On October 15, 1892, the federal government opened the land around Absarokee for settlement. The area had been part of the Crow Indian Reservation, but a year before, Crow tribal leaders bowed to political pressure and ceded the coveted territory. Sever Simonson and his family established squatter’s rights at the confluence of the Stillwater and East Rosebud Rivers eleven days before the territory formally opened. His twenty-five-year-old nephew, Oliver Hovda, soon joined him. Together they established a trading post, which became the Absarokee Cooperative Trading Co. Soon after they built a saloon, livery stable, hotel, and blacksmith shop. Simonson filed for a post office designation, and Hovda became Absarokee’s first postmaster. He also ranched and founded a local bank. Hovda married Belle Wilson in 1901. The couple hired area rancher and trained carpenter Jacob Wagner to construct this two-story home around 1904. The well-built, beautifully proportioned residence reflects the taste of its day, combining the irregular roofline associated with the Queen Anne style and neo-classical details: Doric column porch supports, a fantail window in the gable end, and a pediment accenting the main entryway. Leaded glass windows, oak trim, maple flooring, and elegantly carved doors grace the interior. The Hovdas did not live here long. By 1910, the home belonged to Hugh Campbell, manager of the Absarokee Cooperative Trading Co., which Hovda had helped found. The house returned to the family when Hovda’s nephew, Elmen Torgrimsen, purchased it in 1928. He lived here with his wife and children until 1950.



43 North Woodward Avenue, Absarokee, Montana ~ Private