In 2010 my husband’s niece was getting married in Bozeman. She had been living there training to be a doctor. She met a nice young man who was a policeman for the city. They had planned their wedding at the Woodlands which was southwest of the town.
We decided to fly to Billings, rent a car and drive to Miles City and visit with Bertha again. This time my husband would get to meet her and see the ranch near Jordan.
From Billings we head east to Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. When you are in Montana you have to stop at the Lewis and Clark historical sites along the way.
A little bit about our visit to this historic site from my 2010 travel journal:
We watched the little movie they had in the center and then walked around looking at the displays and getting a lesson on Lewis and Clark’s trip to the Pacific Ocean. Wm. Clark had stopped at Pompey’s Pillar on his way back and he carved his name in the rock. It is now preserved as the only real physical evidence that he had passed this way. In the Visitor Center were maps and little bios of the two men and what they each brought to the project. I have seen the History or Discovery TV channel presentations on this journey and there is very little evidence of the trip. Apparently Clark named the rock Pompey’s Pillar after Sacajawea’s Son. It was his pet name for the child.
We walked up to the signature by way of wooden stairs and a walkway and then to the top of the rock to see the view. It was steep but I was glad I did it. The Yellowstone River meandered to the north of us but it was shrouded in trees.
My hubby wanted to check out a bridge that looked like a train bridge with no tracks. So we went down the road a bit. I could see that there was no real highway but I spotted what looked like the best entrance and got lucky. It was gravel road with a fishing access to the river. The bridge was blocked off and went nowhere. Apparently the old metal bridge was abandoned. A highway was built next to it that was relatively new with a new bridge.
Back out on the highway we continued on H-94 to Miles City. The road was pretty straight and not too challenging. The scenery was ever-changing as we drove along, with buttes and mounds. Some fields were plowed and cultivated. I tried taking photos out the window of the car as we speed along so I apologize for any fuzziness.
We arrived in Miles City about 5 pm.
My cousin was not home so I called her cell phone and she was about 10 minutes way. The air was pleasant so we waited. The grasshoppers were jumping around as we walked in the grass by her house. The home was further north in the city than I remembered. She soon drove up in a large van that was dusty and dirty, typical of Montana. She climbed out and we greeted each other warmly with a hug. Her hair was no longer curly but looked pulled back. I introduced her to my hubby. She introduced her little dog “Lady,” of four years. Apparently Bear had died. It made me sad. I liked that little dog.
The next day we headed up to Jordan and the ranch. We were going to meet up with Bertha’s niece Gloria who was in the area fossil hunting. I wanted them to get together. This time I sat next to Bertha on the passenger side as she drove so I could hear her talk about the history of the area.
As we drove along to Jordan my cousin told us about the people who had lived there. The first ranch was the Moore family 5 miles out who moved into an old school-house at first. There were the Rooney’s by Rock Springs. She mentioned McDonald’s. They lived there Sept-Nov over two years on the Belinkey Ranch and worked for Giddon Bickel brother to her brother-in-law.
She called the different land formations “buttes” and mentioned that there were lots of snakes in them. One was specifically called Snake Butte. She mentioned the creek’s along the way Upper and Lower Sand Creek, Dry Creek. Deadman’s Road where several dead men had been found, but it was not known what happened to them and how they died. As we sped past the little towns she would mention the Post office. Angela was not very big and had two buildings but it was considered a town. There is Cohagen another town. She pointed out the Sheepherder monument that had been put on top of one butte.
The land changed every five miles or more into something different. As you leave Miles City you climb up a hill over the Yellowstone River bridge. It travels passed the airport which is on the top of the hill over to the left as you go north to Jordan. Garfield county was carved out of several counties of which Dawson is the main one. She told us that Garfield County was the biggest in the state and the least populated.
She pointed out the community centers in the towns and the schools that were now all abandoned. She had walked five miles to school, to and from, in all kinds of weather as a child. Rock Springs is were she held her wedding dance in one of the halls.
The highway signs counted down the miles to Jordan which made it easy to get a feel for our travel time. I only saw one antelope by a fence that morning. There were lots of cattle out on the land, lots of fields that you could see where wheat was being cultivated and lots of different bales of hay and some were straw. My cousin explained that you could mix hay with straw to feed the cattle. Cattle can dig in the snow about six inches but any more than that and they have to be fed. She mentioned that land could only handle some cattle or it would be overgrazed and it did affect the value of the land. If the land was left alone it would come back in a year.
While we waited to caught up with my cousin’s niece, we had a little tour of Jordan. Our goal was the Hilltop Cafe in Jordan for lunch and visiting.
We toured the town of Jordan. The courthouse was in red brick. Apparently there was a fire in 1997 and it almost took the records but a great many were stored off site so that helped a lot.
We met up with the son who was at a table in the Hilltop Cafe. He was dressed in a T-shirt, flannel shirt, cowboy hat and seated. He was a bit soiled in his clothing. I immediately went over and gave him a hug and greeted him. He had claimed a big table and it would prove to be a good move on his part. We all ordered coffee and I explained to waitress that we were expecting others so we would wait a while before we ordered. The son was trying to do the haying on the ranch but the rain was causing a slow down.
Just as we started to order, the others arrived at the Hilltop and I was able recognize my cousin by her smile from a photo she had sent me. Their trailer as having trouble so her husband was going to have to get that fixed. We all went around and introduced each other and I hugged Gloria. Note: The Hilltop Cafe is on Facebook.
They were in Jordan searching for fossils. They talked about the fossil hunting and what they were finding. I guess they removed them from the rock and then prepare them for sale? They are trying to find a complete animal like a T-Rex. They have found many bones – teeth, frog fossils etc.
After lunch which we all went our various ways. I went with my cousins in the van. We piled into the van with Lady and off we went to the ranch. It is 20 miles from Jordan. As you come to the ranch you can see it and the road comes up past the corrals. It was very muddy from the rain and there were big potholes filled with water that made the van slide around a little.
My two cousins chatted away as we drove up the road. They talked about the schools, where there had been family picnics. I talked about my research and trying to find out more about the Spracklin family in England. Both cousins are into genealogy and the niece was working on the other side of the family lines that married into the Spracklins like the Heiss, Kibbee and more. She had a book about the Kibbee family with her and shared that with us. It was called the Kibbe Genealogical Note.
The ranch was as I remembered it minus a few buildings that had been burned down. Amos’s homestead we toured but it is not safe and it will have to be destroyed. It was a hard thing to do but necessary for it was falling down and not safe. It was built in the late 1800’s and Amos had added the kitchen, porch and later the living room.
Our visit to the ranch was short and we returned to Miles City that evening. This gave us time to do a little exploring of our own and I wanted to go back to the Range Rider Museum and take a good look.
The Range Rider Museum was opening at 10 am so about 10:30 we head out. It was getting a little dark and raining some. We started in the gun collection and I studied the Winchester rifle and a Colt 45 which were supposedly the guns that might have killed my great-grandfather George A. Barclay. So I tried some more photos but the glare from the overhead lights was too much.
I returned to the main room and wandered about. I went into the hallway and studied the faces in the great hall which are the inductees who are along the wall. I took some pictures.
I then went into the other part where I saw the Indian photos all in b&w of the Indian squaws, along with the Indian Chiefs and others. There was information about Fort Keogh, the rancher photos in the way back area, a whole area about brands of the ranchers, tools, a town scene of Mill Town and other dioramas. I went through the flip boards in the middle island that I missed the last time and there is a lot on bronco riding and rodeo in them as well as in the museum, articles about the Range Rider museum history. There was a saddles display and other cowboy items on display. They did have book on the History of Custer County on the case.
We headed outside and saw the inside of another building with a wall devoted to the nurses of Holy Rosary up to about 1960. Hats and boots of various people, some ethnic families, ads of a saddle making shop. The last building housed old carriages and large pieces of equipment and furniture.
I talked with Bob Bartholmess the director and asked a few questions. He said that the brands are assigned and you pay $100 then renewed every 10 years. If a person dies their brand is only continued if the descendants renew it. If not then it is reassigned.
To become a member of the Hall in the back you need to be deceased, have family write a biography which is then reveal at an induction ceremony in June. I am told you pay $300 in addition. You have to be born before 1915 to get into it. I asked him how someone could get the information about the inductees and he said that they call him and he will give it a try. It might take a while but they might be able to find something. So it does take some time to dig into their files. All inductees are in a book in the corner of the great hall. http://www.rangeridersmuseum.com/
I wanted to get a tour of Miles City so we headed out to drive around and see the area.
We parked the car and tried walking in the downtown area of Miles City but the storm cloud was brewing and it started to rain as we headed for the Olive Hotel. We went into the lobby and looked around. We asked if there was any rooms we could view but were told no. We then walked down to the Montana Bar and it was very beautiful inside with a dark wooden bar and booths. The sky opened up at that time and just poured. So we hung around hopefully waiting till it gave up but it was persistent, this cut short my tour. The Montana Bar is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/montanabarmcmt/
I had not realized that the Yellowstone River passed through Miles City, so we went in search of it. My hubby really liked the Art Center in Miles City so we went to see that as well.
We decided to try for the sandbar further up on the other side of the bridge that crossed the Yellowstone. There was a narrow dirt road with ruts that we eased the car onto and we managed to get down onto the rocky sandbar and I was relieved for you can get suck. There were others with their cars parked on the sandbar. It had a lot of rocks in it. We walked over to the Yellowstone River and enjoyed the view. The water was warm to the touch but it was shallow there at the shoreline.
The Art Center and how it looked when we were there. http://wtrworks.org/ Apparently they have fixed it up from the photo that is on the website. It was very nice inside so don’t let this photo discourage you.
The time had come to say goodbye to my cousin and we did that after breakfast. It was time to head west to Bozeman for the wedding. It had been good to see my cousin again and as usual visiting with her is an adventure.
The Yellowstone River: It does start in the Absaroka Range (Longmire fans note the reference). When I travel I like to follow the rivers. http://www.britannica.com/place/Yellowstone-River
A map of the rivers of Montana – http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/states/montana/montana-river-map.html