Old West Vacation Lodge:
Sirrine started building the lodge in 1915 and completed the structure
in 1917. The lodge pole pine logs used were hand-hewn; the rocks
for the fireplace were gathered from the river. A water-generated
saw mill fashioned the ceiling boards. At that time, it was believed
concrete was a good water barrier. With that thinking, two inches
of concrete was poured over the entire roof. However, as the cement
was hauled by horse and wagon, a bit too little was used.
That, along with dirty sand, caused the concrete over the years
to crumble. When a door was closed, little rocks fell from the
ceiling. The concrete was removed in
favor of a more modern and weatherproof roof.
Decorated with Indian
rugs, maps, pictures, and other western items, the lodge
has a most pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. The front room is
where guests gather to relax in front of the fireplace, and to
read, play cards, or puzzle in a quiet corner. The present dining
room, which is one big room, was originally three rooms. Half was
dining, the other, a kitchen and a bedroom. The interior walls
were removed when Garnett and Alvin started the place as a guest
ranch. Interestingly, one style through the years was to cover
the logs. The dining room was treated in such a manner; first with
wallpaper and later with paneling. In 1986, all was removed, and
the walls restored to reveal their natural beauty. One wing of the lodge added in 1927, houses the 2016-renovated bathroom, storage, and laundry. The building is completed by the ranch kitchen
and business office.
Old West Guest Ranch
The first people to
inhabit the area were the Sheepeater Indians, a branch of the Shoshone
Tribe. They were a nomadic people without horses. Big Horn sheep
was their food staple. Yellowstone Park was and is a spiritual
place for several tribes due to its unique features. One well
known Indian story is the trek made by the Nez Perce Tribe through
this area on its way to seek refuge in Canada. Their leader, Chief
Joseph is noted in the history books as one of the smartest to
outwit the U.S. Calvary. Trappers, among them John Colter, discovered
fur baring animals in the mountains. He was on the original Lewis
and Clark Expedition and chose not to return to St. Louis. Miners
tried to find the mother lode. At one time there was a mining settlement
of five hundred people just two miles from the ranch on Crandall
Creek, named for miner Jack Crandall.
The next wave of inhabitants
were the homesteaders. The ranch was done so by Henry Sirrine in
1909. He started taking in
guests early on, and provided tent housing. These structures had four foot walls, a floor, and framing above for additional wall height and roof over which canvas was stretched. The
hand-hewn logs, water-powered saw milled boards, and river rock
fireplace make for a truly unique historical building.
Henry sold the property to Josie McMann who is remembered for
having milk goats. L.E. Peterson bought the place from her in 1939
and used the hay fields for his cattle operation.
Garnett and her husband Alvin Cary, took over in 1949 and returned
operations to a guest and hunting ranch. As the lodge was not used
during L.E.’s ownership, Garnett
and Alvin had some concerns to deal with. One involved
the interior walls in the dining room. They had been home
to pack rats and other critters. These walls removed, make for a very nice open dining room. A kitchen was added
on. Another obstacle was the barn Henry built with 14 inch logs
which had rotted by 1949. Alvin reframed the horse barn with winnie
edge bought from a local saw miller. Another forty years later, it was totally rebuilt.
The tent housing was replaced with cabins and suites, with added kitchens.
Horse Barn with Winnie Edge
Present Day Guest Ranch:
generation is continuing the family tradition. Louis was raised
here on the ranch. Interestingly, he attended school on the property
until his older siblings had to travel to town for the
higher grades. When his parents had to be on the ranch, the kids
were “farmed” out to other families
during the week. Shelley arrived on the scene in 1969 as a helper,
married Louis, and together raised two children. Julie
and Casey had the same school schedule in that they were “farmed” out
for the week and returned weekends. Interestingly, in all the years,
they missed only two weekends; one during the 1988 Yellowstone
Park Fire, and the other for a blizzard, both due to road closure.
Louis and Shelley continue operations much the same way as was
started by Garnett and Alvin. Julie, and Casey and wife Karri,
have a deep appreciation for the guest ranch and want it to remain
in the family. The tradition will go on serving up old west vacations
for years to come.