The first stop on our Bus Trip Through Paradise pulled out at Reed's Fort Post Office just outside downtown Lewistown. Rosalyn LaPier, Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana talked about the settlement of Lewistown by the Metis people in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Reed's Fort Post Office
The Reed’s Fort Post Office, established in 1880, was the first post office in the area that later became Lewistown. One of the oldest buildings in Lewistown, today it is the only remaining building from Alonzo Reed’s Reedsfort Homestead. Reed and his partner John Bowles ran the first trading post nearby in the Judith Basin from 1875 to 1880 and Reed was likely responsible for enticing the Métis from the Milk River area to settle in the Judith Basin in 1879.
The Métis community that sprang up around Reedsfort, along with several early cattle and sheep men of the area was the catalyst for the growth and development of Lewistown in the early 1880s. In addition, the post office is significant given that it was built by Mose LaTray, a Métis carpenter, and one of nearly 300 Métis who settled on Big Spring Creek between 1879 and 1880. The Red River Métis that settled here were known for their building expertise, particularly their Red River Carts, but also as one of the few native tribes of the northern plains in the 1870s and 1880s to build and maintain permanent homes. Though their buildings were simple log cabins with little or no ornamentation, the Reed’s Fort Post Office is one of a few documented Métis buildings that stand in North America and still reflects well the traditions of Métis builders and the frontier architecture of a Montana territorial post office.
St. Wenceslaus Church, Danvers
The St. Wenceslaus Church at Danvers still reflects the Czech heritage of its early 1900s settlers. Photo by Kate Hampton.
St. Wenceslaus Church
This black and white view of the church is quite reminiscent of the early days of the church. Little has changed.
Interior, St. Wenceslaus Church
Members of the Friends of St. Wenceslaus Church formed in 2009 to save the church from demolition. After much fundraising and organizing of volunteers, the church got a new coat of paint, new roof, and general cleaning and repair work was done inside. Today, the church stands as a reflection of the hard work, faith, and community spirit of the mainly Czech homesteaders who built the rural railroad town of Danvers Northeast of Lewistown. Photo by Kate Hampton.
View from St. Wenceslaus
The intrepid Road Show bus
Getting people out to see where history happened requires some off pavement trips. Those cushy coach tour buses are great on well maintained paved highways, but school buses are the best way to get lots of people down what Montanans called "improved" gravel roads. Photo by Kate Hampton.
Square Butte, MT
Looking west toward Square Butte. Photo by Kate Hampton.
Hank Armstrong near Square Butte
Square Butte area historian Hank Armstrong knows every road, rock, and ranch in the Square Butte/Geraldine area. He shared his knowledge of the geology and settlement of the area at a scenic viewpoint between Square Butte and Geraldine. Photo by Kate Hampton.
Kate Hampton assists Hank Armstrong during his talk about Square Butte. Photo by Chere Jiusto.
The Geraldine Milwaukee Depot, built in 1913, is a great example of one of America's small-town, turn-of-the-century wooden depots. It has a unique design and was given special attention since the town's namesake, Geraldine Rockefeller, was the daughter of the principal Milwaukee stockholder, William A. Rockefeller. The exterior has been fully restored, and the building is located on its original site next to the still active short-line Central Montana Railroad. Displays document the role of railroad played in developing the large agricultural area, and include a freight room and ticket/express office.
Judith River Guard Station
Kelly Keim of the Stanford Forest Service office shared the history of the Judith River area as well as information about the establishment and later restoration of the Judith Guard Station. Photo by Kate Hampton.
Judith River Guard Station
Photo by Kate Hampton
Judith River Ranger Station
Down south of Utica, MT, the Judith River Ranger Station is a restored ranger station available for rent through the Forest Service's recreation rental program. The two-story log building was lovingly restored in the early 2000s by volunteers and Forest Service Preservation crew members.