The Eras

Over the years the Beartooth Ranch has seen many smiling faces.  But some eras are defined by some larger than life personalities.

Beartooth Ranch, the beginning…

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The beginningByron "Bine" and Cora Wood came to Montana in 1880.  Byron was among early prospectors in Nye City 7 years later.  In 1892 he moved back to the Stillwater Basin that had so impressed him.  Byron and Cora homesteaded what will become Beartooth Ranch.  They enjoyed summers, and endured the winters on this stunning property which sits on the Stillwater River just below Woodbine Falls.  They welcomed friends from Absarokee, family and even gold miners.  Woodbine Falls and Mount Wood were named after Byron, and Cora Creek which ran through the property, was named after his wife.  He soon added cattle raising to his business and operated the first "dude" ranch in the county.  In 1914, Mr Wood was involved in litigation with Minneapolis Mining Company, that corporation claimed that he had "squatted" on one of the claims they had established in 1884, and while he claimed his ownership, he felt that he had lost his freedom of his beloved hills and in 1921, sold out to Ed Ikerman.   

 

 

The Ed Ikerman Era

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Ed IkermanEd Ikerman, was born in Eldora, Iowa.  In 1917, Ed came to Billings to visit a sister and a nephew, Merle Fagg, and got his first look at the Beartooth Mountains.  He fell in love with the place and bought the property from Byron and Cora Wood.  Ed Ikerman, pictured here with Sioux Charlie Lake and Cathedral Mountain in the background, established Beartooth Ranch in 1922.  He initially ran it as a boys dude ranch. He took out an ad saying “A camp characteristic of the Great West. Membership limited to twenty boys. Twenty one day horseback trip to Grasshopper Glacier, Cooke City, and through Yellowstone Park over the unbeaten trail. Intensive physical training, horsemanship, roping and mountain hiking. Edward J. Ikerman, Director”  It later turned into a full scale dude ranch with horseback riding, volleyball, handball, swimming and elaborate pack trips into the mountains.  His guest list included people from all over the world, some of them plenty famous.  Among them were, John D. Rockafeller, Jr. and his sons,  Henry DeWulf Smythe of the Atomic Energy Commission, the noted mountain climbers, Robert and Miriam Underhill, the sons of Gilbert LaGarce, president of the National Geographic society, and clay Saunders, Jr., who's dad started Piggly Wiggly; and numerous artists, photographers, doctors and scientists even some millionaires, many of whom returned year after year.

In 1955, the Beartooth Ranch was sold to the Langston and Mouat family and Mr and Mrs Ikerman moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Ed returned every summer and continued taking people on pack trips through the Stillwater uplands.  

Please visit the "photos" page to see actual brochures from the Ed Ikerman Era!   

The Mouat, Langston…and Laurence Era

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Jim and Ellen Langston, Bill Mouat and John Mouat purchased Beartooth Ranch from Ed Ikerman in 1955.  Ellen tells me that they made their first payment in the fall of 1955 and their first season was in 1956. She said that her Uncle Willy told them that there was a possibility that Ed may want to sell.  She called the Executive Secretary at the Dude Ranchers Association which at the time was in Bilings.  The Executive Secretary also mentioned the possibility that Ed was looking to sell.  She said they did not set out to run a dude ranch, but her Uncle Willy Mouat who had familiarity with the Stillwater Valley, urged them to buy, in fact he was "very suggestive" of the idea.  

Jim and Ellen at the time had one son, James, who was 3 at the time of the purchase.  He attended school at the Stillwater Mine until the 5th grade.  At that time he attended school in Nye.  Ellen tells me that the mine school sat where the chrome pile sat for many decades.  Not sure where Rad, son number two, attended school...more history to come!

At some time around the early 60's, Bill Mouat sold his share to my parents, Roger and Josie Laurence.  My family started going to the ranch around 1960.  Their friend, Paul Soderlind a NWA pilot from Minnesota, urged them to go to this amazing dude ranch in the Beartooth Mountains.  My dad had roots in Montana and due to his love of the outdoors and hunting, he was hooked!  They bought in and helped run the ranch until its sale to Anaconda Mining Company in 1979.  My brother and sister and I spent our summers working at Beartooth, it was an amazing place for kids to be.  It is what made me the person I am today.

Please visit the "photos" page to see actual brochures from this era!

 

 

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