Historical Sites In Sweet Grass County
The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel joined the National Register of Historic Places in September 1985. The brick building was built in 1890 by Jacob Halverson and Dan Halvorson, a pair of sheep ranchers, for $20,000 (the equivalent of half a million dollars today). The building survived the fire that burned a majority of the town in 1908.
In 1894, there was an incident with an infamous cattle rustler who had been shot was dragged into the bar and placed on the pool table where a local doctor removed the bullets. The hotel is also known for employing Chinese immigrants in the basement laundry room; the original washing equipment is still there.
The Wool House
The wool industry in Sweet Grass County began with two Irishmen, Charles McDonnell and Edward Veasey, who brought 3,000 head of sheep from California to Montana. The original Woolhouse was built in 1884 by C.T. Busha and Joseph Hooper to store wool until it would be shipped. That building burned down in the fire of 1908. Two more warehouses were destroyed by fires between 1908 and 1910. After burning down a fourth time in August of 1910 the Wool House was then rebuilt in its current location.
Little Timber Quilts & Candy
The building that now houses Little Timber Quilts has been home to multiple Big Timber businesses, including J.S. Solberg’s and Vaughn-Ragsdale Co.. J.S. Solberg moved his harness shop into the building in 1900. He continued with the harness business until 1908, when he changed his focus to retailing shoes and clothing. In 1948, the store was sold to Vaughn-Ragsdale.Co. which added yard goods and domestic departments. In 1927, a men’s felt hat cost two to six dollars and a woman’s everyday dress cost five to ten dollars. Today, the building still has the original countertops, floors, and ladders.
Big Timber Town Hall (Firehouse)
The Big Timber Town Hall and Firehouse was constructed in 1909 after a major fire sparked by a passing train in 1908 burned down a majority of the town. The second floor of the building served as the town hall until 1966, while the main floor housed the firehouse and town jail. The jail wasn’t added until 1913 and was later removed in 1955. The building was added to the National Historic Registry in 1998. The Firehouse building was built in 1908 as a combination town hall and fire hall after a fire sparked by a passing train burned down a majority of the town. The hall served Big Timber until 1966. It is now a full-time fitness center.
Sheep History Mural
This roughly 47-foot by 8-foot mural depicts different parts of Sweet Grass County's wool industry in the 1920s when it was one of the largest exporters of wool and was painted by Suz Marshak. The mural is based on a 1938 photograph of a herder named Sylvester Lavold keeping watch on sheep up the Boulder River drainage. The woman depicted spinning in the Wool House was requested by a financial supporter of the mural who wanted a woman's role in the sheep industry represented in the mural. A butterfly was also added at the request of a young girl in the community who regularly walked past Suz painting.
The mural has been a work in progress for many years and is not yet complete. In fact, the project has been underway for such a long time that one of the older members of the community has joked to the artist about whether or not the mural will be finished before he passes.
Wool House Plaque
The Sweet Grass Woolen Mill was constructed along the Boulder River one block south of the monument at Lion’s Club Park. It was in operation by August 1901. In 1907, Big Timber was the world’s largest exporter of wool, shipping as much as two million bales a year. The mill eventually deteriorated and in 1980 the ruins were removed to make way for the interstate highway. The monument is constructed from blocks from the original mill.
Charlie M Russel Statue
Charles Marion Russell, known also as “Kid” Russell, C.M. Russell, and Charlie Russell, moved to Montana in 1880 at the age of 16. Russell spent a number of years working as a ranch hand, where he learned about the “way of the West,” before moving to Great Falls in 1892 to pursue his art career full time. He also spent a year in 1988 living with a branch of the Blackfeet Native Americans, known colloquially as Blood Indians. During his lifetime, he produced roughly 4000 pieces of art, working in multiple mediums, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, and wax, clay, plaster, and bronze sculptures.
Commissioned by Jim and Lou Snodgrass, the statue was originally located at Frye’s Cafe then moved to the Visitor Information Center when the cafe closed. The statue is a tribute to Charles M Russel by artist Gary L. Temble and was completed in 1889.
Lewis & Clark Mural
The Lewis and Clark Mural depicts Capt. William Clark's travels through Sweet Grass County in 1806 on his way back home. Clark split from Capt. Lewis near Lolo in Western Montana on July 3, 1806, to explore the Yellowstone River. Clark's group traveled through Sweet Grass County on horseback. Clark named the area where Big Timber Creek and The Boulder River enter The Yellowstone River Rivers Across.
Interpretive signs describing the expedition can be found at Otter Creek Fishing Access and Bratten Fishing Access. There is also a rare plant garden containing Montana plants that Clark named in this area along with interpretive signs at The Crazy Mountain Museum.
Homesteading Flyer Mural
The Homestead Act of 1862 gave people a claim to government land if they farmed it for five years. Local artist Suz Marshak painted this mural based on a famed Milwaukee Road promotional poster from the turn of the 20th century encouraging homesteaders to move to Montana. As artists usually do, Suz tweaked the poster adding the Northern Pacific Railroad seal to represent the impact the Northern Pacific Railroad had in the area. The mural was commissioned by Connie Anderson.
Crazy Mountain Museum
Built in 1992, The Crazy Mountain Museum houses a collection of artifacts that have touched the lives of those who call or have called Sweet Grass County home. Exhibits range from archeological and geological finds to the Pioneer Room featuring early settlers and their families. Check out a replica of 1907 Big Timber, Jack Hines paintings of Sweet Grass County called Historic Crossroads, a replica Norwegian stabbur, a tipi, a one-room schoolhouse, the widely-acclaimed gardens, and much more.
The Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden is a beautiful garden created by the Rivers Across Lewis & Clark Sweet Grass County Bicentennial group. Montana native plants were considered significant discoveries and were collected by Lewis and Clark between 1805 and 1806. The garden showcases the plants collected by the expedition and contains interpretive signs containing interesting facts about the expedition.
Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station & Museum
Located 30 miles south of Big Timber, Montana, the Main Boulder Ranger Station reflects the early years of the Forest Service and the commitment of the United States to the conservation movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The historic Ranger Station represents perhaps the oldest facility in the Forest Service System and has been painstakingly restored to represent its original character. The Station served as both district headquarters and home to Ranger Harry S. Kaufman and family for almost forty years.
The Station, managed by the Gallatin National Forest, is now open to the public as a house museum which depicts the living and working conditions at what was once a remote Ranger Station. Interpretive staff is on hand most summer weekends from July through Labor Day to assist you in your visit to the Station. From the parking area, a short, easy paved path, with grades no steeper than 8% leads up to and around the Station. Along the path, interpretive panels share some of the stories that the Station has to tell.
Melville Lutheran Church
The town of Melville was established in 1877. The town became infamous for its drinking and dancing. In 1885, the Melville Lutheran congregation was organized by a group of pioneers as the first Lutheran congregation in Montana. They held services in the schoolhouse until the church was built. The building, complete with the steeple and bell, was dedicated in November 1914. The Melville Lutheran Church is one of the first churches built in Montana. It is a popular stop for locals and visitors alike and still holds services today.
Carnegie Public Library
Built in 1914, the Carnegie Public Library embraces Classical Revival elements made popular for civic buildings by the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The library was funded by patron Andrew Carnegie. The building was updated in 2005 adding a community meeting area in the basement.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
St. Mark's Episcopal Church was built in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The beautiful Gothic Revival style stone building reflects the English roots of the Episcopal Church. The church is historically significant as the town's oldest standing church.