1910 Kalispell Ordinance: Vagrants

Real Estate Broker/Owner with 406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker/REALTOR® RRE-BRO-LIC-75443

I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one ordinance from each year. This week's post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1910 about vagrants.

Ordinance #217 from 1910 addressed:

  • Everyone ("except an Indian") who has the physical ability to work but does not seek or accept work
  • Every healthy beggar who collects "alms" as a business
  • Every person who roams around town doing nothing lawful
  • Every idle person who is an associate of known thieves and roams around the streets late at night
  • Every idle person who lodges in a shed, barn, outhouse, vessel or any place that's not meant for lodging without permission of the owner
  • Every "lewd" person who lives in or around "houses of ill-fame" or lives with or uses earnings of a "woman of bad repute"
  • Every common prostitute or drunk.

The Ordinance goes on to say all the people above are considered vagrant and could be put in jail for ninety days.  


How have things changed since 1910?

Evidently the town of Kalispell was having issues with vagrancy in 1910. It also appears they considered alcoholics and those who live in "houses of ill-fame" in the same bucket as someone begging for money on the street. I'm thinking those who live in brothels (which is probably what houses of ill-fame are) actually DID work and did make money so they were lumping various behaviors into the "vagrant" category. They also excluded native Americans - it would be interesting to find out exactly why the distinction was made.

That being said, what's different in the Kalispell of 2023? Anything?

Yes and No.

First, those who collect "alms" are now called panhandlers. And panhandling is not illegal. Current ordinances do ban panhandling in specific locations. Specifically it is not allowed with 20 feet of an intersection, at a bus stop, on mass transit and on private property. Otherwise, there is nothing that says a "healthy beggar" in 2023 cannot collect "alms."" So that has changed.

And what about someone who lodges in a shed, barn, outhouse, vessel or any place that's not meant for lodging without permission of the owner? Today that behavior is considered criminal trespassing. Anyone convicted of this crime would receive a fine of up to $500 and/or be put in jail for up to six months. So this is still not allowed but the penalties have changed.

Next, prostitution remains a taboo although prostitutes are not called vagrants. While in 1910 a prostitute might get up to 90 days in jail, in 2023 they could get up to 6 months, a fine of up to $500 or both. Interestingly enough, in 2023, a person patronizing a prostitute is worse off. They could get a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail for a first offense and a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 5 years in jail for a second offense. So this is still not allowed but the penalties are different.

What about "houses of ill-fame" aka brothels? They are no more. The longest continuously running brothel in the United States was located in Butte, Montana. The Dumas Brothel opened in 1890 and closed in 1982 (for business) but is now open for tours in the Spring and Summer months.

And there you have it, another blast from the past of Kalispell Montana. I wonder what I'll find the next time I peek into the Kalispell Ordinances?

As always if you have any real estate related questions, feel free to give me a call on 406-270-3667 or email me at kat@thehousekat.com.

Originally published at thehousekat.com.

Comments (24)

George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Kat it might not be a bad idea to bring this ordinance back again ..... LOL

Mar 15, 2023 04:39 PM
Kat Palmiotti

haha George Souto 

Mar 15, 2023 05:59 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Kat- This was really interesting reading on who was considered a vagrant. Things have changed as have the names we call them. We used to have The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas which they made a movie and musical out of. It was a real  place too. 

Mar 15, 2023 08:19 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Kathy Streib - oh yes, houses of ill-repute were definitely a thing!

Mar 16, 2023 04:50 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Kat loved your historical perspective I believe this is number two? and I loved your first one too, now with that said I enjoyed this one too, Endre

Mar 15, 2023 10:27 PM
Kat Palmiotti

I've written six so far, Endre Barath, Jr. !  Fruit pests, automobiles, annual appropriations, saloon hours, dog regulations and vagrants have been covered so far!

Mar 16, 2023 04:51 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

That is certainly interesting and the world definitely has changed a lot since way back then, haha.

Mar 16, 2023 05:32 AM
Kat Palmiotti

It sure has Brian England !

Mar 16, 2023 06:00 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Kat - this journey does not provide the same insights as you did along the Appalachian trail.  However, your discovery of the ordinance of the past provides a glimpse of Kalispell history.  

Mar 16, 2023 07:18 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Michael Jacobs  - you are right, this is a totally different series than the hiking log entries!

Mar 16, 2023 08:58 AM
Michael Jacobs

Kat Palmiotti - still enjoyable.  

Mar 16, 2023 09:18 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Kat Palmiotti - your like an archaeologist digging up the past and it is all so interesting! 

Keep digging! Your stories are great!

Mar 16, 2023 07:40 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you so much Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP !

Mar 17, 2023 04:23 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Kat Palmiotti,

This blast from the past was very interesting.  I can't recall the last time I heard the term vagrant.  I never took that term to mean anything more than being homeless.  I learned quite a bit today!

Mar 17, 2023 09:29 AM
Kat Palmiotti

I didn't think that meant anything more than homeless either, Sheri Sperry - MCNE® !

Mar 17, 2023 10:05 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Interesting to learn about past laws compared to current ones, Kat. Not sure I'd want to take a tour through a 'cat house' to experience a paranormal event! LOL

Mar 17, 2023 11:50 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! - but you could if you wanted to! :-)

Mar 17, 2023 11:52 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!

Yes, if...LOL! 🤣

Mar 17, 2023 11:55 AM
Brian L. Sirota, Esq.
Bristar Realty (Realtor/Attorney) - Orange, CA
For Solutions: (714) 501-7660

Kat Palmiotti, to compare and contrast past and present ordinances, you really rolled up your sleeves.   A totally fun post to read!

I can't help but wonder the difference between a common and uncommon prostitute.  I'd venture a guess, but it wouldn't be publishable ;-)

Mar 17, 2023 01:49 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha, Brian L. Sirota, Esq. - we'll leave that guess in your head!

Mar 17, 2023 02:51 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Kat,

I like you taking the time to research past ordinances. Its apparent the town of Kalispell was having issues with vagrancy in 1910. You found somethings have changed since then and some have not. Very interesting read. I can't recall the last time I heard the term vagrant but then our English language has been assaulted with so many new terms it's hard to recognize our past and what to expect in the future.

Mar 18, 2023 09:04 AM
Kat Palmiotti

You are so correct about the way word usage changes Dorie Dillard Austin TX . Someone told me recently we aren't supposed to use the word "gypped" anymore because it's discriminatory against gypsies.

Mar 18, 2023 09:12 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Mar 18, 2023 06:15 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you Kathy Streib !

Mar 19, 2023 11:21 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

How Kat and thank you for your history lesson of what use to be up in your area.  Make it a great Spring week.

Mar 19, 2023 09:00 AM
Kat Palmiotti

You too Will Hamm !

Mar 19, 2023 09:50 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Kat Palmiotti  so glad Kathy Streib featured this I missed it looks like your escapades

Mar 19, 2023 10:47 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you for reading it, Hannah Williams !

Mar 19, 2023 11:21 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Those are some interesting rules and how strange that a vagrant cannot be an Indian. 

Mar 19, 2023 07:33 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Ed Silva 

There is a reservation at the south end of Flathead Lake - I'm wondering if they just had different rules?

Mar 20, 2023 05:08 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Great post  - I am glad that Kathy Streib featured you in her collection this week.   I love hearing about the history of Kalispell!  Please keep sharing with us - and I had no idea gypped went back to gypsies! 

Mar 20, 2023 05:46 AM
Kat Palmiotti

I didn't either until recently told Lise Howe !

Mar 20, 2023 07:17 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

That was a fun read, Kat. Thank you!

Mar 20, 2023 03:49 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you for taking the time to read it Marte Cliff !

Mar 20, 2023 04:03 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Kat - I wish I'd take time to do the same kind of research here in Bonner County. I admire you for digging into the past in your new home town.

Mar 20, 2023 04:21 PM
Kat Palmiotti

I'm actually learning a lot, both about how this place used to be and how it is now - It's a lot of fun Marte Cliff 

Mar 20, 2023 05:37 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Kat, I missed this one, and very interesting ordinances you are finding!

Mar 21, 2023 07:50 AM
Kat Palmiotti

I hope I don't run out of them too soon Joan Cox !

Mar 21, 2023 07:52 AM
Joan Cox

You are finding quite a few that a VERY interesting!

Mar 21, 2023 09:38 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

OMG, I LOVE these blasts from the oh-so-distant pasts, Kat! I learned something about gypped - who knew? 

I have found some of the older Deed restrictions here that included certain skin colors may not 'own' the property but, they can live on it...only horse-drawn buggies, etc. It definitely demonstrates how far we have come in the last century!

Mar 24, 2023 07:44 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Debe Maxwell, CRS - it's amazing what we can find when we look into history!

Mar 25, 2023 04:24 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Kat. Oh the times have changed in Kalispell or maybe just people's perception on how things should be have changed. Very interesting as a pondering point. Keep them coming. Enjoy your day.

Mar 25, 2023 03:08 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you Wayne Martin . Actually even more interesting, there was a new ordinance accepted this week that makes it illegal to panhandle, or to give money to a panhandler!!!

Mar 25, 2023 04:22 AM