Yesterday we went hiking and came across an old homestead. It made me think about the family homestead of my Timms family and how we debated how old it was.
Many in our family had all heard and been told stories about the Timms place; many similar others quite different. As this debate went on we fortunately had someone in our family who is in the architecture business. His knowledge and insight really helped us when we were asking questions and when historical folks came out to look at the family site.
In the Midwest the preservation of a family homestead, such as the one my Uncle Sherm lived in, even if covered and added on to is unusual. Many original homesteads and structures no longer exist. I think that they were lost to progress. I can remember growing up as farms got larger and absorbed other farms, older homesteads were torn or burned down to make row for more corn and beans. It always seemed sad to me and I wanted to walk through them before they were gone, down to feel and see the history before it was lost.
In Montana there seem to be an abundance of abandon homesteads still preserved. I think two things contribute to this abundance. First our dry weather causes very slow rot and decay. Second we have much less cultivated ground here. In open range, ranchers don’t have the same need to get rid of a homestead as you do when your livelihood is based on the number of bushels of corn and acre can produce. Cattle wander in and out of old homesteads until nature and time causes them to collapse.
I love to find old ranch and mine sites and wander through them. I wonder what made the family choose this spot to stop and build a home, how long they stayed and why they left. Usually not much is left there but my imagination and questions.