BOZEMAN — At Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies, it’s easy to get carried away as you examine Montana’s past through artifacts, paintings, clothing, and more. But at the museum’s Living History Farm, the past comes to life right before your eyes.
“Oftentimes, the story that’s told is, ‘Come out West and sow the land!’,” said Director of Education and Programming Director Chelsea Hogan. “A lot of people connect with that idea, that you can create something out of nothing.”
The quaint little home next door to the Museum of the Rockies was once home to the Tinsley family, homesteaders from Missouri who planted their roots in Willow Creek.
In 1986, the Tinsley house was restored and moved to Bozeman.
Hogan says the house represents hard work, labor, and the rich agricultural history of Montana.
Today, costumed interpreters work the farm as Montana homesteaders would have done in the 1880s and 1890s.
“Of course, as ranchers in Montana, they would’ve grown all their own food,” said Hogan.
During the summer months, the exhibit is busy with gardeners tending to a vibrant array of vegetables.
“We grow squash, fruit, rhubarb, carrots, lettuce, all kind of vegetables,” said Hogan.
Inside the house, volunteers and interpreters cook food daily from items grown in the garden.
And Hogan says each building on the property tells a story.
“Seeing the staff dressed in the clothing, smelling the smells, going to the blacksmith shop--it takes you back to the past in a really loving and meaningful way you can’t get from a history book,” said Hogan.
A blacksmith can be seen at work, showcasing the self-sufficiency of the homesteaders who utilized what they had to build their homes.
“For local Montanans, there’s a lot of memories involved in the experience,” said Hogan. “People whose grandparents, great-great grandparents homesteaded will say ‘Oh, my grandma had that same item inside her home'.”
Around 50,000 people come to visit the Living History Farm according to Hogan.
Although the exhibit is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are plenty of fun holiday events to look out for this fall.