By Tracey Laqua
As part of the Montana Stockgrowers' 125th Anniversary Celebration in Miles City this summer, representatives of ranches more than a century old will be gathering to celebrate and be recognized for their staying power.
One well-known local ranch will be included and one of its sons, Terry Haughian, is helping to plan the Stockgrowers' anniversary event.
"The ranch industry has played such a big part of this town, and that's why I think this celebration is important," said Terry Haughian. "That's why I live and die it [ranch life] every day."
"As long as that grass will grow and the water will bunch up in a dam or be pumped from the ground, it's a way to make a living. It might not be a high-priced way of living, but it's sustained (Main) Street," Terry said.
The Haughian Ranch is located north of the Yellowstone River between Miles City and Terry and near Little Sheep Mountain. It started out with 40
acres, a two-room log cabin and a spring. It was called a soldier's script because, after the Civil War, the government paid soldiers by giving them land in the West instead of cash.
According to Quinn Haughian, the family dates the beginning of its ranch from the day President William McKinley was assassinated on Sept. 5, 1901. So in 2001, all of the families, neighbors and friends helped celebrate 100 years with picnics, trail rides and parties.
In 1901 Daniel Haughian came from Ireland and settled here before bringing his bride, Susan Quinn, to Montana in 1905.
Quinn Haughian said that his father, also named Dan Haughian, often would say to express pride in his heritage, "If I wasn't Irish, I would be ashamed of myself."
That proud Irish heritage has lived on in a family with a tradition of working hard and playing hard.
The Haughian clan has more than its fair share of redheads. The most famous of these is Susan Haughian – Quinn, Patrick and Terry's grandmother. She was called Montana's favorite redhead and even was featured in Colliers magazine in 1952 with a story about her titled, "The Cattle Queen of Montana." After her husband, Daniel Haughian, died in 1931, leaving Susan with 10 children, she picked up and went on to make the Haughian ranch one of the most successful in Montana.
From the original soldier's script of 40 acres, Susan and family grew the ranch to over 90,000 acres of deeded and leased land in the 1960s.
The Haughians began by raising sheep. By 1934 they started buying heifers to supplement their income and to soften the blow if they lost some or all of their sheep in terrible storms, according to Quinn and Mary Haughian.
Drought and grasshoppers finally drove them to hunt for water and grass in the Jordan area. They fought to lease lands with springs, which many people wanted.
Several other times over the years they had to leave the home range, moving and trailing the cattle or loading them on stock cars at the Saugus Stockyards on the Milwaukee Railroad.
At the same time, they began acquiring lots of dried-up homesteads in the surrounding area that had been turned back to the county for taxes, according to Quinn and Mary.
By scrimping and saving, they bought sections around water holes for 75 cents to a dollar an acre. It was all hard work and sacrifice.
In the late 1930s the government was buying up land to resettle farmers in the Kinsey Project. The Haughians had been using 15 or 16 sections of it for grazing. Finally, by fighting tooth and nail, they kept the land and bought 9,000 acres of the lease from the Northern Pacific Railroad, Quinn and Mary Haughian explained.
By 1952, the ranch ran 2,500 head of cattle and two bands of sheep, totaling 3,000 animals. Many improvements were made through the years, including pumping water from the Yellowstone River for irrigation, building dams and developing irrigation water from Custer Creek, especially during
the spring run-off.
By World War II, they were able to raise all the grain and alfalfa hay needed for winter feed. Forty earthen dams were built and 16 artesian wells drilled. They hired a tractor and engine man, broke their own horses to ride, manned a cow camp, tended the sheep camps, had a chore man and seasonal shearing, haying and branding crews.
Now the ranch extends into Custer and Prairie counties, according to Quinn and Mary.
Dan Haughian, one of Susan's five sons, is one who continued the tradition that goes on today with the Haughians of Eastern Montana.
Dan met Mary Haughian at a dance in Terry and married her later, when he was 39 years old.
"The Irish didn't believe in getting married early," explained Mary.
"They wanted to be able to provide for their family."
But, even so, Dan rodeoed before they were married, and told her when they were dating that the first thing that he thought of in the morning was his horse and then himself, said Mary, laughing.
Quinn said that having a father who was older when he was a kid was probably an advantage.
"Dad had 20 more years of values to pass on," Quinn said.
These included an appreciation of the land and history, helping out when needed and never being boastful.
One example of the latter is his help in a tragedy that happened on the ranch.
On the morning of June 19, 1938, the Milwaukee railroad's Olympian train plunged into Custer Creek on the Haughians' ranch. The crash is still the worst train wreck in Montana history, claiming nearly 50 peoples' lives. It is commonly referred to as the Saugus train wreck or Custer Creek wreck.
Dan and one of the hired hands, Francis Mothershead, went out to help people from the wreckage, bringing their handmade wooden ladders. A book written about the Milwaukee railroad recently estimated that the two saved about 40 peoples' lives, according to Quinn and Terry.
Sheila Dixson, Mothershead's daughter, told this story to a Montana newspaper as part of a story written in 2006 that recalled the crash:
“When my daughter was a baby in 1973, we were downtown in Terry after the Fourth of July rodeo. An elderly gentleman in the crowd stopped to visit with us. He asked our names, and I also told him my maiden name, and who my Dad was. He started crying, and asked if he could kiss my baby for good luck. Dan and Daddy had saved his life, but he lost a leg as a result of the accident.”
Quinn said he was surprised when he heard of the rescue. His father had said that he had been there to help after the crash, but he never said that he saved peoples' lives.
"We would have never known, if we hadn't read that book," Terry added.
"He never boasted about it," Quinn said. "He didn't want any
recognition. Nowadays, if you saved 30 or 40 people, you'd be a hero.
"I could say that about his brothers and sisters. It was the way of that generation of people."
Most of the values Quinn learned from his father were just by watching him work and live.
"Dad would never tell people what he wanted them to do. They would just talk, and then you just were supposed to know what to do," said Quinn.
Mary said, "They'd go out by the shop and smoke their cigarettes and talk about what they were going to do that day. Then they would go do it."
Mary and Quinn pointed to a quote in an article in the Terry Tribune when the Haughian brothers were inducted into the Range Riders memorial as a perfect way to sum up their family values.
"None was too good to do the commonest of manual labor, nor the hardest ranch job. None was too busy for family and friends and none lost sight of the church," said the article.
In 1967, the ranch was divided among four brothers and their families. Now five cousins and their families make a living on the original land, according to Terry.
Most of Dan and Mary Haughian's nine children still live in the Miles City area. Terry, Quinn and Patrick are ranchers; Donna Faber works at Miles Community College; Cecilia Stanley teaches at Sacred Heart; Susan Waples is
a rancher; Teresa Deuchar is a teacher in South Dakota; Nora Haughian is a radiology technician in South Dakota; and Jodette Huckins works at the St. Labre Mission in Ashland.
Mary is the keeper of the family history. She has written seven books including many local histories, cookbooks and a war history of Prairie County. She worked on the Wheels Across Montana book about Prairie County in 1974.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Those ranches over 100 years old and interested in participating in the celebration should contact Lea Moore, the Miles City coordinator for the MT Stockgrowers' 125th Celebration at (406) 853-0411.