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Worth Keeping

by Craig Flentie, Lewistown Field Office

buildings on the Hagadone homestead

The Hagadone Homestead has a dug out, as well as log and frame buildings.  All three styles are depicted in this photo.
BLM photo 
close-up of one of the homestead buildings

A closer view of one of the buildings.
BLM photo

The Lewistown Field Office is pleased to announce that on January 29, 2009, the Frank Hagadone Homestead site was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

The well-preserved homestead sits on public land about 20 miles north of Winifred, Mont., and is one of the features that contributes to the uniqueness of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.  

The homestead sits on a small bench overlooking the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. The setting is remote and quiet, except for the wind. At times it is beautiful, but still a constant reminder of how harsh this environment can be. It is also a rich source of this area’s cultural history. 

The center of the homestead consists of dug outs, log buildings, frame buildings, old farming equipment, rolls of barbed wire, and other trappings that tell stories of the men and women who worked to carve out a living here. 

The site was first homesteaded in 1918 by a gentleman named George Clyborn. Herbert Cameron (Clyborn’s brother-in-law) and his family also lived on the place until about 1924, when Frank Hagadone bought it.

Hagadone kept the homestead for nearly 30 years. Throughout that time he used additional homesteading conveyances to enlarge the original claim (eventually owning 320 acres) and built additional buildings and other improvements to make life more practical, comfortable and sustainable. 

Between 1953 and 1980, the homestead and its acreage were owned by several local families. In 1980, the BLM purchased it for its truly unique evidence of yesteryears.

Frank Hagadone was a personality of considerable dimension and was very much a part of this area’s early history. The story of his life would include these events:

  • Born in Nebraska in 1875.
  • Moved to Fergus County in 1903, after trailing cattle north from Texas.
  • Traveled for a while with William Cody’s Wild West show as a marksman.
  • For a time, made a living breaking horses.
  • In 1917, settled with his wife and three daughters on a different homestead located downriver from what would eventually become known as the Hagadone place.
  • Saved the life of one of his daughters by slashing her lower leg with a straight edge razor and sucking out the poison after she was bitten by a rattlesnake. The snake had been resting under a tarp which served as a rug over the dirt floor in their living room.
  • In 1924, bought and moved upstream to the Clyborn homestead -- his wife and daughters stayed on the original homestead until 1927, when they moved into Winifred.
  • Built barges and filled them with supplies in Fort Benton, then sold the goods and the lumber used to build the barges as he floated downriver.
  • Was a carpenter of some accomplishment and helped build many homes and buildings in the growing community of Winifred.
  • Became a pretty good gardener and made money by raising vegetables on his homestead and selling them in Winifred.
  • Worked tirelessly with a Fresno Scraper and team of horses to build a road from his homestead up to the bench above.
  • Rode a horse or walked from the homestead to the upper bench where he kept a ’36 Chevy coupe parked.
  • Never drove his Chevy much over 10 miles per hour.
  • Could roll a Bull Durham cigarette with one hand while driving with the other.
  • At age 78, while on a trip to Fresno, Calif., to visit his sister, Frank scuffled with a couple of fellows who tried to roll him in Las Vegas. One telling of this story indicates everyone involved in the incident--including Frank--was carrying a handgun.
  • Frank died of injuries from the fight a few days later at his sister’s home in Fresno.

By today’s standards, when so many risk little more physical danger in the workplace than a nasty paper cut, Frank Hagadone’s life seems almost of novel proportion. Yet upon a second look, perhaps his life adventures were nearly typical of the day for those outgoing individuals who were daring enough to carve a living out of this harsh landscape during the early years.

Regardless of the magnitude, the BLM’s Lewistown Field Office feels strongly that these remaining homesteads, stories, and artifacts of the day merit care and sharing. With that in mind, the Lewistown FO has designated a site steward to continue monitoring its condition and to complete minor maintenance.  Interpretive signs will be installed inside the buildings this summer.                



Last updated: 06-28-2012