Archives for posts with tag: Ovando

The View from the Wagon

This is probably the view that our ranching lady saw from her perch on the wagon during the long trip to Missoula with her husband and mother. Today on the highway it’s 51 minutes from Ovando; in 1922 in the middle of winter it took them 9 hours!

These beautiful draft horses live and work at Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deerlodge, MT. You can visit them anytime; the ranch is run by the Nat. Park Service.

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This envelope contains 12 photo negatives of folks working and playing at a ranch in 1920s Montana. It was found along with four diaries by an unknown author, in a dumpster. Property of Circle Square Antiques, Missoula, Mt.

Aside from the name on the front (which may or may not be the family’s), there is no information on who these people are…maybe we can find out together.

A few days later phone call from the owner of Circle Square Antiques brought me back through that creaky wooden door.  “Come see what else was with the diaries,” said John, who I view as a friendly Charon guiding folks across the river Styx into myriad unknown pasts.

A small dingey envelope labelled “G. E. Schoffield, Ovando, MT”  lay on the glass counter.  The cursive writing in fountain pen was brisk; businesslike; nothing like our rancher lady’s cheerful looping script.  If you look carefully you can see how well-preserved it is: an Eastman-Kodak envelope (poor old Kodak!) from Smith’s Drug Store on HIggins Ave. in Missoula.

Who was G. E. Schoffield?  Was it our mystery lady, or one of her family members, or just a neighbor who rode a horse/drove a buggy/hopped on the New York Stagecoach/caught a ride in one of those newfangled CARS into Missoula?  And where in the heck is Ovando, Montana? 

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Well, here’s a map, and a picture of the trading post today.  Ovando is still there, still small (81 souls at last census), still Euro-American (98.8%, with 41% German ancestry) and probably still mostly a ranching community (If one of you readers knows anything about G. E. Schoffield from Ovando MT please write to me pronto!)

Meanwhile, John carefully pulled out the negatives and we peered at them through the light of the window.