Friday, July 21, 2017

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

This morning we said goodbye to Dillon, Montana about 9:30 am and headed north toward Glacier National Park. 
Cierra & Hunter getting ready to load up in the truck.
Once we left I-15 we traveled west on I-90 until I saw Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and I remembered it was in my National Parks book, so we turned off.  I had read about it in my National Parks book, so I turned off at the exit and drove through the town of Deer Lodge, Montana.

While driving down the main street in Deer Lodge it was very quaint and I think I could have spend a whole day in this town alone!  There was also the Old Montana State Prison with it's wonderfully preserved stone walls and brick buildings.  We really wanted to visit this, but we had to choose between Grant-Kohrs and that.  Shame.

Old Montana State Prison - Presumably haunted now...
Once at Grant-Kohrs, just a couple miles out of town, I was pleasantly surprised with this historic site and wonderful park workers and was warmly greeted with an offering of home-made ice cream!  I went into the Visitors Center and had my book stamped and discovered they did a junior ranger program so I went back to the RV and asked the kids if they wanted to do it, and so we did.  Scott stayed behind to work so I took the kids to explore.
The park ranger offered the kids some home-made ice cream.
Once the kids finished their ice-cream, another ranger in the building gave them their junior ranger packets to start working on.  It was a very nice National Historic Site - clean and well kept.  The rangers and volunteers were extremely friendly.

Next, we walked down the path, under the railroad tresses to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.  We were just in time for the 12:00 noon ranch house tour, so we attended that.

Finishing up Ice Cream
This was fun because we just did the Utah Golden Spike Jr Ranger program about trains.
Under the shade tree before we go into the ranch house.
The ranch house was built by John Francis Grant, a Ontario born French Canadian.  His mother died young and was raised by his grandmother in Quebec.  He followed the fur trade until it died out and then headed west where in 1850 he left his father's household and settled nearby, marrying a Shoshone woman, Quarra.  He built the first part of the house in 1862.  He wrote with pride her accomplishments:  she spoke French, English and several Indian languages.  She also made "very nice butter" and "could ride horses that many could not."  His complex family eventually numbered 26 children from eight mothers!
John Francis Grant
According to the NPS: "Park of his new house was a trading post, but even as he was building it, the character of the territory was changing forever.  Gold strikes in Bannack, Virginia City, Last Chance Gulch and other areas brought a flood of miners into southwest Montana.  Grant tried to accommodate the newcomers, opening a livery stable, saloon, blacksmith shop, sawmill, flour mill, and other businesses, but saw little success.  With steamboats now able to bring goods from St. Louis to Fort Benton, Montana (1864), he ran 28 freight wagons between the steamboat terminus and Deer Lodge.

At last, Grant decided to return to Canada, as did most of the other French-Canadians in the valley.  He sold his ranch to Conrad Kohrs in 1866 and left his family for several months while he search for a new place to settle.  Choosing the Carmen, Manitoba area, he returned to Deer Lodge to find that Quarra had died of tuberculosis.  Gathering his remaining family, he left with a party of 200.  The fur trade era was over and the gold rush was in full swing, but before he left, Grand had established the livestock industry in the valley.  In the long run, it would outlast mining and trade." Read about his life here.  

Conrad Kohrs
The property was then acquired by Conrad Kohrs (read about his life) was born in Carsten Wewelsfleth, a fishing town in the province of Holstein, at that time a possession of Denmark.  It became a part of Germany, and Kohrs considered himself German.  The lure of gold drew him to California, to the Fraser River country of Canada, and finally to Montana Territory in 1862.  He found gold, not only in the mines, but in his gold camp butcher shops and eventually in a cattle empire that sprawled over four states and two Canadian provinces.  His empire was built on a solid foundation, beginning with the home ranch purchased from Johnny Grant in 1866.  He lived in the house and expanded it and ranched the land for a time until he went to Iowa to marry his sweetheart, Augusta Kruse, another German.

The entire ranch was so amazing and it isn't surprising he was worth billions!  His contributions earned him the nickname, "Montana's Cattle King."

After the ranch house tour, Hunter wanted to meet a real-life cowboy so the ranger radioed him and he took the kids to meet, Fox, a beautiful red sable horse.

The kids weren't sure they wanted to touch old Fox but...
...they quickly warmed up.
After we visited with Fox, Hunter and Cierra wanted to see the blacksmith shop.  They were very surprised to see a woman blacksmith!  She talked to them all about the trade and made an old fashioned nail that Hunter took home.
In the blacksmith shop.
Forging iron
Next, we went the the stables next to see the tack area.  Here we decided we'd better fill out those junior ranger booklets and so they did.  We hiked back over to the visitors center but not before I took a cute photo of Cierra under a tree.
Cierra with her Junior Ranger booklet
All said and done, we were really glad to take two hours out of our day to visit this really interesting place and sample a bit of the old west.

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