Born in Hall County, Nebraska, Art Montgomery started breaking horses and working on roundups at the age of 17, in 1889. Beginning in 1898 he ranged from Oelrichs, South Dakota in the southern Black Hills across much of northeastern Wyoming, learning the cowboy trade from older hands and tough experience; covering miles of range and many watersheds at a time when nobody knew or cared how far they rode each day.
Art rode for Wyoming brands Diamond Bar, MW, LAK, M Bar, AU7, Flying Circle, 4W and many others. He married Grace Lillian Allen in 1906 and the following year, on their place near the Wyoming line north of Edgemont, he started some of the first Range Conservation practices in the region, putting in dams, ditches, etc. The couple’s son Kenneth was born in 1911.
We are privileged that Art’s granddaughter Vina Beth Montgomery Morris of Newcastle, Wyoming, faithfully preserved his memoirs and is now kindly and generously sharing Art’s words with TSLN readers.
About this time I believe I will bring in the Rich family who lived on Willow Creek. There was the mother, a very dignified old lady, and seven children – George, Arthur, Aug, twins Mark and May, and Mary and Marsha. Aug was known as Kid and was later shot in the back over on the reservation somewhere northeast of Pine Ridge, supposedly by one who was counted as a friend. No clues were found sufficient to bring anyone to trial.
George Rich and Phil Duff went up into North Dakota the spring of 1893 and went to work for the Little Missouri Horse Company, located on Deep Creek which heads up at the Black Butte and runs into the Little Missouri River about 30 miles above the town of Medora. George, whose name was George Lee Rich, dropped the Rich part and was known from then on as George Lee. The Horse Company who branded H on left shoulder had a lot of fine Percheron horses. They started up a Sales Barn at Daisy North Dakota and put George in charge of it. They would trail a bunch down there and he would break them out and sell to the farmers there and over into Minnesota. Later, after he was married, he located on Black Thunder Creek, about 40 miles southwest of Newcastle, Wyoming, where they located the Hampshire Post Office. George was Postmaster for some time.
Later Carmon Fisher was appointed Postmaster and the office was moved across and down the creek about a mile. After the Post Office was moved, George named his place Fort Lee as it looked like a fort. He had set posts along the north and west side of his buildings, a double row about three feet apart and filled it in solid up to six feet high with driftwood, which made a wonderful windbreak. His mother had been living with him and his wife and a son Raymond and a daughter Emily. His mother passed away about 1915 and was buried at the place. George died either late in 1919 or early 1920. Arthur, or A.D. as he was generally known, had been living with George’s for a year or two before George’s death. As I recall, A.D. had spent the greater part of his life in California. Mary taught school for a number of years, we children went to school to her two terms, she later married Clarence McClelland and had two boys and a girl. Charley was in the Post Office at Hot Springs the last I knew. Marion went to Wisconsin and Frances married Will Dumke and runs the Model Hat Shop in Hot Springs. May was a school teacher for a number of years and was elected County Superintendent of Schools of Fall River County two terms, later marrying Albert Silcock and moving to Texas where they both passed away….
HERE ARE SOME EARLY LOCAL NEWSPAPER REPORTS REGARDING FORT LEE AND THE LEE FAMILY:
News Journal no. 14 September 23, 1915 – HAMPSHIRE — G.N. VanArnam has a field of Soudan grass that is over eight feet tall – Geo. Lee’s exhibit of grain and vegetables at the Hampshire Hall is said by many to be equal to the exhibits at the Fair
News Journal no. 23 November 30, 1916, page 2 — HAMPSHIRE — George S. Lee has visitors from Canada who expect to locate here and there will be about fifteen others follow, as they think this a fine place to locate.
– Mrs. Geo. Lee was re-elected by the Green River Mt. District to teach their school the coming year, beginning May Ist. We have never had the pleasure of visiting one of Mrs. Lee’s schools, but we have heard so much of her success as a teacher that we congratulate the Green Mt school on being able to again secure such a competent instructor.
— The dance at Ft. Lee, at which Tommy Bruce acted as host, was a success, considering the inclement weather. About thirty attended and after the usual midnight supper, danced until 6 p. m. We, too, have the dancing craze, but we often think that if we were forced to work as hard as we dance, we would think this a cruel, cruel world. We’re believers tho’ m the proverbial saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” so here’s to the dance.
News-Journal no. 8 July 25, 1918 — HAMPSHIRE — The dance at Ft. Lee the 17th’ was well attended about 50 being present. The music was good and was furnished by the Lees’, Mrs. Williams and Mike Coy. Mr. Coy is getting a reputation as a first-class fiddler for quadrilles, when he gives you the “Arkansas Traveler.” Well you’ve just got to dance whether you want to or not. Your feet absolutely refuse to keep still. A delicious supper was served at 1:20 o’clock, consisting of cake, ice cream, sandwiches and coffee. Dancing continued until the “wee small” hours of the morning. The occasion was a farewell to Roscoe Flores, who left for the colors Friday.
October 10, 1918 – News-Journal: Another farewell dance was given at Fort Lee for one of our boys who leaves for the colors soon. Mack Barbour was the guest of honor, or, rather, he was supposed to be, but we understand that Mack wasn’t present, and, in fact, hadn’t even heard of the affair. Rather peculiar, eh ? A good crowd attended. Several cars were out from Newcastle.
(MACK BARBOUR HAD A HOMESTEAD BETWEEN NEWCASTLE AND OSAGE, WYOMING. HE MOVED ON TO EASTERN OREGON AND BECAME A MAJOR RODEO PRODUCER.)
News-Journal May 29, 1919 — A social dance was given at Fort Lee Saturday. About 160 happy people congregated from near and far. So many of the boys were there in uniform and others were so aggressively well dressed that the affair looked like a military ball. There were several musicians and the music was exceptionally fine. There was a piano, several violins, mandolin, flute, guitar and piccolo. Among the musicians were George and Ramon Lee, Ray Starling, Mrs. Frank Zerbst, Mrs. L. K. Williams, Campbell and Marion Scott, Mr. Neleigh and others. A buffet supper consisting of all kinds of appetizing things almost better than mother used to make, and gallons of hot coffee, was served at midnight. Dancing was kept up until morning.
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HURON, S.D. – Each summer South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) seeks out exceptional individuals to aid the organization in its summer youth education efforts.