Anita Wilson holds a wealth of local historical data, having come from a homesteading family outside of Augusta in Wolf Creek. Anita’s great, great, great aunt and uncle were William and Margaret Nicholas, who were known as Gulch Miners. They owned mining claims in the city of Helena in 1870’s. One such claim was located where the county offices now stand. At 47 years old Nicholas’s moved from Helena to land between Highway 434 and 287. What is known as Nicholas Basin was named after these two and it is near where they originally lived.
They then built what is has been dubbed “The Rock House”. It was built over a spring and they brought water to the house from Nicholas Basin in a wooden trough. There are still remnants of the house by the river, but floods have taken their toll.
Margaret and William never had children of their own. Imagine how isolated it would have been with the big stretch of road between 434 and 287 being just “field roads” and with four gates! When they did take the long trek to town, which was usually Helena, they would stay over a couple of nights.
Their closest family was Margaret who was a niece of Elizabeth Ostle and she lived in Illinois. William and Margaret continually wrote to Elizabeth pleading with her to come to Montana. Elizabeth’s family told her that if she went to Montana, they’d DISOWN her. Cleverly, after William died in 1892 Margaret raised the stakes and told Elizabeth, “I’ll make it worth your while, if you come here.”
The enticement worked and in 1895, Elizabeth and her husband, Henry, brought their five kids to the Rock House to live. Margaret eventually kept her word and on her death, the mining claims were sold and the property, to include a herd of cattle that ran all the way up to the Canadian border, was bequeathed to Elizabeth and Henry Ostle and their children.
As is often the case in these small communities, you’ll recognize many of the names as each of their children married.
Eldest girl Mary married Francis Marion (F.M.) Stow and they bore two daughters. Daughter Carrie married Ace Nielsen and Alice married Sam Ingersoll. From that union came well-known rodeo and Augusta favorite, Herf Ingersoll.
Maggie married William Henry Converse. Their son Elton married Leita Bean of Bean Lake fame. They had three boys. Son Don and his wife Linda took over that family ranch in Augusta. Dick is in Great Falls and Dale is in Wisconsin. Don has since passed and his daughters Teresa Lane, Sara and Pam Converse still pitch in at the ranch.
Second born Thomas married Mary Bergraff in 1897 and they had one son, Adolf. His father, Thomas, bought out his siblings and took over what is The Diamond Dot Ranch. In those days, cattle were brought to the Augusta or Wolf Creek rail stations and were taken to Chicago, Baltimore or Seattle to be sold. As was often the case the ranchers in the area would all get together and one would accompany the cattle on the long trip. The Ostles were well-known for their hardy cattle, once-winning a Grand Champion ribbon in the 1932 Baltimore Livestock Show!
As the story goes, Tom and Mary are running the ranch with help from their only son Adolf in the 1930’s. Adolf marries S. Marguerite Hicks of Wolf Creek heritage. Sadly, while bringing a cow into the corrals one evening, the cow knocks the horse down and Adolf hits his head on something frozen. Adolf lies unconscious for 5 hours waiting for an ambulance to reach him. Roads only went to Bowman’s Corner so it was quite the ride in those days.
Adolf ultimately died from his injuries leaving behind two year old daughter Anita, formerly Anita Barnes, now Anita Wilson and his unborn daughter Sheila. Anita remembers the challenges of those days, “When mom lived there, electricity was a 32 volt generator. They canned and they had a root cellar and they ate Spam in a can, when they had to.” Anita said that they would pretend like Spam was something other than Spam during long winters!
Anita also remembers her feisty grandma who when was told that the ranch wanted to hire a man to help out, she responded, “You pay me and I’ll do the work.” Even into her 70’s, her grandma could dig a post hole and pitch hay.
Adolf’s daughter Sheila Sorenson raised a son and a daughter in Great Falls. She helped her husband with his log home business and has been a face on the ranch for decades.
Adolf’s other daughter Anita eventually bought out her sister’s share of the ranch and now lives on the Diamond Dot Ranch raising cattle and prized Appaloosa horses. Anita raised two boys, Kirk and Brian Barnes. Kirk is in Idaho and Brian lives in Florida. Kirk has three children and Brian has two boys.
One of Brian’s boys, Cody, didn’t take to Florida much. According to his grandma Anita, he “finagled” his way back to Montana where he takes college courses, works at The Lazy B and helps out at his grandma’s ranch. With descendants like hard-working and affable Cody, the community welcomes another 150 years of this clan.