Stories From the Tamaracks:

"I Remember When..."

November 9, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

This picture shows the transfer of mail being made at the old Greenough store and post office during the winter of 1931. Both vehicles carry the name "Seeley Lake Stage". The one on the right is Mr. O.H. Coats' "Snowmobile". The rear of the vehicle is open to accommodate two large packagesone for the Tamaracks and the other for Otter's Resortthat name was later changed to Wapiti Lodge after "Dutch" Wagenback purchased Lawrence Otter's establishment. The building that housed the Greenough store and post office was just south of where the sunset school is located off highway 200, and along the former main highway, all dirt, that ran east over Sunset Hill and on to the Clearwater Crossing. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner.

Ken Demmonds, manager of the Tamaracks at the time, is shoveling snow off the roof of the Tamaracks Lodge building during the winter of 1936-37. Pel Turner, son of Henry and Maude Turner, who were the owners of the Tamaracks is frolicking in the deep snow. Pel was Ken's nephew. This was one of the most severe winters to hit western Montana in many years. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner.

A Ford Model A Pickup truck in the Blanchard Flats area in 1931, near the present junction of Highways 200 and 83. Mr. O.H. Coats said the winter of 1931 was an "open winter." Photo courtesy of Monte Turner.

(Stories From Long Ago About the Tamaracks of Seeley Lake
and Surrounding Area Compiled by Jack Demmons.)


This is part 10 of a series of articles about the Tamaracks Lodge and surrounding Blackfoot - Swan Valley areas. The pictures in this article, originally the property of Pel and Joyce Turner, were loaned to Jack by their son Monte Turner. Pel is the youngest son of the original owners of The Tamaracks, Henry "Heinie" and Maude Turner.

It was in 1931 that The Tamaracks opened for business. The dude ranch's first ad in the Daily Missoulian, dated Sunday, May 17 of that year, mentioned boats, horses, bathing and meals at all hours. Also, that for reservations only, there was a direct telephone connection through the Seeley Lake Ranger Station - telephone number 020-F-23. (In 1931 the main lodge building had not been completed but the dining room was operating.)

The Sunday Missoulian, dated April 12, 1931, had the following article:

"Daily mail service between Bonner and Seeley Lake will be resumed May 1, according to O.H. Coats (Orlie H. Coats), who has the mail contract in the Blackfoot Valley.

"Through the winter daily service, with the exception of Sunday, is maintained between Bonner and Greenough and two trips a week from Greenough on to Seeley Lake.

"Mr. Coats said that the snowmobile (see Picture of snowmobile) which he secured last fall to cover the route throughout the winter was used on but two trips, owing to an open winter.

"He said, however, that the mail carrier operating between Seeley Lake and Rumble Creek ( approximately 1 1/2 miles south of the Swan River airstrip and 5 miles north of the Holland Lake cutoff), carried the mail over that route throughout the winter and with horses.

"The winter was an exception and Mr. Coats said that next winter he may have a great deal of use for his snowmobile."

Parts of O.H. Coats' snowmobile still exist. Bud and Lena Wolff, former long-time residents of the Blackfoot and Swan, have them at their home in Missoula. (They have been meeting with Jack each week since early July, at his office at the airport, where he has been recording their history.)

The picture showing Pel Turner as a youngster with his uncle Ken Demmons, was typical of conditions that existed during the severe winter that hit western Montana in 1936-1937.

The next article about The Tamaracks and surrounding area will mention the Milwaukee Railroad ski trains that came up the Blackfoot Valley to the Clearwater areanear the present-day junction of Highways 200 and 83in February, 1938, and farther on to the Boyd Ranch during the second trip that month. Hundreds traveled on those ski trains. There will also be pictures.

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