Some of the first cattle in this valley were brought here by a handful of settlers, including Johnny Grant who began wintering cattle in western Montana valleys in the 1850s. The Deer Lodge Valley was especially good winter range due to the high surrounding mountains that captured most of the snow.
In 1866, Conrad Kohrs purchased the Grant home and 365 head of cattle. He formed a powerful partnership with his younger half-brother John Bielenberg and continued to graze cattle in this valley while expanding to other ranges in eastern Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Canada. During the open range era, it was possible to become wealthy raising cattle without owning any acreage. Most ranchers did own a base of operations at the least and some, like Conrad Kohrs, owned millions of acres.
Conrad Kohrs Warren, Kohrs’ grandson, continued to raise cattle in the Deer Lodge Valley. He also made changes in his own sphere of influence. Warren helped establish state-regulated public livestock auctions, upgraded purebred stock, instigated livestock health programs, made the switch to mechanized farm machinery and helped forge changes in government regulation and support of the industry as well as improvements in livestock sanitary practices.
Did You Know?
“Range Wars” between cattlemen and sheep growers didn’t happen in Montana. For a time, Montana cattlemen found it profitable to raise sheep. Then, when cattle became profitable again, they switched back to cattle. Montana ranges support a wide variety of grazing animals, both wild and domestic.