The small settlement of Stearns emerged in the 1890s as homesteaders filed claims between the towns of Wolf Creek and Augusta. Stearns became a focal point for the scattered community and, by 1900, boasted a school and a post office. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 brought new arrivals and in 1910 Stearns had grown enough to need a community hall. Local members of the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefits organization, took the initiative in coordinating the community for its construction. Built between 1910 and 1911 on property left in trust by rancher F. M. Stowe, the hall was constructed of lumber milled from logs from the south fork of the Dearborn River. The local builders, experienced in barn raising, designed the spacious hall to reflect their agricultural base. A St. Patrick’s Day dance christened the two-story hall in 1911. The second floor was removed in 1912 to allow for basketball games, and the facility became the center of social activity. Drought and depression ended the homestead boom and the population of Stearns dwindled after 1921. The automobile simplified travel to larger towns, and the hall was even less frequently used for community activities. In the 1940s, it served as dining room and dormitory for construction crews working on Highway 200 over Rogers Pass. While other reminders of Stearns have fallen victim to time, Stearns Hall is a lonely representative of one community that rose and fell with America’s last homestead boom.

Images

Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Stearns Hall. Front to side view of the building, facing south on Highway 434. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: 1994
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Stearns Hall. Front to side view of the building, facing south on Highway 434. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: 1994
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Stearns Hall. Front view of the building, facing west on Highway 434. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: 1994
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Stearns Hall. Front to side view of the building, facing south off of Highway 434. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: 1994
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Creator: Joe Furshong Date: January 2021
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall Creator: Joe Furshong Date: January 2021
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall View of interior Creator: Joe Furshong Date: January 2021
Stearns Hall
Stearns Hall View of weathered door Creator: Joe Furshong Date: January 2021

Location

2 miles north of Junction of MT 200 and Highway 434, Wolf Creek, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Stearns Hall,” Historic Montana, accessed July 12, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/832.