NPSHistory.com

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
GRANT-KOHRS RANCH NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, Montana




National Park Service History Electronic Library

The NPS History Electronic Library is a portal to electronic publications covering the history of the National Park Service (NPS) and the cultural and natural history of the national parks, monuments, and historic sites of the U.S. National Park System. The information contained in this Website is historical in scope and is not meant as an aid for travel planning; please refer to the official NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Website for current/additional information. While we are not affiliated with the National Park Service, we gratefully acknowledge the contributions by park employees and advocates, which has enabled us to create this free digital repository.

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New eLibrary Additions

Featured Publication

book cover
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Accidental Ranger
Tales from Forty-Three Years as a National Park Ranger
(Lyndel Meikle, 2021)

The National Parks: A Special Issue (The American West, Vol. VI No. 5, September 1969, ©Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY)

U.S. Department of the Interior Invasive Species Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2021-2025 (Department of the Interior, 2021)

Nevada's Environmntal Statesman: Alan Bible and the National Park Ssytem, 1954-1974 (Gary E. Elliott, extract from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 34 No. 4, Winter 1991; ©Nevada Historical Society)

A Cattle Controversy: Great Basin National Park and the Struggle for Environmental Tourism in Nevada (Peter A. Kopp, extract from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 57 Nos. 1-2, Spring-Summer 2014; ©Nevada Historical Society)

Dedication of Lehman Caves National Monument: Ascent and Perilous Descent of Mount Wheeler, August 1922 (Cada C. Boak, extract from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI No. 2, Summer 1973; ©Nevada Historical Society)

Native Americans, the Lehman Caves, and Great Basin National Park (Steven Crum, extract from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 48 No. 3, Fall 2005; ©Nevada Historical Society)

Whose Land Is It? The Battle for the Great Basin National Park, 1957-1967 (Gary E. Elliot, extract from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 34 No. 1, Spring 1991; ©Nevada Historical Society)

A Study of the Chemical and Physical Characteristics of Pumice from Glacier Peak, Washington and Mt. Mazama (Crater Lake), Oregon: Report of Progress, June 16-September 7, 1963 WSU Department of Anthropology Reports of Investigations 24 (Virginia C. Steen, 1963)

The Intertidal Life of Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Monument, Gustavus, Alaska (David Duggins and James Quinn, 1979)

Return of the Bighorn to Lava Beds National Monument (James A. Blaisdell, c1976)

Report on Platt and Wind Cave National Parks, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1911 (Secretary of the Interior, 1912)

Report on Platt and Wind Cave National Parks, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1912 (Secretary of the Interior, 1913)

National Park Service Geologic Type Section Inventory, Northeast Coastal and Barrier Inventory & Monitoring Network NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NCBN/NRR-2021/2287 (Tim Henderson, Vincent L. Santucci, Tim Connors and Justin S. Tweet, August 2021)

National Park Service Geologic Type Section Inventory, Southwest Alaska Inventory & Monitoring Network NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SWAN/NRR-2021/2296 (Tim Henderson, Vincent L. Santucci, Tim Connors and Justin S. Tweet, August 2021)

Geologic Resources Inventory, Cowpens National Battlefield NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2020/2214 (Trista L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, December 2020)

Geologic Resources Inventory, Indiana Dunes National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2020/2196 (Trista L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, November 2020)

Geologic Resources Inventory, Tonto National Monument NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2020/2212 (Katie KellerLynn, December 2020)

Evaluation of the Bear Viewing Experience and Associated Thresholds at Katmai National Park and Preserve and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve: 2017-2020 (Matthew T.J. Brownlee and Ryan L. Sharp, 2020)

A 23-Year Summary of a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Bird Banding Site in New River Gorge National River, West Virginia NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NERI/NRR-2021/2288 (Eric L. Margenau and Lenza E. Paul, August 2021)

Backcountry Campsite Environmental Changes and Effective Monitoring Practices: A Case Study in Kenai Fjords National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KEFJ/NRR-2021/2289 (Shannon T. Wesstrom and Christopher Monz, August 2021)

Evaluating Conditions and Trends for Sky Island Forests in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park: Focused Condition Assessment Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/BIBE/NRR-2021/2290 (Andrew M. Barton and Helen M. Poulos, August 2021)

Aquatic vs Terrestrial Plants, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (2021)

Day vs Night Pollinators, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (2021)

Cultural Landscape Publications

1. Cultural Landscape Report for Vanderbilt National Historic Site, Vol. I: Site History, Existing Conditions and Analysis Cultural Landscape Publications No. 1 (Patricia M. O'Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, 1992)

2. Cultural Landscape Report for Longfellow National Historic Site — Vol. 1: Site History and Existing Conditions NPS Cultural Landscape Publication No. 2 (Catherine Evans, 1993)

3. Cultural Landscape Report for Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site: Volume 1: Site History and Existing Conditions Cultural Landscape Publication No. 3 (Marion Pressley and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, 1993)

6. Cultural Landscape Report for Weir Farm National Historic Site, Volume I: Site History and Existing Conditions Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication No. 6 (Child Associates, Inc. and Cynthia Zeitzevsky, 1996)

7. Guide to Developing a Preservation Maintenance Plan for a Historic Landscape Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication No. 7 (Margaret Coffin and Regin M. Bellavia, rev. ed. 1998)

8. Cultural Landscape Report for Sagamore Hill National Historic Site — Volume 1: Site History, Existing Conditions and Analysis Cultural Landscape Publication No. 8 (Regina M. Bellavia and George W. Curry, July 1995)

9. Historic Motor Road System, Acadia National Park Cultural Landscape Publication No. 9 (H. Eliot Foulds, 1993, reprinted 1996)

10. Cultural Landscape Report for Fort Hill, Cape Cod National Seashore Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication #10 (Lynn Kneedler-Schad, Katharine Lacy and Larry Lowenthal, 1995)

11. Cultural Landscape Report for Blackwoods and Seawall Campground: Acadia National Park: History, Existing Conditions, Analysis Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication No. 11 (H. Eliot Foulds, 1996)

12. Fairsted: A Cultural Landscape Report for Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site — Volume I: Site History Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Publication #12 (Cynthia Zaitzevsky, 1997)

13. Cultural Landscape Report: Adams National Historic Site Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication No. 13 (Katharine Lacy, 1997)

14. Guide to a Plant Inventory at a Historic Property Cultural Landscape Publication No. 14 (Margie Coffin Brown and Kristin Baker, 1998; no digital edition available)

16. Safely Moored At Last: Cultural Landscape Report For New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park — Volume I: History, Existing Conditions, Analysis, Preliminary Preservation Issues Cultural Landscape Publication 16 (Christine A. Arato and Patrick L. Eleey, 1998)

17. Cultural Landscape Report for the Mansion Grounds, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, Vol. I: Site History Cultural Landscape Report No. 17 (John E. Auwaerter, 2005)

Featured Publication

book cover
cover only

Custer and Me
A Historian's Memoir

(Robert M. Utley, 2021)

Bandelier Archaeological Excavation Project: Summer 1990 Excavations at Burnt Mesa Pueblo and Casa del Rito Reports of Investigations No. 64/Bandelier Archeological Project Contribution No. 6 (Timothy A. Kohler and Matthew J. Root, eds., Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, 1992)

Domestic Responses to Nineteenth-Century Industrialization: An Archeology of Park Building 48, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park National Capital Region Occasional Report No. 12 (Paul A. Shackel, ec., 1994)

Cultural Landscape Report for Vanderbilt National Historic Site, Vol. I: Site History, Existing Conditions and Analysis Cultural Landscape Publications No. 1 (Patricia M. O'Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, 1992)

The Ohio & Erie Canal: The Evolution of a Name, 1825-1996 (Sam Tamburro, June 17, 2002)

Yosemite: Saga of a Century 1864-1964 (June 1965)

Land Donations: 1946-1949, Joshua Tree National Monument (1946-1949)

Amache Special Resource Study Newsletter (April 2021)

Fort Ontario Special Resource Study Newsletter #1 (Summer 2021)

Red River Cypress Swamp, Louisiana (1962)

Mobile Bay National Historic Site, Alabama (1935-1941)

Report of Preliminary Investigation of Old Spanish Fort and Old Blakeley in Bladwin County, Alabama (C.L. Johnson, July 20, 1935)

Foundation Document Overviews

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Virginia (November 2018)

Fire Island National Seashore, New York (November 2018)

Freedom Riders National Monument, Alabama (November 2018)

Governors Island National Monument, New York (November 2018)

Nez Perce National Historical Park, Idaho-Montana-Oregon-Washington (January 2017)

New River Gorge National River, West Virginia (January 2016)

Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas (January 2016)

North Country National Scenic Trail, ND-MN-WI-MI-OH-PA-NY (January 2015)

Site Bulletins

Searching for Koyukuk Gold Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (Chris Allan, 2021)

Woodchopper Roadhouse Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (Chris Allan, 2021)

'Burning Down' to Northern Gold Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (Chris Allan, 2021)

Tall Caches in Yukon Country Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (Chris Allan, 2021)

An Archeological (Cultural Resources) Survey for the Timber Sale Program in the Nezperce National Forest: Final Report (Commonwealth Associates, Inc., November 22, 1977)

       NPS REFLECTIONS

Interpreting the Cattle Baron: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Deer Lodge, Montana

The National Park Service, since the early 1970s, has been charged with the management of the legacy of Johnny Grant and Conrad Kohrs. Grant arrived in Montana with Hudson Bay Company connections. He married into the Bannock Tribe and ran cattle between the Oregon Trail and the Deer Lodge Valley where his ranch and house were located. In 1865 he moved north to Canada selling out to Conrad Kohrs. Kohrs, a native of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, had roamed the gold fields of the west and had ended up in Bannock City, Montana Territory. There, employed as a butcher, he soon owned the business. Marketing beef to miners was more profitable than mining. Kohrs rapidly expanded his enterprises into other communities and sought out a ranch to directly supply his butcher shops. Ultimately by 1900 Kohrs controlled, either by ownership or through water rights, over a million acres of Montana.


Conrad Kohrs and his friends in the sitting room of the main ranch house (National Park Service photo)

In 1868 Kohrs married Augusta Kruse, who had immigrated from Schleswig-Holstein, and brought her to Montana. Almost immediately, Augusta Kohrs set about turning the house that Kohrs had bought from Grant into a home. Of French Canadian log construction, the Grant house was described in the Montana Post of December 16, 1865, as looking like "...it had been lifted by the chimneys from the bank of the St. Lawrence, and dropped down in Deer Lodge Valley." On January 27, 1871, The New Northwest reported that the house has "...seven finely furnished rooms...besides a magnificently furnished parlor and a spacious dining room...." In 1883 the newly constructed trans-Montana railroad delivered a shipment of furniture.


(Harpers Ferry Center)

While the house and adjacent grounds rapidly became civilized, the ranch complex grew as a home ranch for the far-flung empire. Kohrs introduced Shorthorns to Montana and shipped them annually to Chicago for eastern markets. Kohrs success as an entrepreneur was realized by his survival of the disastrous winter of 1886-87. While in Chicago in 1890 the Kohrs purchased furnishings for the new wing of the ranchhouse. In 1899 the Kohrs moved permanently to Helena, Montana's capital city, and the ranch became a summer residence. Much of the empire was liquidated by 1920 when Kohrs died. His grandson, Conrad Kohrs Warren, purchased the home ranch in the 1930s and subsequently added several new buildings. Warren operated the ranch until it was acquired by the National Park Service which received a donation of ranch equipment and household furnishings.


(Harpers Ferry Center)

The National Park Service assumed control of a considerably diminished ranch: approximately 1200 acres abutting the city of Deer Lodge. From this base the Park Service was challenged to interpret the "open range cattle industry." The resources at hand included numerous buildings and structures that dated from Grant's tenure, including the bunkhouse, to Conrad Warren's additions. Subsequent purchase of scenic easement lands included buildings of the 1950s bringing the total of structures now within the park to approximately 90. All have been or will be the subject of preservation/restoration efforts as all relate to cattle ranching, interpreted from open range to feed lots.


(Harpers Ferry Center)

Because of the importance of each structure, interpretive planning for the ranch is difficult since the management decision was that each structure would tell its own story. Each structure was proposed for preservation to its most active use. For instance, an 1880s stallion barn that had been converted to a blacksmith shop to a garage for the Kohrs' Maxwell was restored as a garage. While this solution worked for the individual buildings, it has never lent itself well to dealing with the historic landscape around the buildings. Bunkhouse row with its extensive 1930s alterations overlooks the ranchhouse yard which is to be restored to its 1900 appearance. The resolution is that a new visitor center will be constructed in the 1950s "Big Red Barn." The visitor first will be introduced to modern feed lots and then begin a regression in time. Walking the historic access road towards the ranchhouse will put the present behind and the visitor will experience essentially the fruits of the cattle empire—the home ranch—which evolved over the years. The intent is to focus on cattle, not individual buildings.


Ranch House (National Park Service photo)

The house, with its clapboard covered log original section and brick rear wing, is one of the most interesting historic house museums in the country. Its "finely furnished rooms" of the 1870s blossomed into 42 rooms by 1900. Nearly all the original furnishings, essentially one woman's taste, were donated to the National Park Service. The furnishings represent all of the periods of acquisition from French Antique, to Creative Revival, to Colonial Revival. The sequence of use is evident: older pieces were relegated to secondary spaces or the bunkhouse, 1880s styles were updated and juxtaposed with 1890s styles.


Formal Parlor, Ranch House (National Park Service photo)

Room finishes, though, had not fared as well. Carpets had been replaced, wall coverings were lost or covered over, and ceilings had fallen. However, since the collection was so superb, it was determined that the house should reflect a period no later than 1920. The interiors were restored to represent their most active use, based on existing fabric and photo documentation of 1895, 1903, and 1916. This interpretation has lead to some discrepancies, for example where 1930s wallpapers were preserved in situ.


Dining Room, Ranch House (National Park Service photo)

Two additional issues continue to influence the visitor's perception. Furnishings from the Kohrs' Helena house are included in the collection and are on display in the ranchhouse. These have added other period styles that were never used in the context of the ranch. Ultimately, this dichotomy will be resolved by creating a Helena house vignette in the proposed visitor center. The second issue involves the movement of furnishings from documented positions to accommodate visitor tours. This has been instituted for security purposes as well as traffic flow and probably will never be effectively resolved as long as visitors have the ability to touch.


Warren Barn at Grant-Kohrs/Warren Ranch (National Park Service photo)

In reviewing this project as described very briefly above, these are probably the best solutions. The long continuum of history from the 1860s to the 1970s dictated the decisions since the interpretive story is not static. While only one family occupied the ranch, each member contributed significantly to the overall picture by adapting to changing methods of cattle production or decorative taste. Finally, while these decisions can be based on a rationale, the average visitor probably simply does not care. We do these things for our professional selves; the visitor just likes to look at old things, maybe learn something about cattle ranching, and will never know if an 1870s fence abuts a 1930s building.


Ranch House (National Park Service photo)

           Text from Public History News, Vol. 13 No. 3, Spring 1993
Rodd L. Wheaton



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