Gold strikes at Bannack and Alder Gulch brought Irish immigrant Peter Whaley to Montana in the 1860s. Whaley’s wife and nine children shared his adventures, including his service as the first agent on the Flathead Reservation, until the family settled here on a desert land claim in 1877. The house, built circa 1885, survives as an outstanding example of vernacular frontier architecture. Weatherboard siding conceals a massive complicated understructure of square-hewn logs. Vergeboards with a hand-carved clover motif, tall pedimented windows, and porches (originally adorned with chamfered columns and spool-like ornamentation) reveal frontier elegance achieved through resourceful adaptation of crude techniques and limited materials. The Whaleys farmed and raised livestock until 1905 when they sold the property to a short-lived horse breeding operation. At the height of the “apple boom” in 1909, the Bitterroot Valley Irrigation Company purchased the homestead, planting the upper fields with MacIntosh apple trees and gooseberry bushes for nursery stock. In 1921, new owners Fred and Anna Hagen returned the homestead to a self-sufficient farm, raising corn, potatoes, hogs, and dairy cows. After more than fifty years of farming, the Hagens sold the land and their son retained life use of the house. He remained here until 1988. Though the land again belongs to nature, the house, several old foundations, and the outbuildings chronicle the agricultural development of this fertile valley.

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Wildfowl Road West of East Side Highway, Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, Stevensville, Montana ~ Public