Before The Ranch At Rock CreekRay Ham riding Major at the Eagle Canyon Ranch (1940's)
Anna and Frank “Sandbar” Brown moved into Philipsburg sometime after September 3, 1910 when Minnie their youngest daughter, married John Werning, at the Brown ranch. John and Minnie spent their honeymoon camping at Moose Lake, then began actively running the ranch.
The property was the first ranch located on the west side of the Upper Rock Creek Road at Brown’s gulch. When I was growing up, the first property on the east side of Rock Creek Road was referred to as the Grover Bowles place. I found a reference in the Mail on January 11, 1918 stating “G. Bowles in from Rock Creek Sunday to make a homestead entry. Then, “Mr. and Mrs. Norman Thoreson, Mr. and Mrs. Grover Bowles and Mr. and Mrs. John Werning were in from their respective ranches on Rock Creek last Friday evening to attend the dance given by the local post of the American legion” on February 13, 1920. Next is an article: “Born to Mr. And Mrs. Grover Bowles on Thursday July 8th at their home on Rock Creek a daughter” July 9, 1920 and as late as October 14, 1921 the Mail stated “Mr. and Mrs. Grover Bowles were visitors in the city Thursday from their ranch on Rock Creek.”
In the book “Horses and Saddles I have Known” Ray Ham stated when he first worked on the ranch in 1939 the ranch belonged to Faye LeGrow. Faye was a banker in Athena, Oregon and an active promoter of the Pendleton Roundup. Grover Bowles (Faye’s brother-in-law) was the ranch boss with his wife Hazel. Grover and Hazel had a drinking problem and Grover was troubled with emphysema. His health rapidly failed in the fall of 1940 and Grover died on May 15, 1941 in St. Ann’s Hospital. The obituary stated he was born in Walla-Walla on April 3, 1887 and came to Rock Creek as a young man. Survivors were: wife Hazel, daughter Sarah Jane, mother Mrs. Sarah Jane Bowles and sister Mrs. F.S. LeGrow.
During this period the Brown/Werning ranch was absorbed into the Eagle Canyon Ranch. Ray quit the ranch before the Pendleton Round-up in the fall of 1940. This was right after he married Hazel Dennis a local Philipsburg girl. After the rodeo season was over and the peas in Oregon harvested the next summer they returned to Montana. Ray worked a very short stint in the Mines in Butte. Then they returned to Granite county and worked the Hickey ranch where Ray broke horses in the winter of 1941. When the job ran out he and Hazel returned to Athena, Washington to work the pea harvest and then to ride in the Cheyenne Rodeo. When they returned to Athena after the rodeo, Faye LeGrow asked Ray if he would run the Rock Creek Ranch. A lease deal was set up where Ray got half of the calf crop but could not keep any of his stock on the ranch.
Ray had a dog named Rowdy who was not a cow dog but loved to chase coyotes and would come running to Ray with a coyote chasing him on both sides for Ray to shoot . All Ray had to do to get Rowdy’s attention was holler “Coyotes” and he was right there. By 1942 the ranch was a lot more than a homestead. Ray described the ranch as 6,500 deeded acres, running 400 head of cattle. They pastured the cattle on Forest Service land in the summer. The ranch had fifty head of horses and put up 400 ton of hay. This is how I remember it when my Dad worked the ranch for a short time after Ray left in 1946.
By 1956, Ray and Hazel Ham had settled in the Spokane area with their two sons: Jay and Dee. Hazel died in 2002 and Ray died in 2004.
Bill and Jewell Ball were the next ranch managers until it was bought by K. L. Staninger, known as “Bucko”. His wife Beatrice (Beah) was the sister of Helen Paige, wife of B.G. Paige and mother of Ron and Gail. Bucko died in 1978 and Beatrice died at the age of eighty, in 1996 at Missoula. Her obituary stated they had owned the Eagle Canyon Ranch.
My brother (Corky) broke a pony named “Blue Boy” for Bucko. He was one mean animal! Dennis Strand bought the ranch from Staninger then Strand sold the ranch about 2001 to a Mr. Watson. In turn, Watson sold the place in about 2007. Now a resort, “The Ranch at Rock Creek” is no longer a working cattle ranch. They have become a leading employer of Granite county, servicing visitors coming to the area for a western experience.