On the road again! We had a 6 hour drive, longer than we usually go in one day, from Tri-Cities, Washington to Missoula, Montana. There were things to do in Missoula on our “to do document” but it rained a lot and we didn’t do any exploring. Costco and Albertson’s were all we saw of Missoula – except for the campground.
Jim and Mary’s RV Park was very nice with generous grassy sites and LOTS of flowers. Elaborate and simple flower beds were maintained throughout the park. There were three green houses and hundreds of flower pots and baskets. Jim and Mary have a passion for flowers!
After two nights in Missoula, we traveled to Conestoga Campground in White Sulphur Springs, Montana – another nice “mom and pop” campground. It doesn’t have as many flowers but does have dozens of western scene silhouettes. The owner enjoys making them during the cold winter months when temperatures get to 30 below zero.
He also shows his sense of humor with signs around the campground!
At the campground sponsored Ice Cream Social we learned about White Sulphur Springs and the area. The actual springs are part of a local hotel but remain open to the public. The town of White Sulphur Springs has a mining and stock history. We went to see its landmark site, The Castle Museum.
The Castle was built in 1892 by B. R. Sherman at a cost of $35,000 – roughly $1,000,000 today. Byron Sherman’s extended family included Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Army General.
The Castle was built with Sherman’s proceeds from supplying area miners. (An earlier direct mining investment had failed.) The stone was quarried from nearby Castle Mountain and the interior wood was imported from the east. Some rooms had very large windows which allowed for great views of the vast landscape. The glass was imported from the east without a single pane being damaged.
Sherman and his family lived in the Castle for about a decade. He thought the quality of coal in Montana was poor so he heated his home with coal shipped from Pennsylvania.
A second family, the Donahoes, purchased the Castle as their “city home” but spent most of the time at their ranch. Eventually, they turned the Castle into a boarding house and dormitory for children who came into town for the school year. Then, abandoned for decades, the Castle was given to the county for a museum by Donohoe heirs.
Obtained in 1959, the county has restored much of the Castle but only a few original fixtures remain. Families from around the county donated many, many antiques which fill rooms to brimming. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed.
We also learned about the Ringling family’s involvement with the area. John Ringling was the front man for the Ringling Brother’s Circus, became very involved with railroads, and acquired a lot of land in this area. He built a railroad spur between White Sulphur Springs and a town 20 miles south that was renamed Ringling.
John’s nephew, Richard Ringling, lived in White Sulphur Springs and owned the largest dairy barn west of the Mississippi River. The butter made at the dairy became a staple in railroad dining cars and all along the railroad route in the western United States.
We had another long travel day from White Sulphur Springs to Miles City, driving mostly on Highway 12. It was a beautiful journey through Big Sky country.
Once in Miles City, we were so glad to see our friend Casey! We worked with Casey at Chief Plenty Coups State Historical Park last September and appreciate that she drove two hours to see us! Distances are vast in Montana!
We still have 90 miles of Montana to see before getting to North Dakota later today.