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.

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