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  Preservation Month Feature

[photo] A. Quinn Jones
Moon-Randolph Ranch
Photograph courtesy of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office

Moon-Randolph Ranch, Missoula County, Montana
The Moon-Randolph Ranch is important in local history for its association with the broad settlement of the Missoula Valley and the subsequent development and demise of regional architecture and food supply system. The City of Missoula acquired the Moon-Randolph Ranch, and it is currently used for living history activities.

Western Montana was home for thousands of years to various American Indian tribes, by the time of European contact the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreilles tribes dwelt there. Lewis and Clark’s 1805-1806 journeys through the region fired American imaginations about the prospect of profits in the Pacific. Both American and British/Canadian trappers traversed the region, and the Jesuits constructed St. Mary’s mission in the 1840s near present-day Stevensville, Montana, which was later purchased by Major John Owen in 1850.  However, it was the completion of the Mullun Road, the discovery of gold in 1862 and the passing of the Homestead Act by Congress during the Civil War that encouraged large numbers of European Americans to settle and form the Montana Territory.  The Missoula Valley was a rural area settled by farmers. The presence e of U.S. Army forts after the Battle of Little Big Horn, where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry Regiment lost and were slain by an allied force of Cheyenne and Sioux warriors on June 25, 1876, also helped immigration to western Montana.

[photo] A. Quinn Jones HouseMoon-Randolph Ranch
Photograph courtesy of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office


The railroad reached Missoula in 1883, further encouraging settlement. Among the many that descended on the Missoula area in the years after the railroad’s arrival was a Minnesota native by the name of Ray F. Moon.  In the spring of 1889, Ray, his wife Luella and their children decided to settle on 160 acres in the grass-covered hills north of Missoula’s (the town) Northside neighborhood. They applied for and secured their claim under the stipulations of the Homestead Act and started building a “claim shack” and planted a vegetable garden, and soon had a barn constructed. Over the next several years they cultivated 30 acres of land for the growing of vegetable and alfalfa for animal feed. On July 3rd Ray and Luella conveyed their 160-acre quarter section to Helen and George Moon, presumably their relatives. After selling some of the land and keeping 80 acres, George and Helen constructed several outbuilding and may have built the small, gable-roofed farmhouse that continues to stand.


[photo] A. Quinn Jones House
Moon-Randolph Ranch
Photograph courtesy of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office

The population of immigrants continued to grow, and among the immigrants during the opening years of the 20th century was a young couple by the name of William and Emma Randolph. William worked various odd jobs across the state to support his wife (who had trained as a teacher in the first class of students admitted to the University of Montana), including a job as a laborer in Missoula.  William and Emma purchased the Moon Homestead in 1907, agreeing to pay George and Helen Moon $1,900 in installments. In the early years on the farm, the Randolph’s developed a mixed operation model that endured, with adaptations, for decades. They planted alfalfa, and at different times they raised wheat, barley and oats, onions, carrots, apples and green corn, among other crops.  In 1909 they began a poultry operation which in a year grew to several hundred brooder hens. After five years of operation, William and Emma were able to add to their acreage, purchasing the east half of the original Moon Homestead claim in 1912.  On the Moon-Randolph Ranch in the interwar years Emma and William gradually expanded their herd of beef and dairy cattle as well as adding more pigs and constructing a second addition to the barn and in 1923, completing a milk house in compliance with prescribed commercial dairy sanitation standards.

[photo] A. Quinn Jones HouseMoon-Randolph Ranch
Photograph courtesy of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office

During the Great Depression the ranch survived, and the Randolph relied on barter and by 1939 the family ranch had increased to 414 acres.  During that same year they made $81 dollars by enrolling part of their acreage in the Federal New Deal Act program aimed at stabilizing production and promoting soil-building and pasture regeneration. The localized food system that sustained small, diversified farms like the Randolph’s endured into World War II. These years marked the peak of production at the Moon-Randolph Ranch.
In 1945 a fire destroyed much of the hay crop and Emma and Will’s sons Keith and Robert took their families and made lives and livings elsewhere, depriving the ranch of much of the family labor on which it depended. Age took its toll on Emma and Will Randolph, and farm production declined along with the local food system that sustained it. By the time Emma and Will died in 1956, production at the ranch paled to what it was a decade before.  For decades after his parents’ deaths, Bill Randolph continued to work the farm in a reduced capacity, raising goats but sustaining himself by other jobs. Bill Randolph died in 1995, and in 1996 the ranch was turned into a center for living history activities.


[photo] A. Quinn Jones House
Moon-Randolph Ranch
Photograph courtesy of the Montana State Historic Preservation Office

Most of the buildings on the Moon-Randolph Ranch date to the tenure of Ray Moon. The ranch buildings include a tightly spaced domestic cluster composed of the two oldest ranch residences (with the original claim cabin located at the very center of the ranch complex), the outhouse, the root cellar, the milk house, the 1907 well, a shed, the tack shed/wood shed, and a hog shed; a layer of agricultural buildings containing the 1946 residence/chicken coop, the chicken coop/goat shed. A hog shed and the barn; and the coal-mine entrance, winch shed, and tin shed with attached outhouse.  All of these buildings contribute to the historic significance of the site. The Moon-Randolph Ranch was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 1, 2010.

 Read the full file on the Moon-Randolph Ranch


 

 

 

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