Yellowstone County MTGenWeb

Yellowstone County Biographies

Charles M. Bair
Sheep Rancher


Revised 20 June 2001c

 Charles Bair was born on June 18, 1857 in Ohio.  He started farming in Michigan; then became a train conductor for the railroad. He came to Montana in 1883 and was a conductor on the Billings to Helena run with the Northern Pacific for eight years.  He saved his money and invested in ranch land. By 1891, he was ready to devote full time to ranching. In 1898, he became one of the area’s largest and most successful stockman. He sold 25,000 sheep and some ranch holdings to purchase ground-thawing machines, which he took to the placer gold mines of the Klondike with Louis E. Miller. The machines worked perfectly, and he invested his earnings in rich Alaskan mining properties. He returned to Montana in 1899 and again invested in sheep. At one time he clipped 1,900,000 pounds of wool. By the turn of the century he owned the largest individual sheep operation in the northwest U.S. Bair ran as many as 300,000 head of sheep on his ranch in the Martindale area and other lease land. In 1910, his sheep sale filled a 47-car train with 1.5 million pounds of wool bound for the Boston market.

He built a home at Broadway & 3rd Ave N in Billings. It was considered the finest in Billings. His family farm home is a museum, and is open to the public. When the last of the family, Alberta died in 1993, the Bair Family Trust contracted with the C.M. Russell Museum of Great Falls to manage the ranch house as a public museum.

  Email me:
Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator

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