History of the Ranch

The Mission Ranch was purchased in 1948 by our grandparents, Florence and Almon Walborn. It has remained in the family ever since.

Almon (riding his horse Willie) with Florence on the Mission Ranch circa 1975

Almon (riding his horse Willie) with Florence on the Mission Ranch circa 1975

Zena-Kathleen-Walborn---1985

Zena-Kathleen-Walborn---1985

The ranch was taken over by their daughter, Zena, in 1990. Having been raised on the ranch, she instilled in her three children — Rob Stephens, Darcy LaBeau, and Zena Dell Lowe — a deep and profound appreciation of the rich legacy they had inherited. It had always been their mother’s dream to have the ranch continue in the family. Realizing that her children were not going to become ranchers, Zena came up with the idea of building a lodge to supplement ranch income and open up their vast heritage to the public. Sadly, Zena passed away from colon cancer way too early, and the task of running the ranch fell to the three siblings.

Zena’s Children: Rob, Zena Dell, and Darcy

Zena’s Children: Rob, Zena Dell, and Darcy

With busy, independent careers of their own, they were fortunate to have an excellent ranch manager, Rich Phillips, already handling the beef side of the operations. However, to help financially support their cattle business, the siblings decided to pursue completing the lodge their mother had built prior to her illness and subsequent death. Their endeavors have resulted in the Mission Ranch Lodge becoming one of the best vacation destinations in the greater Yellowstone area.

 

In addition to our family story, the Mission Ranch boasts an incredible history dating back more than 200 years. Keep reading below…

 

Lewis and Clark Return Trip Routes 1806

Lewis and Clark Return Trip Routes 1806

Lewis and Clark

On their return trip to the east over two centuries ago, Lewis and Clark separated to cover more ground. While Captain Lewis fought for his life elsewhere, Captain Clark allegedly built canoes out of the cottonwoods on the Yellowstone River right here on our property.

 

 

Fort Parker

The first agency buildings at Fort Parker before the 1872 fire.

The first agency buildings at Fort Parker before the 1872 fire.

Crow at Fort Parker 1871

Crow at Fort Parker 1871

The Mission Ranch was the site of the first Crow Indian Agency (Fort Parker) in 1869. The first building of the agency burned in 1872 and was rebuilt in adobe on the current site.

Red Log Fort Parker Cabin

There is speculation that two other buildings from Fort Parker still exist on our place. One of them is a dilapidated old red log cabin, moved by the highway to its current location when I-90 was being constructed. This would have been one of two living spaces for the men assigned to Fort Parker. The other red log cabin is rumored to have been moved from the ranch shortly after the agency closed in 1875.

Old Stone Building, possible headquarters of Fort Parker

Old Stone Building, possible headquarters of Fort Parker

The other possible Fort Parker structure on the ranch is a stone building that may have been the administrative Headquarters of the Fort. It was common in those days to simply add-on to existing structures when undertaking new building projects. Thus, this old rock building is still in operation today as the cellar of the Old Ranch House, which was built in the late 1890’s.

 

Ruins of Hick's Cellar, built circa 1880.

Ruins of Hick's Cellar, built circa 1880.

The Hicks Cellar

When Fort Parker closed in 1875, the agency simply left its buildings behind. The Hicks family took advantage of the abandoned structures and “squatted” here in the 1880’s. Apparently, the Hicks family enjoyed throwing festive parties on the place. They also built a cellar into the side of the hill next to Mission Creek, the remains of which have never been touched.

 

The Remains of Kennelly's Castle, Circa late 1800's

The Remains of Kennelly's Castle, Circa late 1800's

The Kennelly Ruins

The ruins of Kennelly Castle are also on ranch property. As legend has it, Mr. Kennelly wanted to build a castle for his young bride-to-be. Unfortunately, he got into a water rights “dispute” with a neighbor, and was forced to abandon his castle circa the 1890’s. (For More on the Kennelly ruins, see our Archives section, where we have old news articles posted for your enjoyment.).

Original Mission Ranch Barn, built circa 1890

Original Mission Ranch Barn, built circa 1890

The Mission Ranch Dairy Barn

In the late 1890’s, the Mission Ranch became a dairy farm, and the Mission Ranch Barn was erected. This original dairy barn was the site of all the milk produced for Yellowstone National Park. A train would stop right here on the place to collect the milk on its way into the park.

 

For information about how to get a tour of the ranch, contact darcy@missionranchlodge.com.
For more information on how to order Mission Ranch Beef, check out our website at www.missionranchbeef.com.

 

Historical Photos provided courtesy of the Extreme History Project. For more information, go to www.extremehistory.wordpress.com.

 

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