Located in Deer Lodge, Montana, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch is an historic attraction where visitors can learn about the industry that shaped the American West. Dating from the latter half of the 19th century, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch offers a window into the lifestyle of the cowboys, ranch hands, and other associated trades that fueled one of America’s most important industries. The attraction offers an inside look at the estates of both Johnny Grant and Conrad Kohrs, after whom the ranch is named. Visitors will be able to see the personal effects of the owners of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch as well as listen to docents explain the daily trials and tribulations of the workers who were responsible for the day-to-day operations. With tours, talks, and interactive experiences, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch aims to transport visitors to a period that shaped American history and national identity.
Jonny Grant, the enigmatic figure after whom the Grant-Kohrs Ranch is partially named, led a life worthy of note. Though born in Alberta, Canada, to a father who had been involved in the fur trade through the Hudson Bay Company, Grant came of age in Quebec following the death of his mother. As a teenager, he moved to Idaho to follow his father, but quickly realized that the once-lucrative fur trade was no longer in vogue. By 1857 he had found his way to what would become Deer Lodge. By then he already had an extensive family as he had fathered 26 children by eight mothers, all of whom came from different Native American tribes, with whom he was building alliances. Throughout his life, Grant kept his family close and even took in abandoned children he encountered on his travels. The Oregon Trail, which had been booming since 1850, saw a demand for livestock trade. Grant seized this emerging market and started a successful livestock trade business of his own once he had built his homestead. In the process of doing this, he founded the town of Deer Lodge as he persuaded other traders and ranchers to settle near him. With both Mexican and Metis residents, Deer Lodge was originally very multicultural. However, with the influx of miners into the town following the gold rush, the character of the area changed. A language barrier, cultural shift, and newly imposed taxes persuaded Grant to sell the ranch and move back to Canada, where he lived out the rest of his days.
The first resident on the Grant-Kohrs Ranch was Johnny Grant, who built the ranch house in 1862. The first floor of the abode was a dedicated trading post while the living quarters were situated on the second floor. Four years after establishing the ranch, Grant sold it to Conrad Kohrs. Under Kohrs, the house underwent several transformations. As his cattle business thrived, Kohrs was able to build a brick addition onto the home. A large kitchen, formal dining room, second bathroom, and several new bedrooms were added in this expansion. Augusta Kohrs, Conrad’s wife, was able to add tasteful, elegant decorations, which are still on display today.
Cowboys were the lifeblood of the ranches that dotted the American West. Their lives were full of toil but were also uniquely their own. Their rugged individualism popularized American ideals concerning self-determination and freedom for generations to come. Visitors to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch can take part in an interactive program that will acquaint them with the daily chores that 19th century cowboys would have had to carry out. Travelling in a horse-drawn wagon, visiting a real cowboy encampment, and participating in a simulated branding activity are just a few of the undertakings visitors can look forward to on this lively adventure.
There are several lectures available to visitors of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. These touch upon the key aspects of ranching that permeated 19th century Deer Lodge. Working on the open range meant cowboys had to bring cooking provisions with them anywhere they went, and visitors can hear how the chuckwagon allowed cowboys to feed and shelter themselves when needed. For a more in-depth look at the open range cowboy lifestyle, visitors can listen to the Cowboy Talk from a real ranger. Ranching would not have been possible without the involvement of blacksmiths. During the haying season and beyond, cattle ranchers required the expertise of skilled ironworkers to repair machinery and to shoe horses. Visitors can learn about the history of ironwork and its importance to the ranching industry during the 19th century.
266 Warren Lane, Deer Lodge, MT 59722, Phone: 406-846-2070