Yellowstone Genealogy Forum


Custer Cattle & Sheep Companies (7-7Brand)

[Supports Paul McCormick History]

25 November 2003

T. C. Powers (Ex-Montana Senator), A. C. Johnson (Helena resident), and Paul McCormick (of Billings) formed the Custer Cattle Company. Paul McCormick was the president and the on-site operations manager from 1879 to 1905. They initially managed large herds of cattle and sheep on open rangeland in the Crow Indian Reservation, and farmed within a large fenced area along Alkali Creek. The Alkali Creek land was purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad. They managed 20,000 head of cattle, and 100,000 head of sheep on the reservation. His original land homestead land was situated in S18 1N 26E and S22 1N 25E, consisting of 196.48 acres.

Pictured are the ranch house, barn and farm building that sit on the 1,800-acre estate. (From Billings Gazette, Chapple Collection Files, undated & unsigned.)

The ranch land produced hay for cattle feed as its main crop Originally they started out by raising both hay and oats for feed, but switched to hay exclusively in later years. The operation was designed to produce up to 5,000 tons of hay annually. The ranch house was the residence of Paul’s brother Robert, and is situated on 640 acres. The residence was made from brick and stone, two stories, and had a full basement. It was on this piece of land that they raised elk herds. The barn was an architectural wonder, being 33 feet wide and 435 feet in length. It was built into the hillside, and had a stone foundation, and a full basement was under the floor area that was open on one side. Up to 2,500 head of calves could be sheltered there at one time. The upper floor contained feed, and machinery. The facility contained a self-contained waterworks system, with water supplied from an artificial lake, and coming from the Northern Pacific Railroad yard. The ranch extends outward to the Tinker Ranch, which was managed by Paul’s cousin Emmet McCormick. Wind power is used to chop the feed and saw wood. Excepting for their local needs, all the hay they raised was sold to other consumers. They retired from the grazing operations after 1926, and depended solely on the penned cattle operations on their farm. They prepared for this eventual need in advance, and let the state in modeling what can be considered a picture perfect farm, complete with trees and landscape. Over 40 men ere employed by the firm[1].

His knowledge of the cattle industry was legendary, and it was said of him that; “he can ride into a herd of cattle and cut out within a hundred pounds, beef enough to supply a contract of almost that many tons.” His single fields were as large as most eastern states entire farms.

In 1905-1906 the Custer Cattle Company was listed in the POLK Directory as a Live Stock Breeder & Dealer in cattle, horses and sheep in Yellowstone County. It contained 14, 539 acres. Several firms were much larger. TC Power was President; Paul McCormick Vice President; Millard Fillmore Trask, Manager; AC Johnson Secretary & Treasurer; with offices in the Billings State Bank. Their companion firm was called The Custer Sheep Company, with the same board of directors. The Billings State Bank located at 2821 Montana Avenue was managed by: Paul McCormick, President; Wesland Hansard, Vice President; Charles Spear, Cashier; and John A Hoyt, Teller.


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[1] Refer to The Billings Gazette, Historical Edition.