water pipe corrosion at the McClellan Creek source was stopped during construction. Through discussions with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), it has come to the city’s attention that pausing this process during construction was in violation of current DEQ rules. The city has been conducting water sampling around the city per DEQ requirements. The results have shown that the public water supply remains in compliance. The city is working with DEQ in hopes of expediting their review process to operationally start corrosion treatment at our Wylie well sources. This treatment at both the McClellan Creek and Wylie well sites will ensure we continue to produce and provide the safest public water supply possible.

Kevin Ore, Public Works Director
City of East Helena

Notice & Invitation
East Helena Smelter Site Public Meeting


Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 6:00 p.m.
METG Office – 325 Manlove Ave.
Use meeting ID 946 584 8922 and passcode B8U7EX
Or call 646-876-9923 and use meeting ID 946 584 8922 and passcode 664564

Click this link to join ZOOM meeting:
(or Click on the graphic)

Click this link for full information:

10 Ways Residents Can Plug Into Their Community

by PPJ contributor: Kelli Brewer
(click on the photo for the full story)

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

All Ages: First Friday on December 2 from 10am to 5pm.
This is the last First Friday.

Young adult books are available for teens to choose from and keep.

Free goodies, a snack, and a beverage are available for patrons of all ages.

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

East Helena Slag Removal Project, June 2022

(Click on the small photos to view full-size)

The slag removal project is progressing at the East Helena Site. Unfumed slag is crushed and moved onto a conveyor that transports slag to the load-out area. There, rail cars transport the slag to the Port of Vancouver, B.C., where it will be shipped to South Korea for zinc processing. This project will significantly reduce the size of the slag pile at the Site, before it is regraded and capped.
For more information, visit

The new sidewalk will be constructed on the NORTH side of Lewis Street.

East Helena School District and Montana Department of Transportation are working to construct a sidewalk that will connect Prickly Pear Elementary to East Valley Middle School. This will enable more than 1,000 students to walk safely to and from school and their homes.

The sidewalk project will likely be completed by the summer of 2024.
Click on the map to view full-size 

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.

(Click on these covers to view full-size)
These are actual covers of Prickly Pear Junction printed editions from 2010. Becky Buckmaster and Jolene Giarde produced 8-page, beautiful publications every month for many years and only stopped in 2011 when costs of printing became prohibitive. I was building the official website for the City of East Helena at the time so it was logical that I take over and create a digital version of Prickly Pear Junction. Advantages of digital over print are numerous.

Prickly Pear Junction “Cloud”
Our History

Quote from the book Prickly Pear Junction ~ East Helena’s Heritage
“Prickly Pear Junction: A Mini-newspaper which began publication in 1992 and continued until 1999. It was sponsored by the East Helena Improvement Association and Sharon McDowell-Foster produced the publication. The name of the paper was taken from both the original name of the City of East Helena and a publication which came into being during the Centennial in 1988.”

Sometime later, Becky Buckmaster and Jolene Giarde created an 8-page print version of PPJ and continued to produce it until 2010. By that year print media was losing favor to digital forms. In 2011 they announced they would be giving up the print version of PPJ. I believed PPJ should continue but only as a digital publication. I approached then-superintendent Ron Whitmoyer, and then-mayor Anthony Strainer, along with Becky and Jolene, and proposed turning Prickly Pear Junction into a digital publication. They agreed, gave me full ownership at no cost, and I have been producing Prickly Pear Junction online ever since.

From the History of

In 2000 I developed an 800-page website for The site extensively covered Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Drug Interactions, Vitamins, and much more. When the tech bubble burst in 2001, these websites were discontinued and taken offline. I still have much of the digital content and rights to use it. There are several hundred pages available and it makes fairly interesting reading.

informational purposes only.


Read stories from past editions of
Prickly Pear Junction!

Contact Us ~ Click Here!

For full information about East Helena Branch Library:
Click on this banner! Thanks!

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:

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

East Helena Pantry Is Currently Open!

The East Helena pantry is open with curbside Grab And Go service Mondays and Thursdays. The Lewis Street Pantry in Helena is open for both Choice Shopping inside or curbside Grab And Go service, depending on your preference, 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, and all you have to do is show a form of ID and give the number of people in your household.

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

Monday 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

* * * * * * * * * 


         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

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)>  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026