A Short History of Place Names in the Grant Creek Valley; Missoula, Montana

by Gary Marbut
©August, 2009

Dear Reader,

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 family.

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 start.

When Charlie Quast died, the Ranch was inherited by Charlie's widow, 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 Mamie 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 Charlo.

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 homestead.

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.

11.  Birdland.  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 Valley.


More information

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 name". 
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...
see http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Oaks/2189/William2.htm , for an interesting family tree that references Richard Grant's first and second wives, and two of his offspring, Johnny Grant http://www.nps.gov/archive/grko/jfgrant.htm  and Julia Grant Higgins, who were half-siblings. 
"Helene (McDonald Kittson) later married Richard Grant who was the commandant at Ft. Hall. They had three daughters:
  1. Helene Wilhelmina who died young and is buried at Walla Walla with her father, Richard
  2. Julia Priscilla who married Christopher P. Higgins
  3. Adeline who married
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, Montana). (???)
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 recent times.
More about Grant-Kohrs Ranch, http://www.nps.gov/history/museum/exhibits/grko/grant.html :
John Francis 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 families.
Another interesting link, defining the relationship and geographic separation of Richard and John Grant:
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, Gary.
Kim Birck


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 Creek Ranch?

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.