Waborn and Sarah E. Harrison Ranch House

Gold brought the first white population to Montana, but by the 1870s it was the abundant grasslands that brought settlers to the eastern plains. Brothers Waborn and Al Harrison drove some of the first cattle and horses to this area in 1877 and filed water rights on Sweet Grass Creek in 1878. Following common practices, the Harrisons purchased strips of land along the river, knowing that whoever controlled the water controlled the land. The vast public lands behind became their “accustomed range.” The Harrisons were true ranchers, planting only timothy and alfalfa in their irrigated fields. The disastrous winter of 1886-87 changed grazing practices. Many ranchers switched from cattle to sheep, fencing in the open range. By 1895, the Harrisons had a band of 5,000 sheep as well as horses and cattle. Prominent in the development of Park and Sweet Grass counties, Waborn was trustee when the first local school district was established in 1881 near the Harrison Ranch. Treaty lands across the river belonging to the Crow Nation until 1892 brought some conflict, but settlers caused trouble, too. In 1882, a spurned suitor shot teacher Flora Cutler at the Harrison Ranch; she died some months later in Minnesota. According to some reports, vigilantes lynched the young man. Today the Harrison Ranch remains largely intact, representative of Montana’s evolving livestock industry. The well preserved, late-nineteenth-century Folk Victorian style home reflects the success of early Sweet Grass Creek ranchers.

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Roughly the Junction of Sweet Grass Creek and Yellowstone River, Greycliff, Montana ~ Private