Grant-Kohrs Ranch
Administrative History
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Chapter Four:

By 1970, acquiring the ranch from Conrad Warren had been a long and tedious process during which no one had given much thought to just how the NPS would manage the area once the deed was transferred. Suddenly, the signing of the use agreement between Warren and the National Park Foundation placed full responsibility for the historic ranch zone squarely on the shoulders of the National Park Service.

As noted earlier, Yellowstone Park Ranger John Douglass, who had been the liaison for the ranch, identified an immediate need for a caretaker at the ranch. There was simply no other way to provide basic protection to the buildings, much less the thousands of historical objects on the property. He noted that a couple of mercury vapor lights were already extant on the grounds and there were lockable gates at the front entrance to the property. Douglass suggested that an employee "could live in a trailer below the old house where the ranch help had lived in a trailer in the past." And, more than just being there, the caretaker could perform minor maintenance and rehabilitation work on the structures. [1]

Douglass's recommendations late in 1970 led to the designation of Assistant Superintendent Vernon E. Hennesay as the key man for Grant-Kohrs Ranch until permanent staff could be hired. Hennesay inspected the site shortly after the Foundation purchase was concluded. He agreed with Douglass that a resident caretaker was required, but the conditions he found were worse than he had anticipated. A rock-lined spring approximately eight feet deep provided the only source of water, though Con Warren assured him it was potable. In the 1930s Warren had remodeled a few rooms on the second floor of the rear wing of the ranch house. These were used for several years by his ranch hands. However, Hennesay found the apartment in a sorely neglected condition and, worse yet, he discovered that the sewage was piped directly into Johnson Creek, only a short distance from the house. The electrical wiring in the ranch house appeared to be potentially dangerous and there were no storm windows covering the leaky original sash. The building, Con thought, still could be heated by the original coal furnace in the basement, but the cost would be exorbitant, to say nothing of the fire danger posed by the old furnace.

All things considered, Hennesay and Douglass concluded that placing a mobile home on the ranch was a more desirable and economical alternative. [2] Water could be piped from the ranch house and a sewer connection could be made with the city line running near the house from the treatment lagoon about a mile north. Leasing a trailer, however, turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. When Hennesay learned that the nearest source would be Salt Lake City, Utah, he managed to procure a spare trailer house from the inventory at Yellowstone and arranged to have it installed during the first week in December 1970. He also negotiated with the City of Deer Lodge for garbage collection, fire protection, and the sewer connection. [3]

Later in December, a maintenance worker from Yellowstone Park, Tom Pettet, was transferred to Grant-Kohrs Ranch. The forty-foot house trailer that had been provided for him was sited between the garage (HS-3) and the garden at the southwest corner of the yard. During a subsequent visit to help Pettet become established, Douglass noted the need for a telephone to be connected to the trailer because, in the event of an emergency, Pettet would have to go some distance to make a call. Too, if the caretaker was expected to do any maintenance work, he would need an assortment of tools because "all he has now is a ball peen hammer." [4]

Hennesay saw to it that the caretaker received a small cache of hand tools, brooms, and brushes. Pettet occupied his time by rehabilitating the shutters on the ranch house, making regular inspections of the property, cleaning the house periodically, and making his presence known in the community. Hennesay remarked that Tom, a Butte native, "seems to be fitting very well into the community and seems to get along well with Mr. Warren and his hired man." Although Pettet was anxious to do as much as he could, Hennesay reminded him that his primary function was to "keep an eye on the place." [5]

Pettet remained on-site until September 1971 when he was replaced by Ed Griggs and his wife, Jean, also employees of Yellowstone National Park. [6] This couple, occupying the same trailer recently vacated by Pettet, continued to fill the roles of maintenance staff, security force, researchers, and public relations team. The fact that there were two persons at the ranch was an inherent advantage.

The west portion of the basement of the ranch house (HS-1) was used as a primitive shop and office for the caretaker. Later in that year, probably in the fall, Hennesay brought a second smaller trailer from Yellowstone for use as an office. Although the residence trailer had a telephone, the office initially had none. Thus Griggs had to walk from the office to his quarters in order to use the telephone. This inconvenience was later corrected by the installation of an extension to the office trailer. [7]

mobile home
Mobile home, used as employee housing, situated alongside the thoroughbred barn.
(Courtesy Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS)

The first planning directive prepared for the area assumed that the park headquarters and perhaps even the maintenance operation would be in the ranch house. Just how those activities were to be accommodated in that building can only be speculated. Another objective was to establish limited employee housing on-site, with the remainder of the staff to reside in Deer Lodge. [8]

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006