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Sat. May 25 to Sun. May 27 2013 White Sulphur Springs MO., Hutterite Colony, Castle, Castle Town Ghost Town, Bair Family Museum and Ranch House.

Saturday- We were slow getting moving today. At about 9:30, we went to the office to ask directions to the Hutterite Colony. The Hutterite are similar to the Amish, except they have embraced technology. They are also a lot friendlier and open about their lifestyle. They dress the same as the Amish.

We spent some time with the owners of the park, talking about the area and obtaining directions to various attractions in the area. John told us to follow Hwy. 89 south and to turn right at the first road after the propane tank. The road was about five driveways and three quarter mile south of the propane tank!

We turned onto a nice dirt road and we traveled about five miles to the base of the mountain. John had told us to keep heading towards the white buildings, which we could see in the distance.
Hutterite Colony White Sulphur Springs MT

Learn about the Hutterite Colonies of Central Montana


The Hutterites are a religious group originating from the Reformation of the 16th century. In the early 1520’s, the ferment identified with Martin Luther and the Reformation spread to a group in Switzerland that came to be known as the Anabaptists as they believed in the re-baptizing of adults. The Anabaptists additionally shared a belief in the separation of Church and State and they were committed pacifists. The branch of the Anabaptists that we know as Hutterites was founded in Moravia in 1528 by Jacob Hutter and is distinguished from other Anabaptist sects such as the Mennonites and the Amish by its belief in the community of goods in which all material things are held in common.

The Hutterites survived periods of persecution and suffering alternating with periods of prosperity leading to their eventual migration to North America in 1874. Initial colonies were established in the Canadian Prairie provinces and the Dakotas and they prospered until great tension developed during World War I as a result of their pacifist beliefs. Those tensions gradually disappeared during the great depression and during World War II, the Hutterites again refused to participate, but engaged in other forms of alternative public service. Today there are about 45,000 Hutterites living on 460 colonies of which about 50 are in Montana. Additional information on the history and beliefs of the Hutterites are at www.hutterites.org.

Hutterite Life Today

Hutterites are a communal people living on scattered bruderhofe or colonies throughout the prairies of North America. Their religion is unique in that all material goods are held in common. All members of the colony are provided for equally and nothing is kept for personal gain. In every Hutterite colony, the minister or spiritual leader is also the chief executive and he, along with an advisory board, makes the day to day decisions. The advisory board consists of the minister, the colony manager, the farm/ranch manger and two or three witness brothers (deacons) who are elected for life. ( Women and children have no vote, but they are influential in the decision making.)

Early education has always played an important role in Hutterite life and usually takes place in public schools located at the colony. More recently, many young colony children go on to public high schools and some are beginning to pursue college degrees. The Hutterites are by nature very hospitable and neighborly and frequent opportunities are found for visiting and joint projects with neighbors or other colonies.  A distinguishing characteristic of the Hutterites is their entrepreneurial spirit and initiative. A visit to a colony always has surprises in terms of produce or crafts or unique services that fill a niche in the local economy.

I took the above from: http://www.enjoylewistown.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6&Itemid=7   There is also further info available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutterite  Their history is facinating!

We drove into the colony and there was a gentleman who was watching us arrive. We stopped and he walked over to the car. He was very nice and extremely friendly. He pointed us to park at a cement sidewalk and go to the double doors in a building,which was behind the apartments. He  greeted us with the Bavarian German greeting, Grusss Gott , “God is Great”. He  asked about the car and wanted to know where we were from.

We parked and walked between the apartments. The outside of the apartments were identical, manufactured buildings. All of the buildings appeared manufactured and there was electric and vehicles. No horses or wagons, as seen with the Amish. The apartments seemed to be wider than the motor home, but about the same length.  They have families, with 5-10 kids, although their birth rate has declined since 1952..

As we were walking towards the door, off to the right was the school building and lots of kids playing. Several women were hanging clothes on clothes lines. One young lady, about 15 or 16, came out, with a small child following her. We greeted her and she directed us to enter through the two doors. Once we did, there were steps up and down to the basement.

We walked up the stairs and on the right was a gleaming kitchen where three women were preparing lunch. Lunch appeared to be macaroni for salad, sauerkraut, and what appeared to be shredded pork for BBQ pork.

To the left was the common room, where there were benches and long tables, already set for the meal. The entire place had beautiful white tile, with blue decoration on the floor, walls and ceiling. You felt like you could eat off them, they were so bright and sparkling. The kitchen was top of the line, commercial stove,ovens, refrigerators and freezers.

The ‘head’ lady asked us how she could help us. We asked for bread, she asked how many loafs, (1) and one of other ladies went to retrieve a plastic bag.  Head lady pulled a loaf out of the freezer, apologizing that this was not “roll week” and they had no rolls to sell to us.  The loaf ( $4) weights 1 lb., 12 oz. and is huge! We thanked them and left. They invited us back to purchase more next time we come through the area. We did not take any pictures out of respect for their beliefs.

Bread from Hutterites

We drove back down the dirt road, past cattle and sheep. We stopped in at the motor home, dropped off the bread, walked the dogs, and went into town. We stopped at a ‘junk’ store on the main street, Genesis Mercantile. When I say junk store, I really mean it. There was a lot of everything, fortunately, nothing we wanted.

We continued up the hill to visit the Castle(and Carriage House), a restored Victorian Home and Museum., which is owned and administered by the Meagher County Historical Association. $3 each( senior discount).

Castle in White Sulphur Springs

The house was built by B.R. Sherman a stockman and mine owner in 1892. The gray stone manor (granite outside) is on the National Register of Historic Places, overlooking the town of White Sulphur Springs. The house was sold in 1905 to Michael Donahoe, when Sherman moved to Southern California for health reasons. The Donahoe family lived in the house for awhile, then turned it into a dormitory/hotel for kids from the outlying ranches, who lived there while attending school in town.

Castle in White Sulphur Springs MT

In 1960, the heirs donated the building to the Meagher County Historical Association. All the furnishings were donated by families throughout the county in memory of their pioneer ancestors. Entrance was through the gift shop/Carriage House.

We had to wait for the previous tour to end, so we wandered through the gift shop and looked at the historical items in the carriage house. No pictures were allowed inside. There were wagons, carriages, saddles, pictures, paintings, and other items.

The poor docent,  who was guiding the tour, had 2 non-English speaking Japanese people, with their daughter and son-in-law who were going through the previous tour, so she was running behind. She was exhausted when she finished their tour! She was also a lousy tour guide! She has been doing tours since last August, but did not know a lot of information.

The inside of the building is decorated with various woods, none which are indigenous to this area. All the wood was imported from other areas. The furniture was beautiful. The windows were large with great views of the town, the valley, and the mountains.

Upstairs there was a music room, with an old victrola. I swear, I could almost see the RCA dog sitting next to it. The docent played an old recording which was fun. There was also a game machine, the precursor to foosball!

We were allowed to go up into the attic. We were glad to arrive there as it was warmer. The house was very cold! Originally it was heated with coal and was the first home in Montana with running water( there was a water tank in the attic, water was delivered to it using a windmill outside to move the water up) and with electric. Also, there were a lot of bat droppings!

The basement had the coal area and several antique items. I was really itching to take pictures! They had a square hand run washing machine. A large flat butter churn( nothing like butter churns we have seen elsewhere), and a still. Even with the lousy docent, we really enjoyed the tour!

Since it was 12:30, we went downtown, such as it is, to Dori’s Café for lunch. This is a small mom and pop restaurant. They had a flood over the winter, when a pipe broke, and it has totally been remodeled. Bob had a ham Ruben on marble rye and I had a BLT. We split an order of very good onion rings.

Dori's Cafe White Sulphur Springs MT

We returned to the motor home, did laundry, and took a nice nap. Leftovers for dinner.

Sunday- this is the view from our side window, facing south.

Our view out of the side of the motor home in Conestoga RV Park 

The view to the west:

The view out the front of the motor home in Conestoga RV Park

The view to the east of the Castle Mountains.

View of the Castle Mountains behind the motor home

Old train caboose

Above is an old Caboose. It is a shame that it has been allowed to deteriorate. It is just around the corner from the park. The owner died and his wife moved to Helena. Someone years ago wanted to run a train through here from Yellowstone to Glacier. He was laughed at! Now it would be a profit making tourist venture!

We left at 9:45, driving south on Hwy. 89.. We turned left (east) on SR 294( The Martinsdale Scenic By-Way) driving about 15 miles to Lennep (not a town, just  several houses, a small school, and a church). We turned left, then left again ( no sign but it looked like the right way to go on the map) to Castle Town. a ghost town.  We drove seven miles on a dirt road,  to where the town had been.

Dirt road to Castle Town MT


There was a Depression in 1893. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, perhaps along with the protectionist McKinley Tariff of that year, has been partially blamed for the panic. Passed in response to a large overproduction of silver by western mines, the Sherman Act required the U.S. Treasury to purchase silver using notes backed by either silver or gold. The Democrats and President Cleveland were blamed for the depression. The decline of the gold reserves stored in the U.S. Treasury fell to a dangerously low level, forcing President Cleveland to borrow $65 million in gold from Wall-Street banker JP Morgan to support the gold standard;[10] The Democrats and Populists lost heavily in the 1894 elections, which marked the largest Republican gains in history.[11]

Many of the western silver mines closed and a large number were never re-opened. A significant number of western mountain narrow-gauge railroads, which had been built to serve the mines, also went out of business. From Wikipedia.

House in Castle Town MTHouse in Castle Town MT

General Store and Post Office in Castle Town MT     Another house in Castle Town MT

On the left is the remains of the General Store and Post Office. Below are wild flowers on the dirt road.

Wild Flowers on the side of the road to Castle Town MT

We returned to the main highway and continued on until we reached Hwy. 12, The Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway. We turned left and stopped at our second destination, the Charles M. Bair Family Museum and Ranch House.

We started at the Visitor’s Center, which is also an art gallery. All of the art is in this building, with reproductions in the Ranch House.

When Charles Bair came to Montana, from Ohio, the legend states that he had just 14 cents in is pocket. He was a conductor on the Northern Pacific railroad. He made his fortune in the Yukon Gold Rush by working with others to develop equipment to drill for the gold through the permafrost. He went on to become one of the largest sheep owners in the world, at one time running over 300,000 sheep on his Martinsdale MT. ranch. He also had several other successful businesses. He and his wife Mary, built the original ranch house. Their two daughters, Marguerite and Alberta traveled extensively and brought home European antiques. There is a very large collection of antiques and a lot of silver! Their Trust gives 4 full college scholarships each year to local students.

As the daughters returned with more and more items, they built on to the original ranch house. Their favorite colors were bright red, bright green, and turquoise.

Side view of Bair Ranch house

Side view of the house. The teepee is raised every year by the local Native Americans in memory of their friend, Charles Bair. Tepee’s were used for a warm place to place the baby lambs and ewes at the birth to protect them from the harsh weather.

A home made RV at Bair Ranch HouseInside the home made RV at Bair Ranch House

Above is an original  home made RV, used by the family. There was a vintage 1960’s Cadillac in the garage, owned by Alberta. She used to use it to stop cars on the road for the herd crossing and she would take it out in the fields to shoot deer! Did I mention that these were some interesting folks?

Root cellar at Bair Ranch house

This is the root cellar. It is much larger than it appears! Charles Russell, a famous western artist’s wife called one day and asked for pictures of some of the paintings that the family had purchased. She wanted them for a brochure. Alberta told her they could not get to them, as they were in the root cellar!  Mrs. Russell was not pleased!

Front of Bair Ranch House

Above and below, the front of the house. Below is the entrance.

Entrance to Bair Ranch House

Charles M. Bair

Charles M. Bair.

French Dueling Pistols

French dueling pistols.

Office at Bair Ranch House

The office.

Rifle once owned by Daniel Boone friend

This rifle was owned by a friend of Daniel Boone. It might even have been used by DB.

Living Room Bair Ranch House

The living room. The black stripe is the barrier which we could not cross. Note the silver!

Dining room Bair Ranch House

The dining room. On the right is some silver, see below.

Silver from England owned by Lord Mannville

The sisters were in London and spotted these pieces in the window of a shop. They went in to ask about it, as they knew what it was. The owner was just closing, so they returned the next day to purchase it. This silver originally belonged to Lord Manville. When he needed money, he sold off the family silver. So here it resides in Montana!

Old Scottich Map

This is an antique map of Scotland which I really liked. No McKenzie’s on it though, that I could find. It was in the 1960’s era kitchen.

Ornate, only for show, bathroom at Bair Ranch House

This was a over the top bathroom, which was just for display. The faucets are gold plated, as is the TP holder. The sinks are painted, with gold leaf, porcelain, and the toilet is not to be used. They opened this when they had parties. They had a sign on the toilet saying that “Johnny is out of use today”. 

Priceless Chippendale Mirror

This is the most expensive piece in the home. It is an actual Chippendale mirror. The picture does not do the gold justice. It sparkled!

Herd Dog history

In the barn, we found the gift shop and saddles, plus this info on herding dogs. There was also a sign which told a story of Bair visiting Virginia. At the dinner he was attending, he was speaking to a man who had a sheep farm in Bluefield VA. The man was very proud of his farm. He had 150 sheep. He asked Bair how many he had, his answer was that he hadn’t counted recently, but he had more herding dogs than that!

We left there at 12:30 and drove back to White Sulphur Springs via Hwy.12.  We stopped for gas ($3.68), only buying $15 worth, as we are going to fill up in Great Falls, before we cross into Canada.

We returned to the motor home, ate a quick lunch, walked the dogs, and took a nice nap. Thunderstorms occurred again this evening, that seems to be the current weather pattern. High in the 50’s then thunderstorms, low in the 40’s. Not much sun right now!

2 Responses

  1. Fascinating, never heard of the Hutterite’s; great snaps of the magnificent WEST


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