Samuel W. Lewis was one of Bozeman's earliest settlers. When he died in 1896, he also was among its most respected and loved residents.
Lewis was born in Haiti in 1835 and came with his parents to the United States was a child.
After his mother died, his father remarried a Chippewa woman who bore Lewis' half-sister, Edmonia.
After his father died when Lewis was 12, the boy became a barber.
In 1852, he left for California and opened a barber shop in San Francisco. He moved on to the gold fields, where he did some mining and barbering, making enough money to travel to Europe.
He returned to the American West, eventually working in Idaho and then mining camps in Montana.
He displayed an entrepreneur's spirit that even several financial setbacks couldn't dim. Lewis lost $5,000 in gold when two San Francisco firms failed and two buildings that he had constructed in Idaho burned.
He came to Bozeman in 1868, when the fledging town was only 4 years old.
As he had done in other towns, he set up his barbering business along Main Street and became part of the town's commercial life.
Starting in 1874, his name begins to appear in the local newspaper, The Avant-Courier. Several references describe him renovating, expanding and painting his "apple-pie order" barbershop business.
By 1883, he finished construction of his own home on South Bozeman Avenue.
Lewis also built four rental homes, including two that still stand today on South Tracy.
Blacks made up less than 1 percent of the population in territorial Montana, according to a paper written in 1978 by Marilyn McMillan of Bozeman. Lewis was one of only 10 blacks in Bozeman during that time.
In 1884, Lewis married Melissa Bruce, a widow with six children. The couple would have one son, Samuel E. Lewis.
Samuel Lewis died at the age of 63 on March 28, 1896 after a short illness.
The Avant-Courier's lengthy obituary paid tribute to Lewis as a "firm friend, an enterprising, public spirited citizen, a pleasant neighbor, a kind husband and affectionate father."
The funeral was in his home, and his pallbearers included Bozeman's mayor.
"The funeral was largely attended, hundreds of our citizens going to the residence to pay their sincere respect to the memory of the very worthy old-time citizen, and a large number of our citizens in carriages joined the sad procession to the 'silent city of the dead.' "
Lewis was buried at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman in a grave still marked today by a obelisk monument.
Melissa Lewis died in April 1927 from flu and was buried in the family plot.