Old Pitt, Elephant Killed by Lightning
Old Pitt lived most of her life as one of the famed elephants of John Robinson III. At its zenith, Robinson's Great Combination Show had the largest herd in the captive world, but a bank panic in 1916 forced him to sell out to Ringling Brothers.
Robinson retired to a farm in Terrace Park, a Cincinnati suburb, but kept four of his oldest elephants -- Clara, Tillie, Tony and Pitt -- with him. Neighbors became accustomed to seeing elephants pulling plows, or wandering along the roads.
Robinson still toured them from time to time, performing their old circus act, " The Military Elephants." According to news accounts, "The elephants would dash about in military garb, maneuver and fire cannons. One would fall wounded and Tillie, wearing a Red Cross nurse's cap, would rush to the rescue."
Robinson died in 1921. Over the next decade, Clara, Tillie and Tony joined him (Tillie was buried wearing her nurse's cap). Finally, in 1942, Mrs. Robinson gave Pitt, who was then more than 100 years old, to the Cole Brothers circus. In August of 1943, the circus was working its way across Montana in a series of one-nighters, on its way toward Salt Lake City. On August 6th they pulled into Dillon in the southwest part of the state. Old Pitt never left.
The elephants were grouped together at the fairgrounds when a severe storm approached. Out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning zapped down and struck Pitt, knocking her over and killing her instantly. The other elephants were badly stunned and disheveled, but recovered, as did circus owner Zach Terrell, who was attending them.
Pitt was honored with a funeral ceremony, and circus folk adorned her grave with flowers. A permanent marker was later installed, and a white fence placed around the grave.
Almost 70 years later, the grave, marker and fence still can be found at the Beaverhead County Fairgrounds, back behind the rodeo stands in the middle of a field. A small sapling has been added inside the fence. When we visited early one morning, it all seemed very lonely, but it is probably less so when an event is taking place. Note to all those visiting early in the morning: There is high hurricane fence all around the Fairgrounds, but only the half around the main entrance has the barbed wire on top of it.