Robert Vaughn Homestead/The Captain Couch Ranch
Born in Wales, Robert Vaughn farmed and mined coal in the Midwest before leaving Illinois in 1864 for the Montana goldfields. Observing how his ponies and oxen “fattened readily on weathered bunch grass,” even in winter, he filed for a homestead along the Sun River in 1869. It was the first homestead in what was then Choteau County, an area of over 12,500 square miles. He built a two-room sandstone house on the Fort Benton to Helena Road. Vaughn specialized in breeding racehorses, producing some of Montana’s finest thoroughbreds. In 1886, he married Elizabeth Donohue, who died in childbirth only sixteen months later. Distraught, Vaughn moved with his infant daughter to Great Falls, selling the homestead to Captain Thomas Couch for the princely sum of $45,000. The wealthy general manager of the Boston and Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company, Couch established the company’s Great Falls smelter in 1889. Although Couch traveled widely for business, the ranch became the primary residence of his wife Rachel and their seven children. The Couches built this impressive home of red brick, manufactured and fired on the ranch, around the original sandstone residence. A veranda originally wrapped around three sides. A curved stairway dominates the interior, whose twelve commodious rooms included a parlor, a library, and two dining rooms: one for the family and the other for ranch hands. A flagstone path connects an elaborate brick privy to the “big house.” The large barn held Couch’s prize thoroughbred bulls and racehorses.