The Old Homestead

A recent blog article by Gayle Gresham about “place” and photos of her ancestor’s land reminded me of my own similar trek. In 1999, I made a trip to Cut Bank and Sunburst, Montana to do research for my book, Cowgirl Dreams.

I wanted to locate the first ranch where my grandparents had lived when they were married in 1923. The only thing I knew was that it was the “old Davis Place under the rims” near Sunburst. I really didn’t think I would be able to find it with that vague bit of information. I started at the courthouse in Cut Bank, the county seat. Everyone knew where “the rims” were, but the younger clerks didn’t know this particular ranch, of course. Someone remembered an “old timer” who had worked in records years ago. I called and the gentleman said he remembered it was a few miles west of Sunburst.

Before I left town, I stopped to visit the Marias Museum and told the curator what I was doing. She gave me the phone number of someone who might be able to help: Margie (nee Johannsen) and Jim Leary. The name Johannsen rang a bell with me, because my father told about boarding with that family during his high school years. A visit with them revealed many memories and a contact with Wanda Scarborough, my dad’s cousin. After more reminiscing, Wanda told me the place I was looking for was now owned by the Simms family and gave me directions. The Simmses were gracious enough to let me drive through their ranch to the location. “Just drive about a mile and a half and look for a grove of cottonwood trees.”

Imagine my surprise and awe to find the house still standing, although in bad repair, and being used as a cattle shelter. I spent about an hour there, taking pictures and imagining what the newlyweds must have felt like, living in this beautiful place “under the rims.” This is the backdrop for Cowgirl Dreams, where the dreams began.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 1:47 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful post on “place,” Heidi. The country our reletives lived in both defined and formed them. It was a part of who they were. I loved seeing the house where your grandparents first lived. Just think of the dreams they shared with each other of their future life together. “The Rims” provided a breathtaking spot for them to begin their life together.


  2. What a beautiful place. I can see Nettie and Jake In Cowgirl Dreams getting up each day and take it all in. How satisfying to find the actual place. Nothing like a little historical research.

  3. How cool is that! What a lovely place! My mind reels at the thought of what kind of story you will be able to tell with this in your mind!
    Can’t wait to read Cowgirl Dreams! Good luck!

  4. OMG! How gorgeous is that?

    I love that your family history is so rich and that you have the know-how to research it and tie it in a neat little bow as you’ll do in your book.

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