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Sheep Rancher's Covered Wagon - Martinsdale, Montana
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 46° 27.971 W 110° 19.089
12T E 552352 N 5146071
Quick Description: About midway between White Sulfur Springs and Harlowton and just south of Highway 12 on Highway 294 is an art lover's dream - an 11,000 square foot ranch house filled with art and antiques, quite an anomaly in this rustic setting.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 3/19/2019 4:39:36 PM
Waymark Code: WM10879
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member wayfrog
Views: 0

Long Description:
One of the larger pieces of family history at the museum is this covered wagon. With a four horse hitch, since it is displayed on the museum grounds we are likely safe in assuming that it was used on the ranch. Charles Bair bought this ranch in about 1903, so this wagon could be as old as that. It would have been used quite often while tending the flock through the years. The ranch remained active until near the end of the twentieth century, so this wagon could have a lot of miles on it.

Though Charles Bair could have been remembered as a sheep rancher, running as many as 300,000 head of sheep on the Bair Ranch, his story runs much deeper - as far afield as the Alaskan Gold Rush, where Bair made his fortune by investing in a ground thawing device. Thereafter he plowed his money into oil, mining, banking and real estate. He ultimately bought this ranch, which his daughters, Marguerite and Alberta, who were world travelers and art lovers, filled with antiques and art works. Their growing collection forced the ranch house to expand to accommodate it, ultimately growing to 11,000 square feet and 26 rooms.

The daughters wished to share their collection with the world and, three years after the last surviving daughter, Alberta, died in 1993, the family home was opened as the Bair Family Museum. In 2011 the 7,000 square foot Charles M. Bair Family Art Museum was opened. Open Memorial Weekend through October, the museum is in a completely pastoral setting half a mile north of the little hamlet of Martinsdale, allowing visitors to stroll the grounds, even picnic on the patio by the gift shop and visitor centre. Inside the gift shop one may purchase souvenirs of the museum, Meagher County and Montana. Tours of the house are guided only, while one may tour the adjacent art museum at their own pace. Family photos and memorabilia are displayed in the Bair Barn.

Following is the story of how the Bair Family Museum came to be, as told by the museum.

Bair Family Museum
...Charles Bair came to Montana in 1883 from Paris, Ohio to make his fortune. He began as a conductor on the Northern Pacific Railroad. He ran sheep on a small ranch near Lavina, Montana and on the Crow Reservation in Hardin (where he became a close personal friend of the last great Crow leader, Chief Plenty Coups), but he made his fortune in the Alaskan Gold Rush – not by working a claim but by investing in a ground – thawing device. He poured his earnings into in oil, mining, banking and real estate interests and he purchased the John Grant Ranch in Martinsdale. Here he had one of the world’s largest sheep ranches, at times running 300,000 head of sheep. In addition, Bair was a key figure in oil and coal exploration, served as a director and founder of Midland Bank in Billings, was involved in many irrigation projects, and played an active role in Montana’s political scene. Bair counted among his friends artists like renowned Western painters Charles Russell. Bair and his wife, Mary, had two daughters: Marguerite, born in Helena in 1889, and Alberta, who was born in the family’s home in Billings in 1895...

Charlie Bair lived on the ranch until his death in 1943 and Mary Bair passed away in 1952. Marguerite married ranch foreman Dave Lamb in 1939. The sisters took pride in their family home in Martinsdale and continued to fill it with an eclectic mix of art and antiques, and, starting in 1953, they made numerous trips to Europe to visit museums and search for antiques and art. Marguerite was the connoisseur and Alberta liked a bargain, but they both loved to travel. They collected silver, European paintings and George III furniture. As the collection grew, they remodeled and added on to the home until it had expanded to 11,000 square feet and 26 rooms. During the 1960s Marguerite and Alberta began to envision the house as a museum that they planned to leave to the state of Montana for the enjoyment of its citizens.

Dave Lamb passed away in 1973, with Marguerite following in 1976. Alberta was the last of the family when she died in 1993 at the age of 97. The sisters’ dream to share their exquisite collection with the public became a reality in 1996 with the opening of the original home as the Bair Family Museum. It culminated in 2011 with the opening of the new 7,000 square foot Charles M. Bair Family Art Museum. Visitors to the site can enjoy the beautiful grounds, picnic in the courtyard, have a guided tour of the family home, and explore the unique collection of photographs and ranching memorabilia in the Bair Barn history center.. The Art Museum displays the collection’s original paintings, over 70 Native American artifacts and objects, and other rotating displays of the family’s exquisite and eclectic collection.
From the Bair Family Museum

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