Cook Farm

Trees of great age line the unpaved driveway leading to this historic homestead, built at the intersection of an early wagon route and the 1860s Mullan military road. Albert H. Cook homesteaded here in 1879, settling in a cabin built by railroad loggers Richard Eddy and Edward Bonner, after whom the town of Bonner was named. Cook stated in his “proving up” testimony in 1885 that he had raised grain, hay, and vegetables for five seasons and planted 70 shade and fruit trees. In 1887, Cook leased a portion of the property for use as a brickyard. Neighbors Alexander and Elizabeth Delong bought the farmsite in 1889, and it became known as the “Old Marshall Grade Ranch.” A brick in the northeast corner of the kitchen addition, probably of Marshall Grade manufacture and dated 1889, is inscribed with the name “Delong.” German-born Anton and Christina Lerch bought the homestead in 1899. Changes they witnessed included trolley service that ran nearby between Missoula and Bonner on the tracks of the rerouted Northern Pacific mainline from 1910 to the 1930s. The Lerches operated the farm until 1968, marketing their produce by horse-drawn cart. Their inviting home became a gathering spot for the local German community. While most of the original 149-acre farm has now been subdivided into residential lots, the substantial 1880s brick home remains little-changed in its pastoral setting and continues to beckon visitors who happen along this once-busy roadway.

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5185 Old Marshall Grade, Missoula, Montana ~ Private