Grant-Kohrs Ranch
Administrative History
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While this study may be of passing interest to those outside the National Park Service, its primary purpose is to aid the management and staff at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. The Park Service is, by its very nature, a mobile occupation. Most employees transfer several times throughout their careers, applying their increased experience to a variety of park management situations. This is generally beneficial to both resources and individuals. There are disadvantages, however. Those same employees only take their experience when they depart, but their institutional memory as well. Newcomers invariably spend a great deal of time talking with those who have been at the park longer in an effort to determine how management situations and aspects of the operation have developed. One often finds himself telephoning his predecessors to query them about this issue or that. It usually requires a year or two for new employees to become reasonably well grounded in the new park operation.

Then, too, those knowledgeable veteran employees who remain at a particular park for many years, if not an entire career, eventually retire or pass away. Thus, over time the institutional memory of a park becomes obscured, skewed through generations of retelling, and some of it is invariably lost.

In accordance with Superintendent Tony Schetzsle's request, this administrative history has been prepared as an issue-oriented treatment. It is not intended to be an in-depth operational history, nor is it a social study. Its purpose is to serve as a convenient, reliable reference for present and future NPS staff, both at the park and central office levels, to help them rapidly acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the parks development and past management. Because park issues often overlap, between planning and development, for instance, the reader will find that some elements of the story are repeated. This is unavoidable and, in fact, necessary. The author assumes that the document will be used as a reference more often than it may be read from beginning to end. For the reader's convenience, then, the primary discussion of a particular issue may lie in one chapter, while it may be synopsized elsewhere as it relates to another issue. It is sincerely hoped that the study will fulfill the needs of future managers and staff.

This work combines the contributions of many persons, though any errors or omissions are mine alone. First, the study owes much to the entire staff at Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS, who gave so freely of their time and knowledge throughout its preparation. Special thanks goes to Superintendent Tony Schetzsle, whose foresight in promoting a park administrative history will benefit those who follow. Curator Christine M. Ford played a key role as the project coordinator at the park. Her hospitality, ever-ready assistance, and well-organized archival files made my job considerably easier than it otherwise might have been.

All of the staff members I interviewed graciously made time for me in their busy schedules, and many later reviewed the draft, offering insightful comments. I particularly valued the perspectives offered by Park Ranger Lyndel Meikle, who shared her remarkable knowledge of Johnny Grant and the open-range cattle days, as well as her own recollections based on long experience at the Site. Another seasoned employee at the ranch, Cheryl Clemmensen provided insights about Con Warren, in addition to her own first-hand knowledge of the park's development. And, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the always-cheerful assistance (not to mention the cookies) offered by Secretary Sandy Berg and Administrative Clerk Tina Johnson during my visits and in response to my many telephone calls.

All of the former staff members contacted, some of whom were retired, contributed generously of their time and recollections to breath life into historical record. Their interviews, along with those of current staff, were not only a valuable contribution to this study, but now comprise a significant body of historical information in the park archives. The untimely passing of former-historian and friend Paul Gordon, during the preparation of the final draft of this document, is a poignant reminder of the importance of recording oral history.

Rodd L. Wheaton, currently the assistant field director for Cultural Resources and Partnerships, Intermountain Field Area, served as the Rocky Mountain Regional historical architect during the era of peak restoration activity at the ranch. Rodd provided a wealth of information and personal observations that I could not have obtained elsewhere. His careful review of the draft and constructive comments resulted in many corrections and improvements in the final product. Richard A. Young, chief of the Intermountain Regional Lands Resources Division in Denver, Colorado, lent his expertise in unraveling vague points of the realty transactions. Former National Park Service employees who shared their recollections included John Albright, Nan V. Rickey. and Aubrey L. Haines. My thanks also to Frank Shaw, one of Conrad Warren's closest friends in Deer Lodge, Montana.

I am particularly indebted to Historian Christine Whiteacre, Rocky Mountain System Support Office, who graciously consented to edit the draft report. Her keen eye and sense of style added much to the final product.

Finally, I am grateful for the assistance of Librarian Nancy Silliman at the William K. Kohrs Memorial Library, Deer Lodge, Montana; the staff of the City of Deer Lodge offices, Venice Beske and Priscilla Golden at the Wyoming State Library, the Goshen County (Wyo.) Public Library staff, and Curator Vanessa Christopher at Yellowstone National Park. I offer my apologies to anyone whom I may have inadvertently overlooked.

Douglas C. McChristian
Fort Laramie, Wyoming

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006