Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Background

Some of the first cattle in the vicinity of Deer Lodge, MT were brought here by a handful of settlers, including Johnny Grant who began wintering cattle in western Montana valleys in the 1850s. The Deer Lodge Valley was especially good winter range due to the high surrounding mountains that captured most of the snow.

In 1866, Conrad Kohrs purchased the Grant home and 365 head of cattle. He formed a powerful partnership with his younger half-brother John Bielenberg and continued to graze cattle in this valley while expanding to other ranges in eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Canada. During the open range era, it was possible to become wealthy raising cattle without owning any acreage. Most ranchers did own a base of operations at the least and some, like Conrad Kohrs, owned millions of acres.

Conrad Kohrs Warren, Kohrs grandson, continued to raise cattle in the Deer Lodge Valley. He also made changes in his own sphere of influence. Warren helped establish state-regulated public livestock auctions, upgraded purebred stock, instigated livestock health programs, made the switch to mechanized farm machinery and helped forge changes in government regulation and support of the industry as well as improvements in livestock sanitary practices.

Project Description

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is scoping the best location for a planned visitor contact station.  A preferred construction location would impact archeology site 24PW798, the Stuart-Menard homesite demolished by ranch owners in the 1930s. The 2003 Cultural Site Inventory determined the site had potential significance per Nation Register Criterion D and any management actions that impacted sites should trigger further determination of eligibility.

Working towards information needed to complete a Determination of Eligibility, a 2012 Historic Context Study was completed.  It confirmed the site had potential significance under National Register Criterion D.  Montana State Office of Historic Preservation concurred with the park. Both NPS and SHPO archeologists felt that sub-surface integrity had to be further investigated before a DOE could be completed. remote sensing survey employing magnetometry and ground penetrating radar was conducted in 2012 to identify anomalies in subsurface sediments that are more likely to yield archeological materials.  Anomalies were detected and can now be used to maximize the efficiency of test unit excavation completed through this project.

Salish Kootenai College Indigenous Archaeology Field School will conduct limited test excavations and documentation in the Stuart-Menard homesite area and the Stuart Barn foundation near the existing Visitor Center.  This Site Testing Plan will investigate the sub-surface horizontal and vertical integrity of the site. The information will contribute to a Determination of Eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places.  Dr. Bendremer will coordinate a protocol for discovery of pre-contact material that is agreed to by the NPS and tribal cultural committees.  The work will be conducted through the SKC Indigenous Archaeological Field School and will provide SKC students with an opportunity to gain professional experience in excavation, mapping, field processing and other activities crucial to proficiency in cultural heritage management.