McMaster Ranch added to the National Register of Historic Places
Story by: Carrie Kiely, Archaeologist, Butte Field Office
The Butte Field Office announces the listing of the McMaster Ranch, north of Winston, Mont., on the National Register of Historic Places.
The ranch was started in 1893 by William McMaster, who came to Montana from Pittsburg, Penn. A blacksmith, William opened his first shop in Helena to
raise money for buying land and eventually getting married. By 1898, he was living on the ranch, raising cattle as well as keeping up his blacksmithing. His wife, Elizabeth, and their son James had moved out to Montana from Pittsburgh by then and actively participated in ranch life.
With few exceptions, the ranch has retained most of its buildings, giving it much the same appearance as when William was alive. Many of the older buildings on the ranch feature a type of exterior post construction that joins clapboards, which appears to be William’s own style of carpentry.
Among the unique features of the ranch are the many iron latches, hooks and bands fashioned by William in his smithy. His use of cast iron went beyond the usual products of barrel bands, wagon wheels and horseshoes. He made straight iron to reinforce fences and gates; hooks of various sizes with latches for the doors to the buildings; and several of his own styles of horseshoes.
For three generations, the McMaster family provided the local economy with a variety of meats from their
livestock of cattle, pigs, and chickens. James McMaster acquired a butcher’s license to create specialty smoked meats for the Helena area.
In 2004 the Butte Field Office acquired the ranch with assistance from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expand the public’s access to outdoor recreation opportunities on the Missouri River. Along with the ranchland, the public also acquired a gem of architecture.