In the heart of Montana amidst the Belt, Highwood, Judith, Moccasin and Snowy Mountains, lies our home in a valley known as the Judith Basin. This area, which we proudly refer to as "Central Montana," stretches westward to Arrow Creek, north to the Missouri River and south/east toward the Musselshell River.
The Homestead Act of 1862 and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 greatly affected the settlement of Montana. Towns and smaller communities sprang up all across the prairie and Lewistown evolved from a small trading post to become the main merchandise distributing center in Central Montana. In less than two decades, the immense grassland of central and eastern Montana was divided up into 320-acre tracts. Homesteading had the most significant impact on the growth and character of Central Montana and agriculture continues to be the driving force of the area's economy today.
The area's history is chronologically portrayed beginning in the 1870's when the area was largely unsettled and buffalo roamed the open prairies. Our museum features many photos and displays portraying the changes that resulted as many settlers from all walks of life came to this area and filed on homesteads. Also on exhibit are a variety of collections (dolls, hats, wedding dresses, fire arms, forts, fossils, historic replicas and dioramas, Indian artefact's, medical equipment and photos from St. Joseph's Hospital, military, photos, musical instruments, and many others) and displays with interpretation featuring some of the area's most notorious characters:
- Rattlesnake Jake Owens (outlaw)
- Charles M. Russell (cowboy/famous artist)
- Granville Stuart (cattleman/Vigilante leader)
- Bertie Brown (moonshine entrepreneur/rancher)
- William Culver (photographer)
- Ed McGivern (sign maker/pistol fast draw exhibitionist/world record maker)
- Charlie Cooley (businessman/civic leader)
- Tom Toomey (saddle maker)
- Jimmy Kaaro (circus performer/trick roper/animal trainer/lawman)
- Jane Burnett Smith (bronc rider/stunt rider/author)
You're most welcome to sit a spell and thumb through our extensive collections of photographs and local history books of Central Montana's communities or view educational media in electronic format. A variety of books, memorabilia, musical CDs, videos and locally made products are for sale in the store area located near the front door.
Our displays are ever-changing as we strive to make each visit unique and memorable. We sure hope that you'll stop in and explore Central Montana's past. We'd be mighty obliged, too, if you'd encourage your friends and acquaintances to visit us as well.
The museum is open from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM daily, Memorial weekend through Labor Day. Tours may be arranged during the off season by contacting Shirley Barrick at 406/535-9289
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