Allan James Mathews passed away peacefully at home surrounded by love on April 21, 2022. He was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to Henry and Esther Mathews. After graduating from Central High School in 1966, he graduated from Northern State College in Aberdeen with a Bachelor’s degree in Education (History & Sociology), and earned a Masters degree in History from the University of South Dakota, at Vermillion, SD in 1972.
He was employed by the State of South Dakota at Yankton County Social Services as a caseworker from 1973-1974. In March of 1974 he moved to Missoula and was employed as a Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration for the next six years.
He resigned in 1980 to start Blue Rock Family Histories, a historical research and writing business based out of his home in Alberton. He wrote family histories for ten years. During this time he was also a substitute teacher, worked as town park caretaker and had contracts for cleaning highway rest stops; all to keep the historical business afloat. His community involvement included: Town Council member, representative from town council to Missoula Area Council of Government, Mineral County representative to Region VI Human Resource Development Council, president of Alberton Community Development Corporation, founding member of group that started historical annual celebration of Alberton Railroad Day. He also formed Mathews Bros Painting. He did not run for another term as Councilman, but the people of Alberton wrote in his name and he was elected.
In 1990, Allan was hired as Missoula Historic Preservation Officer for the city as an independent contractor. After 4 years he was hired by city/county as HPO, a position he held for 11 years total, during which he built the program into one of the finest in the country. During that time he wrote historic district nominations, conducted educational outreach, worked with business owners to encourage and advise on numerous downtown building restorations, and wrote the text for the bronze historic markers that run from McCormick Park to the University along the River Trail.. He successfully worked to expand Missoula’s historic districts from 2 to 5. He also started the Missoula Historic Preservation Awards program. Missoula’s historic preservation program became a model for other cities and towns in Montana and was recognized with the State Historic Preservation award for the best preservation program. The program also received a national ranking as 15th in the nation for preservation of historic resources. Allan served as president of the Montana Preservation Alliance (MPA), and as part of that became a member of a team of architects and preservationists who took preservation methods to small towns throughout Montana. MPA also worked hard to save Virginia City from becoming an amusement park by lobbying the state to purchase much of the town and manage a preservation program there.
In 2001 Allan was honored as “Preservationist of the Decade,” by the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission.
Allan authored A Guide to Historic Missoula, which won a national commendation award from the American Association of State and Local Historians. He continued self-employment, conducting historic walking tours that were described by one author as, “An experience in time travel.” He continued work consulting on historic restoration projects, and writing national register nominations, including the successful nomination of Missoula’s Downtown Historic District. Because of this designation, historic district highway signs were provided by the state, resulting in thousands of more tourists visiting the downtown and providing economic stimulus. He was hired as consultant on the building addition to the Missoula Art Museum. He also served as project historian and restoration consultant for the Bab’s Building restoration.
In mid-2005 Allan was hired by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a seasonal interpretive park ranger serving at Garnet Ghost Town. In 2009, he was hired by the BLM as an historian and directed to write the nomination to place Garnet Ghost Town on the National Register of Historic Places, a goal that had seen numerous unsuccessful attempts over a 20-plus-year time frame. He was successful in getting the town listed in 2010.
Allan taught Walking Through Missoula’s Past, as part of the Molli adult education program through the University. There was always a waiting list to get into Allan’s class. He continued his Missoula Historic Tours business. Allan loved Missoula. He was described by Missoulian editor, Sherry Devlin, as… “Missoula’s pre-eminent local historian and preservationist.”
Allan was preceded in death by his parents, brother Bill and nephew Jay Mathews. He is survived by his loving spouse, Judy Ewer Mathews, step children, Matthew Kranzler (Ella and Auri). Kaitlin Turner (Lawrence), brothers Jack (Marlys) and Rob Mathews, former spouse Cynthia Quinn Mathews and best friend Stephen Bert.
Memorials should be directed to the Humane Society of Western Montana (http://myhswm.org/) in Allan’s name. Online condolences may be left at gardencityfh.com.
A Celebration of Life is planned for June 17 from 4-7 pm at Highlander Brewing pavilion in Missoula, MT.