February 15, 1893 Died: August 28, 1978
Most anyone who spent any time in Cooke
City before 1978 knew of or was befriended by Nick Babiluk. Here's
a little history on the man that made you feel at home.
Nick was born in the Ukraine, the youngest
of 17 children. In his early teens he left his family behind
and moved to Canada. Nick often said he left home to avoid the
Nick worked at many different jobs. even
working as a cowboy, before hiring on with Canadian Pacific Railroad
laying track across Canada. In the late 1920's, Nick entered
the US at International falls. He intended to return to Canada,
but instead took employment with a firm called Security Bridge
company. While working on a bridge, He fell and was injured.
|He spent 6 months recuperating
in Billings at the Lincoln hotel. While staying at the Lincoln
Hotel, Nick met Azarius Vincelette. Mr. Vincelette owned property
in Silvergate MT, and in 1932, hired Nick to help him build the
Vincelette Lodge and Motel in Silvergate.
| Nick soon invested in
property in Cooke City. As tourists began to pass through the
area enroute to Yellowstone, motor lodges and cafes began to
develop in the area He spent the winter of 1933 - 1934 living
in a tent while he built a gasoline station to serve the tourists
headed for Yellowstone Park. The business started as a Shell
station (photo), but in the late 40's
or early 50's he changed over to the Union 76 company.
|| In July of 1934, Ed
Weydt of Red Lodge Mt, drove a gasoline tanker over the uncompleted
Beartooth highway, and delivered the first load of gas to Cooke
City. Nick, with the help of his friend Ed Weydt, was in business.
Over the next 44 years, Ed was to make some 3000 trips over the
pass delivering gasoline to Nick at the Union 76 in Cooke City,
and in Silver Gate. In addition to building and running the 76
stations in Cooke City and Silvergate, Nick did the inside finish
work on the Range Riders Lodge in Silvergate, the Custer Hotel
in billings, built rental cabins and built rock fireplaces in
many of the towns early structures and homes.
Nick operated his business in a most
unusual way. Serving other people was Nick's main focus in his
business. I recently learned why. Nick relayed the following
story to Lee Holt, who in turn relayed it to me. In early 1933,
Nick was working in silver Gate. He was still on crutches from
his bridge accident. He ran out of gas in Silver Gate one Sunday
morning and had to walk back to Cooke City with his crutches.
The only gas in Cooke City at the time was at the Cooke City
Store. The store was closed. Nick hollered up to the second floor
until Nels Soderholm opened a window and asked Nick what he wanted.
Two hours later Nels finally came down and sold Nick some gas
and then refused to drive him back to his automobile in Silver
Gate. Nick then became determined to open a gas station that
would serve the public at all times.. He was an extremely patient
man who looked only for the good in others.
Nick believed he would never die as long
as he had a project going, which may explain his handiwork in
nearly every cabin and structure in early Cooke City. In early
July 1978, Nick was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. After 10
days in the hospital he was transferred to Western Manor nursing
home in Billings where he passed away on August 28th. His body
A memorial service for Nick was held on
Labor Day in the Cooke City Community Church. Many folks attended
the service from all around the area as Nick had made many friends
during his years in the USA.
Nick tried many times to contact the family
he left behind in Russia. All efforts were unsuccessful.
Photos courtesy of Ed Weydt