In 2006, after much diligence by former owners, Bob and Vivain Schaap, Lone Mountain Ranch was placed on the National Registry of Historic places. This honorary designation means that the Ranch has played a significant role in the history of Montana and the guest ranch industry.
Lone Mountain Ranch was originally homesteaded by Clarence Lytle in 1915, as a working cattle, horse and hay cutting ranch. Clarence, his brother, William, and Eugene Crail (who homesteaded 960 acres in today’s Big Sky Meadow Village) built many of the original structures on the ranch including the cabin (today, it is our Meadowlark guest cabin), barns, corrals and fence lines.
In 1926, Clarence sold the Ranch to Chicago papermill tycoon, J. Fred Butler who was interested in the scenic beauty of the homestead as a family vacation spot. His wife, Lillie and their daughter and son-in-law, Florence and Don Kilbourne, had many of the existing cabins built, sparing no expense. In the following months, the Butlers and Kilbournes spent an estimated $110,000 on improving their new vacation ranch. J. Fred also purchased an additional 11 sections adjacent to the homestead. During this time, the Ranch was known as the B-K Ranch.
The cabins were constructed of lodgepole pines, which were taken from the property, wrapped in burlap for protection and hauled out of the woods by teams of draft horses. J. Fred and Lillie lived in today’s Bullmoose cabin and Florence and Don lived in our current Hilltop cabin. The door hinges and locks were all handcrafted, as well as the log furniture in the cabins. Originally, the cabins had sod roofs planted with glacier lilies. Florence spent much of her time collecting priceless Indian artifacts that were showcased in their dining room (the B-K cabin), which we use today as a place for guests to relax. Some of the original pieces are displayed here still, while others decorate the Ranch dining room and a few of the cabins.
After J. Fred passed away, Don and Florence ran the B-K Ranch as a dude ranch for many years welcoming guests from the East. Having played the role of “dudes” before, they were very good at anticipating guests needs and expectations of a “cowboy” vacation in Montana, which allowed for some success.
In 1946, Earl and Louise Risser from Springtown, Pennsylvania and Henrietta Joyce from Cincinnati, OH purchased the Ranch for Joyce’s nephew, Robert Turner, an ambitious minister who wanted to instill values into the young men of this world. The B-K was run as a boy’s camp for a couple of Summers. However, when Earl saw the impact that the boys had on the Ranch, he decided that he and Louise would instead run it as a guest ranch. Gradual improvements were made and with the persistence of Earl Risser and friend, Bill Campbell, the Ranch became the first place in Montana with underground electricity.
Sometime in the early 1950’s the Ranch was purchased by Don Corcoran of Minnesota and he used the Ranch to run a logging operation. Due to the large number of families living on the Ranch at the time, the B-K and Hilltop cabins (as we know them today) were converted into schoolhouses for the children.
In 1955, the logging operation abruptly ended and Jack and Elaine Hume purchased the Ranch and successfully ran it as a dude ranch/ hunting and fishing camp. They were the first ones to refer to the Ranch as Lone Mountain Ranch.
In 1962, Sam and Florence Smeding purchased the Lone Mountain Ranch and continued its long tradition in western hospitality. Much like today, the Smedings would greet their guests in Bozeman and bring them back to the Ranch for a week of horseback riding and other adventures.
In the early 1970’s, the late newscaster, Chet Huntley, along with Chrysler, Conoco and several other large corporations purchased the Ranch. The “Ranch at Big Sky,” as it was referred to, was used as their headquarters for the development of Big Sky resort and as a place to entertain possible investors.
In 1977, the Ranch at Big Sky was put up for sale and anyone wishing to be considered was required to submit a proposal for consideration. Bob and Vivian Schaap had plans to run the Ranch as a cross country ski and guest ranch operation. With year round plans, they were selected and soon acquired Lone Mountain Ranch. For over 30 years, the Schaaps established a successful summer and winter guest ranch, welcoming guests from all over the world and providing them with quality adventures in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and exceptional customer service.
As many of the owners of the Ranch have done for close to 100 years, we provide the finest in guest ranch vacations with unforgettable experiences and unparalleled service.
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