This historic site is located off of I-90 near Deer Lodge, Montana.
Johnny Grant, a Canadian, settled in the Deer Lodge Valley of Montana. This area was considered Flathead territory, but it was used as a route to hunting and trading areas by a variety of tribes. Mr. Grant’s marriages to women of several different tribes helped him settle in the valley peacefully.
Conrad Kohrs, a German immigrant, initially came to America in search of gold. He worked as a butcher’s assistant and soon owned butcher shops in many gold camps. (History has shown that very few gold miners got rich, it was the men who ran the supply shops that profited the most.) He partnered with Johnny Grant, who supplied cattle to Mr. Kohrs’ butcher shops. Conrad Kohrs later bought Johnny Grants’ ranch, the latter then returned to Canada.
Due to the large areas of land cattle would roam on the open range, cooperation was required among the ranchers of Montana and resulted in the founding of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. Kohrs’ half brother, John Bielenberg, was Kohrs’ business partner and expert cattleman. John Bielenberg managed the cattle empire and worked to improve the breeding of cow ponies and cattle. The cow ponies Mr. Bielenberg bred were famed for stamina.
After the death of Conrad Kohrs (1920) and John Bielenberg (1922), Conrad Warren, grandson of Conrad Kohrs, took over ranch operations in 1932. He worked to honor his family’s ranching legacy and and run the ranch with new methods. At the time Conrad Warren took over the ranch, only 1,000 acres and few hundred head of cattle remained.
The Grant-Kohrs National Historic site opened in 1977. There are blacksmith demonstrations, a chuck wagon to grab a cup of cowboy coffee (black, no cream, no sugar), and an area to practice your cattle roping skills. There are is a guided house tour and a variety of trails to hike.
What we learned
This is a working ranch. There are chickens, cows, and horses.
We were surprised that the time of the open range was only three decades. The Homestead Act was the beginning of the end to ranches relying on open range.