Jane Stanfel Capturing Forever


Lewistown/Grass Range Area

Availability: Sold

The Stage Station
Oil on Canvas 27" x 21"

The Beecher Ranch
Perhaps the most variously-owned and used land and building I have painted, began as the Dovenspeck homestead and was a cattle ranch.  Then John and Verda Middleton bought it in 1927, after which it was owned by the Millers for one year, then the Olsons for three. Within the last fifty years it has had six owners: George Kneeland, Clifford Swift, Tom and Lois Stash, the Bellwoods, the Collins, and now the Beechers.  The building was the Stage Station for Fergus County and carried passengers, gold-mining equipment, and supplies to stops that included Gilt Edge, Flat Willow, and Musselshell.  There was a stage stop about every fifteen miles, for that was the distance a coach could travel per day.  The Olsons, were successful sheep ranchers with 500 head until a gent named Flurry, half Indian and half French, let his dog drive all the sheep into a snow filled coulee.  When he saw what had happened, Flurry calmly walked to the diner where Mr. Olson ate, had his dinner, then broke the news.  Crying desperately, Mr. Olson tried to save his sheep but lost both them and the ranch and would have starved, but his daughters were hand-raising seventy lambs that had lost their mothers.  With the sale of these the family was kept alive for the winter.  For a few years the building became the McDonald Creek School  Afterwards the structure became a home again.  On the high hill behind is a dipping vat for animals; a long deep trough where they were submerged in creosote and water, until in 1936 an earthquake moved the water supply to the bottom of the hill.  The Depression years were hard times in the Grass Range Area.  With the hopes of settlements that would grant the injured parties the lands they desired, many law suites were filed for alleged injuries or problems while others tried to grab land that contained watering holes. With their horses grazing about, the Beechers have an idyllic place, where one could not guess the secrets hidden in those beautiful surroundings and that historic building.

Price: US $750
Contact to Purchase

Black Woman’s Still
Oil on Canvas 18" x 14"

Cummings Ranch
Bertie Brown, known locally as Nigger Bertie, was a jolly, good-natured soul, rather short and heavy-set. What endeared her to the citizens most, though, was not her kindness, it was her booze. Folks claimed it was the absolute best hooch produced anywhere in the U.S. of A. Since it was the good ole’ days of Prohibition, when hidden distilleries were producing moonshine everywhere across our great nation, this was quite an honor.

Born in Missouri in 1871, Bertie came to the Lewistown area in 1898. She lived in Gilt Edge first, then was five years in the Valentine area before she found her dream land on Brickyard Creek, between Lewistown and Grass Range. She homesteaded the 160 acre parcel in 1913. There she built her house, a lovely structure with two main rooms, a kitchen and pantry addition, a lean-to, and a walk-around porch on the east and north sides of the cabin. Upstairs was her bedroom, which she shared with her lover, Jack King, who owned one of the neighboring ranches. No one dared question their relationship, for Jack was known as a chap that did not take kindly to unwanted questions and carried a pistol for giving quick answers. In fact, Jack carried that pistol to the date of his death in the 40’s. Her still was hidden on or near Jack’s ranch on Brickyard Creek, which supplied the water to create her potent liquid.

What made her house unique was its spotless parlor, a cross between a package liquor store, a modern well-stocked bar, and charming living room. Here the locals could buy a pint to take home, have a shot or two or more as they passed through, or sit and visit while sampling the most recent batch of spirits. Bertie, with her beloved black cat as her constant companion, was a kind, friendly bartender and hostess.

The ranch included several out-buildings: a double-doored log building, which served as root cellar; a small barn, perhaps for her Leghorn chickens; a log outhouse; and a bunkhouse. She kept a herd of about 50 cattle and tried raising sheep, though that venture failed.

Bertie adored music and owned the first radio in that part of the state. Her second passion was the Montgomery Ward catalog, and she always had plenty of cash to order whatever she desired. Her third love was children, and she always welcomed her neighbors’ little ones with candy and eggs. Lee and Eleanor Fields were her nearest friends.

Now the good, honorable folks of Lewistown did not approve of the carrying-ons at the Brown ranch and were always after the prohibition officer to close Ms. Bertie down and end this disgusting, drunken debauchery. Supposedly, though, she shared her home-brew with Office Hill, which might explain his repeated warnings never materialized into an arrest. However, the citizens became more vocal, and Hill finally was forced to inform Bertie that the moonshine she was then brewing would be her last or jail would be her home.

Unfortunately, the last run was one batch too many, for the still blew up with Bertie inside. Some of her clothes needed a dry cleaning, and she decided to sponge them down with gasoline in the room where the still was cooking the brew. Whether it was an accident or perhaps a botched attempt at suicide will never be known. Eleanor Fields was with her before the ambulance whisked her to the hospital. She was terribly burned and parts of her brain were exposed. Bertie knew this was a one-way ride, so she pleaded with Eleanor to care for her precious pet. Sadly, once the ambulance pulled away the cat could never be found. However, the present owners swear that now and then a black cat is sitting in the living room window looking out. Could it be a descendent of Bertie’s precious cat or just a stray gone wild? If you believe in the paranormal, the thought must cross your mind that the kitty could just possibly be Nigger Bertie’s spirit still inhabiting her cherished home.

Bertie was 62 when she died in May of ’33, five days after the accident.

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©Jane Stanfel