Stewart Homes
Public Housing Since 1940
Project Named for Enemy of Free Speech!

Stewart Homes, N. Montana Ave. and Butte Ave., Winter 1967


Photo taken from the porch of 309 Stewart Homes. This FHA housing project on Montana Avenue first opened in 1940 with 72 units; 60 more units were added in 1953.

The project was named for Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel V. Stewart (1872-1939). A Democrat, Stewart also served as Governor of Montana from 1913 to 1921. The project was ostensibly named for him because he was instrumental in upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Housing Administration, but Stewart's ultimate legacy is that of an enemy of free speech.

In 1918, Governor Samuel V. Stewart enacted the Montana Sedition Act, which has been called the broadest, most repressive anti-speech law passed by a state in the history of the country. The law applied to anyone who in wartime spoke or published “disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous, contemptuous, slurring or abusive language about the form of government of the United States.”

The accused could then be convicted of sedition at trial, sent to prison for up to 20 years and fined up to $20,000. Of the 145 people charged, 78 were convicted. Of those convicted, 41 were imprisoned.

In May of 2006, thanks to the efforts of those involved in the Sedition Project of the University of Montana's School of Journalism, Governor Schweitzer signed a Proclamation of Pardon for 78 persons convicted of sedition in 1918-1919.

It is hoped by your editor that when Stewart Homes is eventually revtalized, that the name be changed to something more representative of the freedom-loving spirit of Montanans today.


The Kilmer family at Stewart Homes, 1959