Homesteading Exhibit to Open in Bigfork

By Beacon Staff

On a postcard from 1910, a man, a boy and a dog stand beside two bridled workhorses, with Flathead Lake providing a dramatic background. The message on the back offers a brief glimpse into the life of homesteaders, more than a century ago.

“My new $85.00 nickle trim med Harness. View from our house. Polson on the boom. Family well. C.M.S.”

The early 20th century was a transitional time for Montana, and will be the subject of the new exhibition at the Bigfork Museum of Art and History called “Homesteading and Beyond: A Peek at Rural Montana Life from 1900-1930.” The exhibition will be open from April 6 through April 28.

There will an opening reception on April 6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which will include hors d’oeuvres and wine, Forbis said.

The show will feature homestead-era implements, artifacts, documentation and photographs selected from the collection of Kitty and Denny Kellogg. The Kelloggs are also the show’s curators.

Each item has a story, museum director Marnie Forbis said, and the commentary accompanying the show’s pieces is designed to be factual, educational and sometimes humorous.

Though the Free Homestead Act was enacted in 1862, the boom in Montana did not begin until the early 1900s, according to the museum. It was a time when the open-range cattle industry was waning, and American Indian reservations were opened to the settlers.

“In a sense, it was the closing of the ‘Old West’ and the birth of the Montana we know today,” a statement from the museum said.

There will be several other events in Bigfork to coincide with the museum’s exhibit, Forbis said. The Bigfork Community Players will perform “Prairie Heart” at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts on April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29.

The play takes place in North Dakota in the late 1800s and focuses on particularly severe winter seasons and the homesteaders who endured them. The story follows Norwegian immigrant Ingrid and her relationship with Ole.

Tickets for the play are available at Sliter’s Ace, Bigfork Drug and the Kalispell Grand Hotel, and cost $15 for adults, $5 for children and $10 for BCPA members and seniors 65 and over.

For more information, visit www.bigforkcommunityplayers.com or www.bigforktheater.org.

Another related event is a one-day antique gun show at the museum. On April 22, the Bigfork Buscaderos will host “Guns of the Old West,” with a table in the homesteading exhibit.

The gun show will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a barbershop quartet performing from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

There was no plan initially to include multiple events for a homesteading exhibit, Forbis said, but she is pleased it turned out this way.

“It’s kind of serendipity working amazingly, really,” Forbis said.

For more information on the Bigfork Museum of Art and History, visit www.bigforkmuseum.org.