There is something truly special about the N Bar Ranch, which lies 10 miles south of Grass Range, Montana. This gorgeous ranch spans a vast contiguous 200,000 acres which boasts everything from large tracts of timberlands, to lush bottomlands of fertile soil.
The N Bar Ranch is made up of several sections. Careless Creek, the most southern section, makes up the ranch’s commercial heifer development program. The ranch focuses on bettering commercial black angus genetics by breeding to premier bulls like Wilks Ranch Greasy to produce well balanced calves. Looking northeast, the Swimming Woman ventures its way up into the mountains; and in the northwestern portion lies the Pronghorn.
At the heart of the ranch, the Main N Bar was the first of the Montana ranches to join Wilks Ranches. This ranch is an iconic gem which shines as one of the West’s premier ranches. The N Bar is not only rich in its natural resources which supports 4,500 animal units, but it is also rich in its history.
Though established in 1885, the true history of this ranch dates back another seven years to 1878 when two brothers, Zeke and Henry Newman obtained a government contract to run cattle. The brothers were forced to sell the ranch shortly into their ownership due to a combination of the state’s worst drought and preceding winter, which devastated the area: destroying foliage and in effect, killing 60% of Montana’s cattle population.
The headquarters of the N Bar Ranch take root after its sale in 1885 when one of the lucky gold miners named Thomas Cruse, purchases part of the ranch and a large set of livestock for a total of $93,600 dollars. Cruse would continue to acquire large sections of adjoining land throughout the years until he passed away. The following economic hardships of the 1920’s reduced the ranch to a sheep operation until its resurgence in the 1930’s, when the property sold Jack Milburn became the manager. He turned the ranch around by introducing to the ranch the registered angus program.
The influx of cattle money turned the ranch around as three generations of Milburn’s worked the ranch until the 1960’s when it sold. To this day, the N Bar Ranch still honors the Milburn vision- a ranch dedicated to working hard in support of the cattle industry.
The ranch was then sold and purchased by Tom Elliott. It was under the Elliotts’ ownership that the N Bar became widely known in the Black Angus breed with its production of the noteable N Bar Emulation EXT. Emulation EXT revolutionized the breed with his unmatched maternal influence and carcass values. This bull is well known for his female progeny and the consistency his genetics bring to breeding programs. Elliott had a passion for his lifestyle and it showed through his superb production of one of the best bulls produced for the Black Angus Breed.
Later, the ranch changed hands to Tom Siebel, who Wilks Ranches purchased the main N Bar from. The ranch still preserves several old homesteads, their remnants, barns, corrals and even the Native American tipi rings and arrowheads. One of the most iconic locations on the entire ranch is hidden in the main part of the N Bar, buffalo jump. This historic location is spectacular. Standing on top of this bluff, one can easily imagine why the geographical monument got its name, Buffalo Jump. The bluff marked the end of a successful buffalo hunt. As I imagined as a child in school reading about Native Americans hunting tactics, standing at this spot brings to life the stories of the Native Americans hunting buffalo on the plains of Montana and using natural cliffs to complete the hunt and feed their villages.
The ranch is iconic today as it was in all its yesterdays. The N Bar’s life continues to tip its hat to its rich cowboy history and prosperous cattle raising past.