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Lewistown Field Office
Release Date: 06/14/12
Contacts: Craig Flentie    
  (406) 538-1943    

Interpretive Center to Celebrate Homesteading

Fort Benton, MT----This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862, and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument Interpretive Center (at 701 7th Street in Fort Benton) is commemorating this landmark legislation during the month of June.

From June 1st to 30th, the Interpretive Center will host a traveling exhibit on the history of homesteading, including a display panel and hands-on activities for younger children. Older kids can play Boom or Bust: Mystery of the Old Homestead. In this detective-style game, players race to uncover when, where, why and how each family homesteaded, and decide whether the homesteaders boomed or busted on their Montana claim.  Players use copies of actual documents including oral histories, newspaper articles, and land records as clues to solve the mystery.

The exhibit will feature maps and Government Land Office records  from four area homesteaders—Benjamin W. Armstrong, Willard E. Barrows, Mildred Hunt, and Sophie Jefferson—who claimed land in Chouteau County between 1905 and 1915.  These homesteaders were family men, single mothers and pioneers who both cherished their independence and relied on a strong network of neighbors to thrive.  From fishing on the Marias River to selling chickens to T.C. Power and Brothers, their stories shed light on early 20th century life in the greater Fort Benton area. 

A selection of Willard Barrows’ vivid homesteading photographs will also be on display from the Schwinden Library.

Barrows’ son, T. Eugene Barrows, wrote in his 1981 memoir Homestead Days, “Probably in no other place does family life involve the kitchen stove as much as it does on a homestead. Ours was a Majestic Wood and Coal Range. Nothing was said about using buffalo chips, but they burned just as well.”

The Interpretive Center will also have on display Government Land Office records from homesteaders featured in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. The records include Wilder’s father, Charles Ingalls, (“Pa” in the books), her husband, Almanzo Wilder, and Almanzo’s siblings, Eliza Jane and Royal Wilder, from DeSmet, South Dakota.

The exhibit will be available to view throughout the month of June.  The Interpretive Center is open, 8 am to 5pm daily.

Contact Elinor Marboe at (406) 622-4000 or 1-877-256-3252 for more information.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Lewistown Field Office   920 NE Main      Lewistown, Montana 59457  

Last updated: 06-28-2012