Seeley Swan to Welcome

Communities | Recreation | Real Estate | Events | Lodging
Local History | Churches | Businesses | News & Features


$55,000 Grant will transform
Historic Barn into Museum & Visitor Center

Historic Double
Arrow Barn


...collapsed from the record 1997-98 snows, but will be moved and restored to become a Museum & Visitors' Center.

 

Photo by G. Noland
(Taken Winter '97)

 
The Double Arrow Barn

 

...in a winter photo before its collapse
from the record snows of 1997-98.

 

 

Photo courtesy of The Emily A.

The Museum The Barn Will Become

(Artist sketch by Rick Sherman)

Historic Barn Receives Top Grant
Awarded in Spite of Heavy Statewide Competition

Submitted by
The Museum Committee

The Governor and the Tourism Advisory Council recently announced that the Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program (TIIP) awarded $55,00 to the Seeley-Swan Histori-cal Museum and Visitor Center, which represents the highest cash award of the five recipients. Thirty six applicants vied for the grant money. Earlier the museum received grant funding from a CTEP grant as part of the Highway 83 Beautifica-tion Award. The visitor center con-cept has been part of planning efforts which began five years ago. Consid-erable effort went into identity of needs in the Seeley-Swan Economic Diversification Study of 1993. The CTEP (Community Transportation and Enhancement Program) grant in-cluded the visitors center as a phase III to the highway beautification along Highway 83.

The Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce supported the dual concept of museum and visitor center and only became a possible reality when Double Arrow Golf Resort of-fered 1 1/2 acres of land north of the scenic golf course approximately one year ago. Then the harsh and heavy snows of the Winter of 1997 collapsed the historic Double Arrow Barn's roof and the barn became a possibility for the center's structure. "The old barn is extremely aesthetic with its high gambreled roof and ev-eryone in this valley recognizes it as a landmark. Everyone was just sick that its days had ended. Fortunately, they have not," states Ed Bezanson, Double Arrow Manager and Chair-man of the Seeley-Swan Museum and Visitor's Center.

In addition to the barn and the dual role of museum and visitor cen-ter, another strong support to the project is the involvement of all lev-els of government support. "This really is a role model for how different agencies can work together for one common goal," stressed Addrien Marx. National, county and local agencies offered technical and profes-sional support for the center. The U.S. Forest Service offered the technical assistance of Lolo National Forest Architect Ken Duce; Allan Matthews, Missoula Preservation Officer provided historical back-ground and direction; Zoe Mohesky, Missoula Rural Planning Director provided support as well as profes-sional guidance; and Bruce Johnson, Lolo National Forest offered valuable help on visitor center procurements and staffing, and interpretative signage.

"Without the assistance of so many talented and professional peo-ple from so many varied agencies, this concept of a museum and visitor center just wouldn't have been possi-ble," relates Gary Miller, President of Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The Cham-ber has been an active participant in not only tourism related events, but in the promotion of existing re-sources, employment and businesses as well as assisting in planning ef-forts that best serve the future growth in the valley.

The TIIP and CTEP grant cov-ers the first phase, which includes moving the barn from its present site to its new location on Highway 83, reconstructing the roof, installation of windows and generally enclosing the building. Additional excavating, road and parking areas will involve donated material and labor from local businesses and contractors. New re-stroom facilities are funded through the two combined grants. Phase I work will begin in the Spring/Summer of 1998 and Phase II will begin a soon as finances are obtained. Even with advance planning and hours of budget reviews, the most difficult hurdle will be the ability to close up and secure the barn for next Winter. Museum plan-ners are considering asking for corpo-rate sponsors help, as the abil-ity to do Phase I will ensure that Phase II will be more properly funded. Much attention has also been given to maintaining the historicity of the barn's structure.

Phase II will involve all utili-ties, security systems, interior design and construction, and properly lit and climate controlled display areas for preservation of historical artifacts and documents. This phase will be much more costly, but with its conclusion, the Seeley Swan valley will boast a unique and appealing Visitor's Center which will compliment - and be complimented by a state of the art museum. "We can enhance what this valley has to offer by a better under-standing of its past, as well as an ability to display what is here today. I can see environmental and educa-tional opportunities within the mu-seum having no limits," Addrien Marx stated. "An exciting possibility is the 'living museum' concept where the past and the present are in con-tinual growth and are explored through resources. I can see schools here really benefitting from this fa-cility - not only in the research de-partment, but in possible educational programs, training, etc. The process of actually obtaining this wonderful grant has certainly opened up count-less possibilities...and best of all - everyone in the valley can benefit."

The uniqueness of the barn for a museum is perfect for imaginations. The horse stalls on the ground floor will lend themselves to a very effec-tive gallery display. Visitors will walk through the doors and initially experience a trip back in time. The stalls create a natural exhibit area. Visitors will actually smell and heat the early days as they walk on the broad plank flooring.

A historical society needs to be formed which oversees the collec-tions, displays, and long term planning policies of the museum. Train-ing of volunteers will take place - but as completion of the Historical Museum/Visitor Center is projected to be completed in just under two years, volunteers are asked to call the number listed below to be included in the planning and formation.

For further information or ques-tions concerning monetary dona-tions, and possible historical donations or collections, phone Ad-drien Marx, Museum Director at 677-2445.

 

The Double Arrow Barn

A Brief History
by Addrien Marx

The soft winds of summer flutter the colorful wildflowers at the base of the Double Arrow Stallion Barn. Spectacular, majestic peaks of the Swan Range loom in the back-ground as the long forgotten horse drawn sleigh runners lay dwarfed in the tall green grass nearby. Most no-ticeable, however, is the haunting presence and not quite audible voices of another time...a time still present in memory, a time still present in touch...

Former Vice President of the Anaconda Company and close asso-ciate of Copper King Marcus Daly, Allen H. Toole introduced Dutchman Jan Boissevain to the beauty of the Seeley Swan in 1928. Together, they discussed the possibility of a dude ranch. Allen, having more pressing matters involved his brother-in-law, Colonel George F. Weisel, who commanded a reserve engineer regi-ment in Utah and was returning from Alaska where he had managed an electric sawmill. The Weisel-Boisse-vain Ranch Company was formed, Weisel contributing his engineering skills and his wide acquaintance in western Montana, and Boissevain purchasing the Corlett Ranch which he bought in cash from Harry Hunter of the Milwaukee Railroad.

The Weisel-Boissevain Ranch Company was considered much too formal of a name for the dude ranch. Boissevain was extremely interested in horses, having served three years in the Dutch Cavalry. The Double Arrow brand was on his private horse and it mystified Boissevain that an American horse had made it into the Dutch calvary. The horse, from Drummond, Montana, probably made it into the foreign calvary when an Allied patrol crossed the border into neutral Holland. After the war, Boissevain traced his brand to the Spear Brothers in Drummond. The Double Arrow Ranch was named af-ter this sturdy mount, having won many cross country honors during his service with Jan Boissevain.

The Stallion Barn was one of thirteen buildings built during the Winter of 1929-1930. The logs were unique from all other logs used on the ranch. These straight, untwisting logs were made from burned, dead standing timber. Log builder's exper-tise acknowledges that dead standing are the best with which to build because no shrinkage or twist-ing will occur so common in other green logs. Missoula contractor Fred English was responsible for roofing. The gambrel roof gave the barn a cultural and aesthetic appeal and has served as the backdrop to many "Kodak moments."

By July 1, 1930, the first guests began to arrive. The very first visitors to enjoy the facility included Dr. and Mrs. Livingston Farrand, President of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Ladd, old Bostonians, Jack and Mrs. Curtiss, Chicago, two daugh-ters of the Vice President of the Milwaukee Railroad, the Sparrow sisters, and many others.

Easterners were not just the well-to-do pleasure seekers. Phil Wright worked for Jan Boissevain for two summers as a working dude. Wright's mother had given Boisse-vain a couple of cocktail parties in Gross Pointe, Michigan, when Jan had been busy "dude-wrangling" fu-ture guests. Boissevain suggested that Phil come to Montana.

"I recall getting up at 5:00 a.m. to gather, ride, and separate the mares in heat" recalls Wright, now of Liv-ingston, Montana. "The ranch had 100 mares and a very famous breed-ing stallion, Big Red, I think was his name. One young wrangler, Wally Hogsen, was given an older mare to ride, which was to be bred for the very last time. Nothing would do. He was treating her so well - but he was holding her by the halter - and the stud rushed out at great speed and fury, grabbed for the mare's mane - but got Wally's in-stead! Poor, Wally - he knew he was had! We had our own rodeo, right then!!!"

At this time, horsebreeding had produced a new type, the half-breed, which had the endurance for an Army remount. In addition to the dude business, which was especially pop-ular before WWII, the Double Arrow Ranch supplied remounts to the Army. In the Fall, a veterinarian and an Army officer would visit the ranch to inspect and buy what was needed. The special, well bred stal-lions were kept in the Stallion Barn, a source of pride and show for all visiting dudes to behold.

Since the first day of use, the loft held hay. "One time I was up in the loft," laughs Phil Wright, one time wrangler. "Tom and Jerry, our Belgian team was working the swing below. I was in the loft getting ready to receive the hay. They stepped into an old manure pile - one with a nest of bees! I will NEVER forget the hay just a comin' a flying in...had to be near 90 miles per hour!

Lester Perro, head packer and Herb Townsend, horsebreaker and handler, lived the life of real western cowboys. The buildings they fre-quented, the animals they worked, provided a dream for dudes and horses for the Army. The gambrel roofed barn was their headquarters.

But as the moon begins to il-luminate the Trail Creek meadow and the old Stallion Barn's shadow creeps across to the corral posts, the eerie echoes of garbled voices and beating drums seem almost present...not life times ago...

The Salish Indians, or Flatheads were misnamed, in the eyes of Jan Boissevain and most of his guests. "A beautiful, carefree people who never waged war...who were my neighbors and after many years, my most trusted friends" writes Jan Boissevain in a memoir. John and Agnes Pelko were frequent visitors to the Ranch and would camp on the Trail Creek Meadow. Every Fall Eneas Granjo, chief of the Flatheads, his wife Teresa and their daughter Sophie would stay in the ancestral camp along Trail Creek Meadows or nearby Morrell Creek. Flatheads en-joyed the Fall hunting trips into the country around the south fork of the Flathead River, now a part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. They would stop on their way into their hunting grounds and return a few weeks later. Often, dudes would be entertained as the Indians performed ceremonial dances. The beautiful gambrel roofed barn fit into the col-orful festivities; it became as much a part of the Trail Creek Meadow as the tall cottonwoods and towering ponderosa that stood nearby.

Jan Boissevain believed Indians had the right to hunt year long and his friendship was acknowledged by them in sharing sweatbaths and many smokes. He would ride from his lodge on the hill overlooking Trail Creek Meadow and down into their encampments, not far from the Stallion Barn, and warn his Salish friends of the Game Warden's trip. The Stallion Barn was and is an im-posing profile on the historic meadows. The people who gathered in its eastern shade on a hot Summer evening or were protected from the stinging winds of a Winter blizzard spanned the entire gamut of human history and involvement in the Seeley-Swan area.

The Great Depression and WWII had, as in all other parts of the coun-try, a devastating impact on the Double Arrow Ranch. Money dried up and dudes were no longer spend-ing on luxuries in the west and the Calvary remount was a part of his-tory. An auction was held in the Summer of 1942 and Jan Boissevain moved to California, abandoning his Montana dreams - centered around the Stallion Barn and the buildings that supported his horse ranch.

Various people tried to make a successful living from the ranch, struggling and leaving within a short amount of time. Not until 1958 did the other major influence on Double Arrow history tie up his horse at the barn. Ironically, as was his predeces-sor, the new owner's love and devo-tion centered around horses. Once again, the Double Arrow Ranch was a horse ranch, and the barn the heart-beat of its existence.

C.B. Rich and his young wife Helen purchased the Double Arrow, planning on opening a guest ranch and outfitter business. "The ranch's centerpiece, the heart and life of the whole thing was that barn," reflected C.B.'s son Jack. "That barn was al-ways on Dad's priority list every year. Even when he retired, Mom and Dad bought the property across the creek from the barn. He wanted to be close to the barn. It was the essence of all our lives. He planned to be in its shadow until the day he died."

One of the first remodeling jobs was the barn. Boissevain had four large stalls inside for his stallions, but C.B. Rich needed to make it fit the needs of a western horse ranch. Their improvements are still intact today - four cribs and two milkcow scansions. Where Jan Boissevain had accommodations for four stallions, the Rich family had room for 14 horses and two milkcows.

The new accommodations were good for the team and wagons that the Rich family used. Hay was brought in from the fields with their Belgian team. In Winter, area school children (and adults) would wait for the cold December evening when a horse-drawn sleigh and a wagon full of hay would head for town. Santa, a.k.a. C.B., would guide the sleigh through the dark roads into town, snow speaking beneath the runners and the bells on the harnesses an-nouncing the cheerful traveler. There, sacks of candy and Christmas carols would warm the night air and hayrides were free to those who could find room on the wagon, always teaming with youngsters and random flying snowballs. Certainly, the Bel-gians knew, as did C.B. that back at the ranch, nestled in the snow and ignorant of the cold night, the barn doors stood open. The yellow lights inside would light the snowy entry and welcome both the drivers and the teams inside. For over twenty five Christmas seasons, the tradition of the barn, the teams, and Santa made dreams evolve into memories.

The legacy of C.B. Rich is a part of this generation's memory of the old gambrel roofed barn. C.B. Rich, famous outfitter, author, poet, and teacher of life's lessons was one of the last gentleman cowboys. Rid-ing out from the barn's odorous inte-rior, one can still visualize C.B. on his favorite pinto and with a tip of his wide white cowboy hat, you were given a genuine gesture of respect.

"When I heard that the old barn's roof had caved in," C.B.'s son Jack tells, "I suddenly got this big lump in my throat and was again feeling a major loss. All five of us kids spent a lot of time at the barn, a lot of time. It was the place for childhood dreams, as adults - the old barn is still a part of our dreams."

But raising five children, host-ing a busy guest ranch and operating a successful outfitting business was too much for any family. In 1966, Helen and C.B. Rich sold the ranch, but continued operating their outfitting business from the old barn and surrounding corrals and hay fields.

Since the time of that last gen-tleman cowboy, John and Paula Tripp, land developers, and later, the present day Seattle-based partnership have owned the Double Arrow Ranch. The partners have recognized the responsibility and have invested money as well as interest and sup-port to keeping the historicity of the ranch intact.

The days of the working horse ranch have gone and the well loved stallions and working teams have returned to the fields they once grazed. Still, the barn lends a haunting pres-ence to its past grandeur. The memo-ries still live, the stories and photos still survive. But to enter the barn's worn interior and to touch the aged but still blackened logs - haunt-ingly, the voices and sights of the past filter through the imagination...a time still present in mem-ory, a time still present to touch...

Return to December 1997 News Index
Return to News Contents Page

Seeley Swan to Welcome

Communities | Recreation | Real Estate | Events | Lodging
Local History | Churches | Businesses | News & Features