• A homesteader and his son with their milking cows, 1925. Courtesy of the Hobson Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Milking Time
    • Date
    • 1925-07-01
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • This is a photo of homesteader Jim Stevenson and his son Jamie with their milk cows. J.R. Stevenson, better known as “Jim”, landed at Moore, Montana, in the very early spring of 1905. He had come from Missouri with a freight car full of farm anim... more
      This is a photo of homesteader Jim Stevenson and his son Jamie with their milk cows. J.R. Stevenson, better known as “Jim”, landed at Moore, Montana, in the very early spring of 1905. He had come from Missouri with a freight car full of farm animaIs, farm implements and household goods. Within a short time he filed on a homestead about five miles southeast of Hobson. He was joined in the early summer by his wife, Ida, and three children, Alta, Hester, Dewey. Jim met them at Moore in a horse drawn wagon. Jim had built a modest “homestead shack” that was to be the Stevenson home for the next five years. In 1911 the family ties in Missouri drew Jim and Ida back to their old home. The family now numbered six. They had a new baby boy to display, Van. The Stevensons withstood the “Call of the West” for five years. The year 1916 found them back in Montana and with another new baby boy, Jamie. Once again Jim and Ida Stevenson’s names were on the voters list in Fergus County. They remained there until Judith Basin County was formed. They farmed on the “flats” south of Hobson for many years. Jim worked on the railroad when it came through Hobson. In 1940 they purchased and moved to the former Rufus Adams ranch three miles southwest of Hobson. They lived there until 1945 when they moved into Hobson. less
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hobson Library

  • "Cattle Round-Up in the Flathead Valley," early 1900s. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Cattle Round-Up in the Flathead Valley, Mont., A
    • Creator
    • Forsyth, N. A.
    • Description
    • This collection consists of 556 stereographs taken by N. A. Forsyth from circa 1901 to circa 1911. The views capture Montana locations that Forsyth visited primarily between the years 1906 and 1909. The bulk of the images are of Butte, Montana (inclu... more
      This collection consists of 556 stereographs taken by N. A. Forsyth from circa 1901 to circa 1911. The views capture Montana locations that Forsyth visited primarily between the years 1906 and 1909. The bulk of the images are of Butte, Montana (including street scenes, Columbia Gardens, and mining), Glacier National Park, the activities of the 1906-1908 Bison roundup, and family groups of Montana Indian tribes (including the Flathead, Cree, Crow, and Blackfeet). Other subjects include Anaconda, Montana; farms and ranching; lumber; the 1908 Missoula, Montana, flood; Cromwell Dixon and the 1911 Montana State Fair; Morrison Cave (later known as Lewis and Clark Caverns), and Yellowstone National Park. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

  • "Branding Calves." Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Branding Calves
    • Creator
    • Huffman, L. A. (Laton Alton), 1854-1931.
    • Description
    • Two cowboys hold calf while a third brands. Cowboy on horseback leads another calf to fire. Vintage negative number : 334.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

  • An excerpt from the Brand Book of the Montana Stock Growers' Association, 1890. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Brand Book of the Montana Stock Growers' Association for 1890
    • Date
    • 1890
    • Creator
    • Montana Stock Growers' Association.
    • Description
    • Organized in 1885, the Association sought to protect ranchers "against frauds and swindlers, and to prevent the stealing, taking and driving away of cattle, horses, mules and asses...
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

In the 1850s, one of the earliest large cattle herds in Montana was driven from Oregon for the Jesuit Priest, Father Desmet, to the Mission Valley in western Montana. Later, cattle drives from Texas brought a large number of stock to Montana following the Civil War. Texas herds had been left untended during the war and had grown beyond the land's grazing limits. Texas ranchers began trailing cattle northward to find new range lands. Many of these drives ended in Montana’s open grasslands. One cowboy, traveling north with a herd of 2,000 cattle, estimated there were 58,000 cattle within eyesight on the trail.

During the 1880s, the United States and Europe experienced population booms, which created an even greater demand for beef. The completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 enabled Montana ranchers to ship their cattle to markets across the country.

In the drier parts of the territory, one cow needed 250 acres of land a year to graze. Some cattle ranches had 10,000 cows, and a few had as many as 40,000. Ranchers required vast amounts of land and water to support this booming industry. It was estimated in the spring of 1885 there were 500,000 cattle in Montana, and overgrazing had become an issue.

The winter of 1886–1887 was one of the most severe winters remembered by the early ranchers. Heavy early snows were followed by a warming trend, which was followed by another severe drop in temperature. Grass was frozen solid under the ice and already exhausted cattle could not paw into the ice to eat. Some estimate that 362,000 cattle or sixty percent of Montana's herds died of starvation that winter.