Our family has been running this ranch since 1978. It was established over one hundred years ago by one of the many Norwegian immigrants, lured by the promise of fertile and affordable land . In the late 1800's Jacob Hoyem, originally from Trondheim, Norway, moved down from his homestead on WildCat Creek. He had lost his wife and wanted to start a new life. He built one of the most modern farmsteads in Sweet Grass County, an elegant Norwegian style country house, one of the first places in the county with indoor plumbing and gas lights. He and his carpenters built the house and the large pegged barn in the same year, quite a feat. Over time he built a immense sheep shed, and added facilities for poultry, pigs and cows, as well. Additionally Jacob added an ambitious ditch irrigation system, Jacob planned to spend the rest of his life on this land that he loved. But his new wife longed for Norway after they lost their young children to pneumonia and so the family returned.
Over the ensuing sixty years the property was leased out or owned by mostly short time owners. Many of the buildings started falling into disrepair. In the 1950's the adjacent one room school, the now vacant "Howie School" was moved into the complex of ranch buildings to serve as a workshop.
Sweet Grass County was known for its sheep and at one time was the world's largest producer of wool. The sheep operations that predominated in the early years gave way to cattle by the 1970's. There are still some big sheep operations today, but cheaper imported lamb and wool, as well as the difficulty in finding labor have contributed to the general weakening of the American sheep industry. Besides, the life of a sheep herder couldn't compare to the romance of the cowboy, as depicted in dime novellas and on the silver screen. Everyone wanted to be a cowboy!
Up until about 15 years ago we ran a couple bands of sheep, about 1500-1800 Columbia, Targhee ewes. Now we run mostly black Angus cows, with a small band of registered Katahdin hair sheep. Our Pyrenees, Spanish Mastiff and Border Collie guard & herding dogs, along with our cow horses, are an integral part of our operation. We couldn't do it without them.
The Parsonage was built back in 1917 by ranchers near the town of Rapelje, Montana for their new minister. One day back in the late '90's we were trailing sheep 20 miles back to our home ranch from summer pasture. We came across a Rapelje resident who told us the congregation had decided to replace their minister's residence with a new double wide and were looking for a buyer for the old, run down parsonage. We bought it the very next day. Months later a house moving company transported it through a complicated route of slick steep hills and narrow country roads. It was a multi community effort as ranchers along the fifty miles the house traveled lent tractors to help the truck drag the load over the icy hills. Once home we set the sweet old house on a full foundation and started to work on its restoration. Everyone was glad to see it saved and restored to the charming New England style cottage that it is. Over the years we have added trees and flower gardens. We use it in the spring time when we are calving in the adjacent calving barn and lots. Otherwise it is a retreat for family and friends. To the south are the Beartooth and Absarokee Mountains. To the west is the Sweet Grass Creek, great for a dip on hot summer days, and just beyond one can see the peaks of the Crazy Mountains. In the summer heifers, ewes and lambs graze in pastures close by once haying is done. It is as peaceful and bucolic as it could possibly be.
The Parsonage has 4 bedrooms.
Two on the main floor:.
One has twin beds.
The other is a queen size bed .
The second floor (due to size limitations of the stairs) has 2 good sized full beds. Each of the 4 rooms comfortably fits 2 people. The capacity of the house is 6-8. There are 2 bathrooms. The main floor has a tub. The basement floor has a shower. The basement also offers an additional seating area with a flat screened Roku Television. The whole house has access to internet.
The living room window seat has a table for dining .
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A visit to Sweet Grass County offers the best of both worlds. The Montana and Sweet Grass County's economy are largely based on ranching, with outdoor activities, fishing, hiking, hunting etc being a close second. This is true of Sweet Grass County. The town of Big Timber is fifteen minutes from the Parsonage, home to several art galleries, charming restaurants, tennis courts, a golf course. There are also excellent fishing guides and pack trip outfitters for days on the rivers or in the mountains. You can build up your western style wardrobe at Gusts, buy a museum quality Antique Navajo Rug at Hodges Gallery, discover a local artist at Two Rivers Gallery, be charmed by the lost art of quilt making at Little Timber Quilts, buy a fresh baked loaf of bread at the bakery, a tasty pizza at Iron Star or grab a meal under the Long Horn Steer mounted on the wall at the historic old Grand Hotel. For history buffs the county is a bonanza, starting with The Crazy Mountain Museum which offers a birds eye view into the heritage and personalities that helped make the county what it is today. The restored Sourdough School, the traditional tepee (this area was originally part of the Crow territory), the authentic Norwegian stabur, the chap collection, wagons, Cremer Rodeo memorabilia and ranch diaries will delight.
National Parks, National Forests, creeks and rivers are easily accessible. The Yellowstone River is just seven miles down the road from the Parsonage. The world renowned fishing in the Boulder River is 30 minutes. The Big Horn River and the fascinating Custer Battle field are just south of Billings, one and a half hours to the east. Yellowstone Park is ninety minutes. The gallery filled and fishing obsessed old railroad town of Livingston is forty five minutes to the west. Another twenty five minutes takes you to the bustling town of Bozeman, home of the Museum of the Rockies, offering a treasure trove of Dr Jack Horner's dinosaur finds and so much more. There's Shakespeare In the Parks all over the state, a symphony and the Yellowstone Art Center in Billings, an Opera Company, art, music, shopping in Bozeman. Tippit Rise is a relatively new and very exciting endeavor to the east in Fishtail, Mt., where world renowned musicians come to play in state of the art music barn, surrounded by endless ranch country where grazing sheep share the hills with monumental works of world renowned sculptors.