A Short History of Place Names in the Grant Creek Valley; Missoula, Montana
by Gary Marbut
The primary purpose of this writing is to record the names for many of
the places in the Grant Creek Valley that my family used to identify
these places during the years when most of the Valley was my family's
working cattle ranch, the Grant Creek Ranch. Naming places on the
Ranch allowed us to shortcut conversations relative to these
places. I hope that documentation of these place names will serve
as well for you.
Along the way, I will throw in a few anecdotes and historical notes, but I'll try to keep this mostly specific to place names.
Note: If anyone wishes to research and elaborate on the history
of the Grant Creek Valley, I am quite willing to post that at this site.
Note 2: Questions from Wendell Beardsley about the Grant Creek Valley and Gary's answers at bottom of page.
My family moved to Montana from the Denver area in 1950, landing
on a small ranch along Lolo Creek, just across Lolo Creek Road from the
Woodman School. I attended the Woodman School for a couple of
years when it was one room, one teacher, eight grades, 20 students,
outhouses out back, and a hand-pump water well in the school yard as
the only source of drinking water.
The family move to Montana was led by my grandmother, Charlotte Reed
Marbut ("Charlo" to family members), who was the matriarch of the
In 1955, our family traded up to the Grant Creek Ranch (sometimes
just “Ranch”). It is my fuzzy recollection that Charlo was the
primary force behind the names that my family used for various parts of
and places on the Ranch. As you will learn, many of the place
names we used are associated with the names of the families that
originally homesteaded various parts of the Grant Creek Valley.
Short history of the Grant Creek Ranch
The first homestead in the Valley is
said to have been occupied by Captain John Grant, a Civil War
veteran (Note: Alternate/additional information at bottom from Kim Birck). This homestead was centered where the Grant Creek Ranch
headquarters was later located. Subsequent to occupation by
Captain Grant, this Ranch Headquarters area was occupied by the Rankin
family. Jeanette Rankin, a
Member of Congress from Montana and the first woman to ever serve in
Congress, was born in a house still standing at the Ranch headquarters.
I have been told that the Grant Creek Ranch was put together from a
collection of original homesteads by Charlie Quast, during the late
1800s and the early 1900s. Quast was able to acquire all of the
homesteads in the Valley except for that of the Whites, which property
is still in White family ownership.
Under Quast management, the Grant Creek Ranch was primarily a dairy
operation, supplying much of the milk for Missoula. Two of
the three large barns at the Ranch headquarters (now owned by Dennis
Washington) were designed as milking barns. During this dairy
heyday, horse-drawn utility wagons would traverse the one-lane, dirt,
Grant Creek Road every day hauling Ranch milk into Missoula to
distributors there. Several of these old utility wagons were
present near the Ranch headquarters when my family assumed the Ranch,
and I still have one at my current home on the east side of the
Valley. On rare occasions, our longtime foreman, Russ Gordon,
would hitch one of these wagons to a team of horses to haul hay to
cattle during exceptionally cold weather when Ranch trucks wouldn't
When Charlie Quast died, the Ranch was inherited by Charlie's
Mamie. Mamie (maiden name unknown) is said to have grown up on
her family's homestead in the Grant Creek Valley, just west of the
White family property, past the end of (now) Dark Horse Road.
After Charlie Quast died, Mamie, married Arthur Charboneau, to become
Charboneau. My family acquired the Ranch from Mamie following the
death of Arthur. The Ranch was then about 5,000 acres.
Mamie kept a bit of property out of the sale for her new home, located
on the northeast quadrant of the intersection of Grant Creek and (now)
Old Grant Creek Road, about 1/4 mile due east of the historic Ranch
headquarters, on the east side of Grant Creek.
My family raised registered Aberdeen Angus beef cattle during our
tenure on the Ranch. Our primary product was registered,
two-year-old Angus bulls, purchased mostly by commercial beef breeders
in Montana and surrounding states. I had many champion 4-H
animals at the Missoula County Fair.
I attended Hellgate Elementary School. When I graduated from the
Eighth Grade at Hellgate, it was still one building with two classrooms
and two teachers. First through Fourth Grades were held in one
room, and Fifth through Eighth Grades were in the other. I was
one of four Eighth Graders to graduate in 1960. I had my first
provisional drivers' license at about age 10 so I could drive to meet
the school bus, near where Grant Creek Road and I-90 now intersect.
In about 1979, my family sold the Grant Creek Ranch to an investment
group of buyers, who then sold to another entity, who sold what
remained to Dennis Washington. During this transition, some
pieces of the property were spun off, a sometimes complicated story
beyond the scope of this writing. Members of my family did hold
some small amount of acreage out of the sale for family use, on part of
which I now live.
On to the place names
The numbers of the place names listed below correspond with the numbers on the graphic overhead view of Grant Creek found HERE.
Most of the names reported will be either "Meadow" or "Pasture."
A meadow is usually a flat, cultivated place where we grew grass hay or
other livestock feed. A pasture is usually a discretely fenced
enclosure where livestock are turned loose to graze. In a
registered livestock operation such as ours, it was necessary to have
many different fenced pastures to control which bulls were turned out
with and mated with which cows. Depending on bloodlines and
physical characteristics, certain cows were assigned to a specific
pasture to be bred by a known and specific bull, both to enhance
physical characteristics of offspring and to be able to certify
bloodlines for offspring registration purposes.
In addition to meadows and pastures, I will identify a few terrain features and other places.
I'll begin identifying place names from the southern end of the
Ranch. Our southern Ranch boundary was near where I-90 is now,
actually at the south end of what is now called the Prospect
Subdivision and just north of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation building.
1. Toner meadow.
This flat bench overlooking Grant Creek from the west, now occupied by
the Prospect subdivision, was always a hay meadow for us. It was
named after the homesteading Toner family, whose homestead location was
on the west side of Grant Creek near where the bridge to Prospect now
crosses Grant Creek. There was once a considerable, three-level
barn left over from the Toner homestead and located about 100 yards
west of Grant Creek and about 50 yards south of the entrance lane to
Prospect. The interior structural beams of this barn were all
joined and fixed together with hardwood pegs. The barn was built
into the bench and had drive-in access to the bottom level from the
Creek side, and drive-in access to the second level from the other
side. In addition to these two levels, the barn had a large hay
loft for the third level (which I filled in summer and emptied in
winter to feed cows).
The Toner Meadow was used in the summer to grow hay, irrigated with
water from Grant Creek, water routed through irrigation delivery
ditches coming off Grant Creek higher in the Valley. In the
winter we would keep 100 or so of our brood cows in the meadow and feed
them daily with bales of hay stored in the old Toner Barn.
In about 1962, presumed teenagers playing in the Toner Barn started a
fire that burned the barn to the ground. It was a quick but
intense fire in that dry old barn. High school friends of mine
reported seeing the flames and glow in the sky from the other side of
the Missoula Valley.
2. Little Toner Pasture.
This pasture was on the hills on the west side of the Valley,
overlooking the Toner Meadow, an area into which the Prospect
subdivision is growing.
3. Big Toner Pasture.
This pasture is on the east side of Grant Creek Road. It begins
in the south near I-90 (on the same line as the south end of the Toner
Meadow) and goes north past the existing Glen Eagle subdivision, almost
as far north as where the first major power line crosses Grant Creek
Road. The original pasture went from Grant Creek Road to the
divide that separates Grant Creek from the Rattlesnake Valley.
Because the Big Toner Pasture was so large, my family installed a
north/south cross fence in the 1960s to divide the Big Toner into the
eastern Upper Big Toner and the western Lower Big Toner, then referred
to as the Upper Toner and the Lower Toner pastures. This was done
both to be able to further subdivide our herds for more controlled
breeding, and to force some of the livestock to utilize the forage
higher on the hills. The existing homes in the Glen Eagle
subdivision are located in what we called the Lower Toner Pasture.
4. Beaver Meadow.
Between Grant Creek Road and Grant Creek, just north of the Prospect
entrance, there is a small meadow with a large rock in the
middle. We called this the Beaver Meadow in association with
beaver dams and ponds then located back in the trees along Grant Creek,
just west of this meadow. My family donated this parcel to the
National Wildlife Federation to be maintained as a memorial to my
grandmother, Charlo. It was long one of her favorite places on
the Ranch. The rock was moved there to mark the location, and
there is a plaque at the foot of the rock explaining this memorial to
5. Ryan Meadow.
This is another hay meadow between Grant Creek Road and Grant Creek,
just north of the Beaver Meadow, and across Grant Creek Road from the
current Glen Eagle subdivision. The Ryan Meadow is named after
the Ryan family, original homesteaders in the Grant Creek Valley.
The Ryan homestead was in the northeast quadrant of the intersection of
Grant Creek Road and the Glen Eagle access road. The large trees
in that area are the remnants of trees planted by homesteaders and
watered by irrigation ditches destined for the Ryan Meadow and
originating from Grant Creek near the Ranch headquarters. The
major ditch carrying this water supply was east of Grant Creek Road and
crossed the Road at the top of the rise in the road at the old Ryan
For many years, there was a large barn in the Ryan Meadow, near the
Creek, and centered in the meadow north to south. Hay harvested
from the Ryan Meadow was stored in that barn and used daily to feed
livestock kept in the Ryan Meadow over the winter.
6. Ryan Hill. This is how we referred to the grade from the Beaver Meadow to the original Ryan homestead.
7. Bald Knob. On
the east side of the Valley, above the Ryan homestead, there is an
un-treed hilltop overlooking the Ryan Meadow. We always called
this the "Bald Knob."
8. Nine Acres. Just
north of the Ryan Meadow and on the other (east) side of Grant Creek
Road is a long narrow, flat, cleared area that is currently occupied
only by the fiberoptic substation. We called this small meadow
the "Nine Acres," perhaps from too many readings of Winnie Ther Pooh
stories. It was irrigated from the same transport ditch that went
to the Ryan Homestead and Ryan Meadow, a ditch that traverses the hillside
above the Nine Acres.
9. Bypass. For most
of its history, Grant Creek Road crossed Grant Creek just northwest of the
Nine Acres, leading to the historic and current Ranch
headquarters. It crossed Grant Creek again about 1/2 mile north
of the Ranch headquarters to swing up to the hillside and join its
current route. In the 1960s, Missoula County built the "Bypass"
that takes most Grant Creek Road traffic past the current two entrances
to the Grant Creek Hills subdivision on the east side of the
Road. Before that, all Grant Creek Road traffic went through the
Ranch headquarters. During the 1990s the southern of the two
bridges that the Bypass avoided was removed, requiring all traffic to
the Ranch headquarters area and the west side of the Valley to access
via the remaining northern bridge.
10. Barn Pasture.
The Barn Pasture was a large pasture abutting the south and west sides
of the Ranch headquarters. It was the pasture immediately beyond
the barns of the Ranch headquarters, thus the less imaginative "Barn
Pasture" name. The Barn pasture spanned Grant Creek up to the
edge of Grant Creek Road, across the Road from the Nine Acres. It
continued around the west side of the Ryan Meadow and south to the
north end of the Toner Meadow. The Barn Pasture was all south of
the current Dark Horse Road, which goes west from the Ranch
headquarters and was the traditional access to the historic White
family property. The Barn Pasture also included much of the hills
on the West side of the Valley from the Little Toner to as far north as
Dark Horse Road.
Between the Ranch headquarters and Grant Creek was a small pasture
often used to contain horses we needed to have nearby and available for stock and
other ranch work. My grandmother, Charlo, called this pasture
"The Birdland" because of the many different types of wild birds that
inhabited this creekside area.
12. Butler Creek Pasture.
Our ranch property continued west over the divide that separates the Grant
Creek Valley from the Butler Creek Valley, and down to and across
Butler Creek to the Butler Creek Road. That property between the
Barn Pasture and the Butler Creek Road we called the Butler Creek
Pasture. It was our largest pasture.
13. Home Meadow.
Immediately north and west of the Ranch headquarters, on the west side
of Grant Creek, is another hay meadow we called the Home Meadow.
Ranch people with diverse holdings historically have called the set of
buildings where they live and work primarily the "home place."
It's a western thing. Consistent with that tradition, this meadow
that abuts the Ranch Headquarters was called the Home Meadow. The
hay from the Home Meadow was stored in the lofts of the barns at the
Ranch headquarters. It also was irrigated with water from Grant
Creek, flowing out of the Creek further north.
14. The White Place.
This is the location of the White family homestead that was never a part
of the Grant Creek Ranch, the only land in the main part of the Valley
that was not. This property is on the north side of the Dark
Horse Road and up against the hills on the west side of the Valley.
15. Keegan Pasture.
Named after the Keegan family of homesteaders, this pasture was on the
west side of Grant Creek, began on the north side of Dark Horse Road,
fell between the Home Meadow and the White Place, and ran north up to
and across what is now the Snow Bowl Road. There used to be a
lumber mill in the lower end of the Keegan Pasture, possibly a mill
used by Pinky McDonald who cut railroad ties out of Grant Creek timber
in the first half of the 1900s. The subdivision of the Keegan
Trail area is in what was once called the Keegan Pasture.
16. Rankin Meadow.
This large and fertile meadow is on the east side of Grant Creek, west
of Grant Creek Road, and north of where Old Grant Creek Road intersects
the main Grant Creek Road. The Rankin Meadow contains the
Grantland Rankin subdivision. The Rankin Meadow is named for the
Rankin family, who occupied the Ranch headquarters for some period
prior to when Charlie Quast lived there.
17. North and South Feed Lots.
Just south of the Rankin Meadow and between Grant Creek and the Grant
Creek Road are two large barns. It was in these barns that we
stored most of the hay harvested each year from the Rankin Meadow.
These barns would be filled with 75-pound string-tied bales.
During the winter months, separate groups of livestock would be kept in
the two lots surrounding these barns and fed hay daily from these barns.
18. LKP Pasture.
East of Grant Creek Road and north of the Big Toner Pasture was a
pasture that extended from Grant Creek Road to the Grant Creek /
Rattlesnake divide, and north to just beyond the turnoff to the Snow
Bowl Road. This was called the LKP because the original
homesteader for this part of the Valley was a guy named Pete, reputed
to have had a lime kiln. Because of that he was called Lime Kiln
Pete. We shortened that to LKP. Both Grant Creek Hills and
the Colorado Gulch subdivisions are within what was our LKP
pasture. There was another sawmill once located in the Grant
Creek Hills subdivision area, probably also established by Pinky
McDonald in his work to produce railroad ties for the railroads from
Grant Creek timber in the first half of the 1900s.
19. Three Peaks. In
the LKP pasture, almost due east of Colorado Gulch, there is a series
of three hilltops that are part of the divide between the Grant Creek
Valley and the Rattlesnake Valley. These are about a mile north
of the Bald Knob. From some angles, these three hilltops look
like just one. We always called these the “Three Peaks.”
As the reader will have learned, the general dimensions of the Grant
Creek Ranch during my family's occupation was from just below the
current Prospect subdivision on the south, to just beyond the Snow Bowl
Road turnoff on the north, and from the Grant Creek / Rattlesnake
divide on the east to the Butler Creek Road on the west.
People may now have other names for these places, but these are the
names my family used during our ranching years in the Grant Creek
Kim Birck offers this helpful information:
I did want to call your attention to one historical fact that may
need revising in your history:
According to both Lenora Koelbel's Missoula the Way It Was, and
Mildred Dufresne's Grant Creek and its One-room School, the Grant for
whom Grant Creek was named is Richard Grant, an officer of
the Hudson's Bay Company from 1821 to 1851, the last 10 years as chief
trader at Fort Hall, Idaho, north of present-day Pocatello.
Koelbel says Captain Richard Grant arrived in the Missoula Valley in 1858
and "farmed a portion of land near the creek which now bears his
Dufresne says "Grant Creek...was named for Richard Grant, one of the
earliest settlers of the region. He was often incorrectly called Captain
Grant or Johnnie Grant."
Dufresne goes on to say that prior to Grant's arrival,
the creek was called Knowlton's Creek after George and Frank Knowlton, who had
arrived in Montana in 1856 and settled for a while on the creek. In 1856
Richard Grant was living near the source of the Jefferson River with his family,
including John F. Grant, and by 1860 Richard had moved to Hell Gate Ronde
and was there in 1860 when Higgins and Worden established their Hell Gate
trading post. John F. Grant, son of Richard Grant and
Mary Ann Berland, married a Shoshone woman and went into the stock business in
Deer Lodge, Montana. (see note below on Grant-Kohrs Ranch)
The (Richard) Grant livestock business supplied fresh horses and beef
likely grazed on Grant Creek meadows to travelers, miners and trappers, and logs
for buildings in Hell Gate were cut from Grant Creek forests. Richard
Grant died in 1862 in Walla Walla, WA. In 1863, his daughter, Julia,
married Christopher Higgins and they had nine children, most of whom became
prominent in Missoula affairs...
"Helene (McDonald Kittson) later married Richard
Grant who was the commandant at Ft. Hall. They
had three daughters:
Richard Grant had sons from his first marriage to Marie Anne De
Breland (Breland). The connected site I made on Richard's history was done by
his descendent from his eldest son Stanislaus. One of Marie & Richard's sons
whom is better known, was Johnny
Grant. A recent book was written on his memoirs by
Lyndel Meikle, which gives a little insight as to his feelings towards his
father's new family. Johnny Grant started what became the Grant-Kohrs
Ranch National Historic Site which is still in
operation today as one of the longest running ranches of Montana. The Richard
& Helene McDonald Kittson Grant's son-in-law & daughter, Christopher
& Julia Grant Higgins were also known to have started Missoula, Montana and
Johnny for starting Grantsville (Grantsburg) near Hell's Gate (Missula,
- Helene Wilhelmina who died young and is buried at Walla
Walla with her father, Richard
- Julia Priscilla who married Christopher P. Higgins
- Adeline who married
Wikipedia says of the
Grant-Kohrs Ranch: Established by Canadian fur trader Johnny Grant, and expanded by
cattle baron Conrad Kohrs, Grant-Kohrs Ranch
National Historic Site commemorates the Western cattle industry from its 1850s inception through
Grant [1831-1907] a
French-speaking Canadian did not intend to become a rancher. He followed his
father's footsteps and began trading with westbound immigrants for their
trail-weary cattle near present-day Pocatello, Idaho. An enterprising
businessman, Grant increased his herds by exchanging two exhausted animals for a
fit one. He trailed his ever-growing herds north to the sheltered valleys of
Montana. By 1862 Grant had close to 4,000 head of stock, mostly good English
breeding stock. By today’s standards, Grant had an
unusual and extended family. His several wives
represented the different Native American tribes with whom he traded. Quarra was
Bannock (Shoshone); Clothild was Blood, and Isabel was Blackfoot. Grant wrote
lovingly of his children; twenty-one of his own, and several he casually
adopted. In 1867, Grant and his family moved to Carmen, Manitoba. They were
accompanied by other Canadian, Mexican and American traders and their
Another interesting link, defining the
relationship and geographic separation of Richard and John
So it would appear that "Johnny Grant" was the (more
famous?) son of Richard Grant, but most likely our creek was named after
Richard, as John never lived on Grant Creek.
Thanks again for this place name information,
Questions from Wendell Beardsley, and Gary's answers:
1) Today we enjoy the presence of many elk and other
wildlife. How does that compare to your early years on the Grant
Whitetail deer were always around, although not as plentiful as
today. I don't remember ever seeing Mule Deer during our ranching
days, but that may be from lack of observation. During my high
school years (60/64) I took one elk out of the GC elk herd, which then
numbered seven or eight elk. When I moved in 1979/80 to where I
live now, the herd numbered 25 or 27 - I have pictures (linked).
2) How about the condition of the Creek itself and its fish population?
I don't know how to compare fish, since I never was much for fishing,
unlike my brother Mike. I do remember watching Mike land a huge
trout, 24 inches or more, from the beaver ponds on the Creek between
the Beaver Meadow and the Toner Meadow. I remember also that just
when Mike grabbed for it the trout slipped the hook and got away -
really, the big one that got away - I saw it.
3) Were your hillside pastures more open for grazing then, and
was any logging done during your early years here; do you know what
occurred before that?
The amount of forestation remains similar to our ranching days. I
don't know about forage amounts. We always fought weeds, although
mostly Canadian Thistles. Knapweed in Grant Creek is a newer
problem. The timber on the Ranch had been thinned not long before
we assumed the Ranch. I was told that logger Pinky McDonald had
been producing cross-ties for the railroad. There were large and
relatively fresh piles of bark and slabs (what comes off a tree when
the sawmill slices off the outside round to make a flat) in what is now
Grant Creek Hills (I could show you almost the exact spot) and in the
Keegan Pasture, between the Home Meadow and the White's Place. The
mills producing these slabs must have been portable mills since I never
saw any machinery in these locations, although there were some
shed-like structures remaining, made from
rough-cut wood. I suspect this wasn't the first time timber had
been taken from Grant Creek. I don't remember that my family ever
harvested any timber, except for firewood from dead trees.
4) The roads -- before and after the Snowbowl Ski area opened?
Early in our ranching years (before the Bypass), the Grant Creek Road
crossed to the west side of the Creek just below the Ranch Headquarters
and forked at the Headquarters. The left (west) fork when to the
White property (now Dark Horse Road - we always called it "White's
Lane"), and the main road continued north to re-cross the Creek just
north of the North and South Feed Lots (the current location of the
road and bridge). What is now the Snow Bowl Road (and bridge) did
not exist until Snow Bowl was built by Dave Flaccus and Bob Johnson
during my high school years (60-64). Grant Creek Road north of
what is now the Snow Bowl turnoff was just a one-lane dirt track during
our ranching years. Grant Creek Road was one and one-half lanes
of semi-maintained gravel all the way to Highway 10 west, following the
old route on the east side of the current Cenex location, going past
(east of) the stockyards at the railroad and connecting to Highway 10
where Les Schwabe Tire is on West Broadway now.
5) Were there any other people living in the valley then?
The White's were on their property when we moved onto the Ranch.
Bob Sage had a place beyond where the Snow Bowl turnoff is now.
There may have been a very few others (like two or three homes at most)
in that north part of the Valley. What I remember for sure is
that there were no other kids from Grant Creek in Hellgate Elementary
in 1956-60. I was the only one who caught the school bus, near
where Grant Creek Road now meets I-90.