Rugged outdoorsman and adventurist Andrew Vance came to Montana from Iowa in 1880 and found work in the Yellowstone Valley hunting buffalo to feed Northern Pacific Railroad crews. In the ensuing decades, Andy guided Yellowstone Park visitors and followed the Yukon Territory gold rushes. In 1914, Andy, his wife Ella, and daughters Maud and May staked a 160-acre homestead claim here among the aspen groves and meadows near the North Fork of the Flathead River. Andy worked trail crew in Glacier Park, ran a saw mill, and hunted and trapped for food, while Ella kept an extensive garden. In 1920, Andy began building a two-story lodge constructed of square notched logs, which replaced their original homestead cabin. Ben Hensen Jr. scored all the logs, Jack Reuter hewed the timbers, and McBlair did the finish work. The lodge comfortably accommodated family as well as guests whom Andy packed into the wilds of northern Montana and Canada. The remote North Fork community was centered in the hearts and homes of its scattered residents, and soon Vance Lodge became a regular host to social gatherings. Andy died in 1924 after he was hit by a train near Belton, and Ella died in 1929, but their home remained at the heart of the community. Daughter May married Ben Hensen Sr., who became postmaster, and the lodge served as post office for a time during the 1930s. Since, 1937, it has been a seasonal home to members of the Hensen family, who are still very much a part of the North Fork community. Miraculously unscathed during the devastating 1988 forest fires, Vance Lodge is a fitting tribute to the exceptional skills of its builder and a place of good luck and friendship to his descendants.



Northernside of Polebridge Loop Road, Polebridge, Montana ~ Private