Filed Under East Helena

McMaster Ranch Historic District

William and Elizabeth (Lizzie) McMaster and their son James arrived in Helena, Montana Territory, in 1886. William built a blacksmith shop close to the train depot. Then, in 1893, they filed for a 160-acre homestead located twelve miles east of town. The high, open hilltop along the Diamond City Stage Road was an excellent location for a blacksmith shop supplying farrier needs and freight wagon repairs. The family picked rocks to construct the foundations and line the 100-foot, hand-dug well. William cut logs to build the house, barn, and blacksmith shop, using his own distinctive square corner post design. They became self-sufficient, raising chickens, milk cows, Hereford cattle, and quarter horses. Lizzie kept a garden and planted apple and cherry trees; the orchard is a registered Montana Heritage Orchard. After William died in 1902, Lizzie and James expanded the homestead to 2,000 acres by the 1920s. Lizzie was a fierce defender of her water rights, and through her determination, frugality, and hard work, the ranch survived the hardest times. Following Lizzie’s death in 1941, James operated the ranch until he died in 1972. Under James Jr. (Bud), the ranch again grew and expanded. Before he died, Bud and his sister Dolly created a conservation easement, preserving generations of the McMaster family’s efforts to steward the land. Its expansive acreage, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, is open to the public and protected in perpetuity following Lizzie’s dictum: “take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.”

Images

Bunkhouse
Bunkhouse Bunkhouse #1 - View from what may have been old Diamond City Road. S (left) & E Elevation Source: National Register of Historic Places Nomination for McMaster Ranch Historic District. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office. Creator: Paul Putz Date: August 29, 2020
Main House
Main House Main House - Well House - Stone Cooler - House Grounds Main House (pre-western addition) and outbuildings. Porch before 1970s enclosure. Source: National Register of Historic Places Nomination for McMaster Ranch Historic District. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office.
Creator: Paul M. Putz Date: CA.1923
McMaster School, Placer School
McMaster School, Placer School Front entry on south wall left, second entry facing camera on east wall. S & E elevation (right) Source: National Register of Historic Places Nomination for McMaster Ranch Historic District. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office.
Creator: Paul Putz Date: September 6, 2020
Long Barn
Long Barn Long Barn - view from west access road. Bunkhouse #1 in background N (left) & West Elevation Source: National Register of Historic Places Nomination for McMaster Ranch Historic District. On file at Montana State Historic Preservation Office. Creator: Paul Putz Date: August 29, 2020

Location

6043 US Hwy 12/287 East

Metadata

Montana Historical Society, “McMaster Ranch Historic District,” Historic Montana, accessed July 12, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/3412.