Interested in homesteads?

First, an introduction to Judi.

When I was a 4-Her, I finished five years of the range management project, and the knowledge and experience I gained there (about wild plants that grow here in our part of the world and how to manage them) have served me well in my adult life.  Three cheers for 4-H!

I feel certain I wouldn’t have made it through that project if not for a wonderful leader named Judi Knapp.  In our 4-H club, I was the only member in the range management project, so Judi took me on one-on-one.

Judi was a model leader.  For five years she and I met regularly during the growing season, not only so I could make my way through the range workbooks provided by the 4-H program, but most importantly to gain that field experience that taught me inevitably more.  Together Judi and I explored the Hysham Hills, and the horse pasture, and her family ranch on the Melstone road.  Our eyes to the earth, we walked and searched for various plants of interest.  Judi was inevitably sharper than I, and she often pointed out what we were looking for before I could.  I would dig up the treasure, making an effort to keep the roots intact, and gently place it in the plastic sack I carried with me, and we would continue hiking and watching.  Back at the house we would wash the roots and press the plants in the huge wood-and-carbon-paper-and-inner-tube plant press we had made in my first year of the project.

By the time I finished 4-H, Judi and I had mounted, labeled, and categorized a very nice collection of plants representative of Eastern Montana rangelands.  And like I said, I couldn’t have (probably wouldn’t have anyway!) done it without her.


Now.  That was a lengthy (but well-deserved) introduction!  On to the homesteads.

Twenty years post 4-H, I am still glad to see Judi whenever I do.  The fascinating thing about her is that she’s a lifelong learner — still a wealth of knowledge when it comes to plants and rangeland, but also always diving into new topics.

It’s evident that one thing Judi and I share in common is a love for the land.  And I’m not sure you can love the land without loving the history of it.

My husband Beau had recently shown Judi a picture (on his phone) of a gravestone the cowboys discovered on a piece of land that sits near Judi’s family ranch.  Later Judi called me up to share all the information she had dug up about that piece of land and the people who homesteaded it.

That’s when Judi told me about the most fascinating website:

GLO = Government Land Office

BLM = Bureau of Land Management

On this website, if you click on the “Land Patents” tab, you go to a search page where you can find every homestead ever filed for in the history of the United States.

If you don’t know the exact land description — range, township, and all that — you can simply search by state and last name, as I did with “Montana” and “Quest.”  Information immediately came up on eight relatives (on Grandma Peg’s side) who homesteaded on the Ceded Strip in Treasure and Bighorn Counties.

If you DO know the exact land description but, for example, have always wondered who once lived in that old homestead in the North 40, this is your ticket.  It looks to me like, if you can just fill in part of the information, the website figures the rest out for you.  (I think this feature will be especially useful if I can get my parents started using the site, as they/we have always wanted to plat out the PV Ranch and label the homesteads that once existed here.)

Like this one:


And this one:


And this one:


Thanks for everything, Judi!

© Tami Blake

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