Grant-Kohrs Ranch

The Old House Web

Text and Photos from the National Park Service

Victorian Christmas

In December, the elegant Kohrs family ranch house is decorated to reflect a Victorian Christmas.

The Grant-Kohrs Ranch, in the town of Deer Lodge, Montana, is the only National Park Historic Site to tell the story of America's frontier cattle era. Fortunately, the extensive collection of artifacts -- from sewing needles to wagons, from bunkhouses to a fully furnished ranch owner's mansion give an intimate glimpse into the lives of the people who lived and worked at this ranch from the 1860s to the 1960s.

Once headquarters of a 10-million-acre cattle empire, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site embodies the Old West. The main house, bunkhouse and many out buildings of the ranch complex and intact and restored, and cattle still graze as they have since 1860.

John Grant had the main house built in 1862 and used it as a trading post and headquarters for his ranching operations. In 1866, Grant sold the house to Conrad Kohrs, who later became the "cattle king" of Montana grazing 50,000 cattle on ten million acres of open range.


Kohr Ranch

The ranch in winter (above). Years of overstocking and overgrazing followed by an unusually harsh winter in 1886 resulted in widespread cattle losses that spelled the end of the open range cattle era. The Grant-Kohrs ranch survived because Conrad Kohrs was willing to pen his cattle and feed them in the winter.

Ranch house

As Kohr's success in ranching increased, so did the size of his home. In 1890 the Kohrs added a brick addition to the home. The addition included this dinning room, a larger kitchen, a new bathroom with running water, a basement, and several additional upstairs bedrooms.

Life in the owner's house

Dining Room
Dining room

Sitting Room
Sitting room

Life in the bunkhouse

Bunkhouse Kitchen
Bunkhouse kitchen/dining room

Bunkhouse social room
Bunkhouse social hall

Kohr Bathroom
Bath in owner's house
Not many homes in the 1890s had indoor bathrooms. This addition reflects the financial and cultural progress for the Kohrs and the West.

Bunkhouse bathroom
Bunkhouse bathroom
By the 1930s electricity and plumbing were added to the bunkhouse. The washroom saved cowboys a trip to town for a shower, shave and laundry. 

Kohr Parlor
Elegant parlor in the Kohrs house, decorated circa 1890.

Kohr Master Bedroom
Master bedroom, one of 12 in the house.

Kohr's office
Conrad Kohr's office.
Kohr's meticulous record keeping resulted in 100 shelf-feet of records, ledgers and receipts from the ranch's purchase in 1886 through Kohr's grandson's ownership to 1972.

Kohr kitchen
Kohr House kitchen
Part of the 1890 addition, the kitchen was where the household help ate, but not the family or bunkhouse residents. By 1890 or so, there was a full-time cook and housekeeper, with additional help from time as needed for special occasions.

Bunkhouse kitchen
Bunkhouse kitchen. Over the years, several cooks were hired at the Kohrs Ranch; a few were Chinese, and some were "retired" cowboys. The cook's day began before sunrise and ended after sunset. He was the highest paid of the hired help - if he did not make good food, the cowboys could not do a good job.
 

 

 

 

About the Grant-Kohr's Ranch Historic Site

Grant Kohr's Ranch National Historic Site is located off I-90 just about half-way between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, in the town of Deer Lodge, Montana.

P.O. Box 790
Deer Lodge, Montana 59722

406-846-2070 (Headquarters M-F)
406-846-3388 (Visitor Center, daily)

The ranch is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years holidays. Hours are 8 to 5:30 May to September, and 9 to 4:30 the rest of the year. In addition to the Victorian Christmas celebration, the ranch hosts the annual Western Heritage Days, in 2003 from July 12-13, with a variety of activities and programs, including cowboy entertainers, saddlemakers, chuckwagon lore, and blacksmithing demonstrations.

For more information on the ranch,click here.

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