The Millegan Ranch ~ 1865-1979
Montana Homestead No. 13
Many thanks to Mr. Roy E. Millegan, Sr. for his great help in producing this feature
All Photos Courtesy of Roy E. Millegan, Sr. Unless Otherwise Noted

Looking West on Old Canyon Ferry Road Near Prickly Pear Creek , 1903
Showing Part of the Millegan Ranch on the Right • Mount Helena in the Background

Photo by de Camp from "Pacific History Stories, Montana Edition" by Alice Harriman, The Whitaker and Ray Company, San Francisco, 1903.

The Don and Nancy Burnham ranch is today located on the left-hand side of what remains of this road.

The Millegan Ranch House on Old Canyon Ferry Road, circa 1910
HOUSE SITE: 46°36'57.27"N 111°57'48.86"W


Located about four miles northeast of Helena on the banks of Prickly Pear Creek, the Millegan Ranch was started in 1865 by Wallace L. and Martha A. Rockefellow Millegan. The house pictured here, their second one on the land, was comprised of railroad section houses, put together in 1910.

James Alexander Millegan

Wallace was the son of James Alexander Millegan (1796-1881), who is evidently the earliest-born person buried in Helena's historic Benton Avenue Cemetery. He died in Helena at the age of 85, shortly after coming there from the Pearlette Colony in Meade County, Kansas.

James A. Millegan

The Original Ranch Acerage
From a Map by Roy E. Millegan, Sr.

A Short History of Helena's Millegan Family, in PDF Format
By Roy E. Millegan, Sr., from 'Valleys of the Prickly Pear'


Wallace Millegan (1837-1923), the youngest of nine, was educated in the frontier territory of Wisconsin, receiving his education in a primitive log schoolhouse. He remained with his father, James Alexander Millegan, until 1859, coming across the plains to Pike's Peak, Colorado. Wallce worked at the Gregory Diggings with William A. Clark, who became a long-time friend, and one of Montana's notorious "Copper Kings."

On April 14,1863, Wallace set out for Bannack, Montana, and later to Alder Gulch, which became Virginia City. His claim on Grasshopper Creek, site of Bannack, was Number 29, above Stapleton's discovery. Alder Gulch did not keep him long, and he returned to Bannack.

In the Fall of 1863, Wallace went east to Iowa, and on April 9, 1864, he married Martha A. Rockefellow.

Wallace and Martha moved to Montana, arriving in Bannack on July 29,1864. Wallace began putting up hay on Horse Prairie and sold the hay that winter in town. He also put the roof on the first building used as a Territorial legislative hall. He always said he never got paid for that job.

In the Spring of 1865, the Millegans left Bannack for the gold rush town of Blackfoot City, some 25 miles west-northwest of Helena, in Powell County. Once at Blackfoot City, they opened a boarding house. It seems incredible that a U. S. Internal Revenue License would have been required to legally operate a boarding house in a small territorial gold-mining town in 1865, but Wallace had to obtain one. Here it is, courtesy of the Roy E. Millegan, Sr. Collection...

U. S. Internal Revenue License, Boarding House at Blackfoot City, 1865
46°40'54.49"N 112°32'41.54"W

The boarding house proved to be unsuccessful, so Wallace and his young family left Blackfoot City for Helena by ox team, arriving in October of 1865. They went into the Prickly Pear Valley, looking at a ranch for their home. It was a piece of ground P. T. Stribling had a quit claim on. They settled into a 16 x 20 log cabin on the banks of the Prickly Pear. This 160 acres was soon to become theirs with Homestead Certificate Number 13, said certificate being signed by President Grant.

In 1872, they bought another 160 acres from P. T. Stribling, which carried with it a water
right dated December 27, 1865. In the Spring of 1866, the cleared ground was plowed with oxen and a hand-made plow, containing a home-made shear. Garden crops were grown and sold to the miners along Last Chance Gulch. After more clearing, peas, wheat, and barley were planted. It is said that in 1871 Wallace sowed the first alfalfa in Montana. It is noted that in 1868 wheat averaged 58 bushels to the acre. Some grains were sold to the Kessler Brewery.

Hogs were raised by the Millegans, and they acquired over 300 by 1890. Most of them were Poland-Chinas, the oldest American breed of swine.

The "WM" livestock brand was well known on the ranges. At one time, Wallace L. Millegan was the largest cattle raiser in the Valley, running 200 head, most of which were
Shorthorns. There were always some milk cows, since cheese and butter were in constant demand in Helena and could be exchanged for groceries

The year 1908 was the last of the horse round-ups on the local ranges, extending from Winston to Clancy and across the Prickly Pear Valley. Millegan participated in that drive which garnered only 55 horses.

Wallace and Martha were the parents of 13 children, 10 of whom were born on the Helena farm (Carrie Mitilene was born in Bannack, Montana Terrritory in 1865, and George W. was born in Sparta, Wisconsin during a visit there by Wallace and Martha in 1882). Nine of these children attained adulthood, but Elenor died in Helena in 1868, at six months of age, and three children succumbed to diphtheria in 1878: Eleanor at one year,George at nine, Charles at eight, and Edwin E. at five.

Surviving children were: Carrie Mitilene (Evans), William Lewis, Hattie Ann (McCollum), Martha Eleanor (Little), Robert Leroy, James Roy, George W., Cora Belle (Smith), and Nina May (Morrison).

1878 Diphteria Epidemic Claims Three Millegan Children

Wallace Millegan Wins Premiums for Best Colt and Barley
at the First Montana Territorial Fair, 1868
Name Misspelled as "Meilligan" in Virginia City, M.T. Montana Post



1882 Horse Purchase


Millegan Family, 1907
Pass Cursor Over Faces for Names and Dates

COLLECTION OF ROY E. MILLEGAN, SR., FROM 'VALLEYS OF THE PRICKLY PEAR', 1988, LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE, INC. Martha Eleanor "Tot" Millegan Little 1876-1940 James Roy Millegan 1880-1953 Robert E. Millegan 1878-1951 Nina May Millegan Morrison 1887-1950 George W. Millegan 1882-1963 Cora Belle Millegan Smith 1885-1963 William Lewis Millegan 1866-1946 Carrie Millegan Evans 1865-1946 Wallace Lewis Millegan 1837-1923 Martha A. Millegan 1840-1926 Harriet "Hattie" Millegan McCollum 1871-1938

By 1897, only 50 acres of the original ranch had been retained, the remainder having been sold to the American Smelting and Refining Company to be used to run tailings. In 1906 the Smelter's operations at this site failed, so the land went to William C. T. Lichtwardt, who in turn sold some to James Bompart

Wallace and Martha belonged to the Society of Pioneers, often taking in the meetings wherever they were held. There, they would be able to visit with W. A. Clark and others about their early experiences in this new state. Wallace and Martha spent their last years living in Helena, at 1031 8th Avenue. He died in 1923 and she in 1926, each at the age of 86. Wallace was buried in the Benton Avenue Cemetery, but was moved to Forestvale Cemetery in 1926 when Martha died and was buried in Forestvale.

Martha and Wallace Millegan in Later Years

James Roy Millegan and Effie Lidolph Millegan

On January 6, 1909, James Roy Millegan (1880-1953) married Effie Lidolph (1888-1980), daughter of Herman and Frances Lidolph, pioneer Helena gardeners. In March of 1909, James Roy and Effie leased the 50-acre ranch, purchasing it in 1921. They had four children: Gladys Lucille Millegan Frank, Wallace H. Millegan, Virgie Mae Millegan Baird and Roy Eugene Millegan, Sr.

James Roy Millegan bought the 50-acre ranch in February of 1921, putting $1,000 down, with the balance of $7,000 to be paid at $500 per year at 5% interest. During the years of the Great Depression, they fell behind on payments, but because it was a family transaction -- and because nobody else in the family wanted the ranch -- they were able to stay on the land. During some of those Depression years, James Roy and Effie only brought in about $800.

Photo taken about 1940

James Roy Millegan (1880-1953) better known as Roy, was born in the Prickly Pear Valley on the Millegan farm, as were his 12 brothers and sisters. He was the tenth child of W. L. and Martha Millegan.

He received his education at the Warren School, which was originally built in 1866 or 1867. He was later a trustee and clerk for the school district.

The early part of his life was spentwith his other brothers and sisters, taking care of the 320 acres along Prickly Pear Creek, and a hay ranch near Lake Helena, for their parents. Much of
his duties were taking care of the large horse herds, running on the range under the "WM" brand and marketed from Helena to Canada. On one of these drives, he was picked up by the Indian police and taken to see the Sergeant-Major, but was soon released to continue the drive. He was captain of these roundups for two of the three years.

Roy fenced for the Anchor Fence Company, and many of the early day fences in the Valley were built by him. For some time he was employed by the City of Helena, running the first street sprinkling wagon, and once boasted about having been the first to sprinkle the grounds at the State Fair. Roy did some rodeoing at one time along with an early day rodeo personality, John Sandidge.

Herman Lidolph Family, circa 1898
Pass Cursor Over Faces for Names and Dates

Effie Lidolph, 1903
While Visiting Bonaparte, Iowa


Frances Ann Lidolph at Home Near Canyon Creek



The Lidolph Family at Home, Just North of East Helena

Effie Lidolph attended schools in East Helena and Canyon Creek. As a young lady, she assisted with Sunday school at the East Helena Methodist Church. Her work was always on the farm, milking the cows, taking care of the chickens, and working in the large garden, as well as in the fields. She was a charter member of the Prickly Pear Home Demonstration Club, to which she belonged for over 50 years.

When Roy died on September 2, 1953, Effie carried on until ill health forced her from her home of some 65 years. She died on January 13, 1980.


The Millegan Children Attended Warren School


Pictured above is a 1910 gathering at Warren School; the occasion is unknown. Effie Lidolph Millegan is seated on the right, holding her inafant daughter, Gladys Lucille. James Roy Millegan is seated on the far left.

The children of Roy and Effie are Gladys Lucille Millegan Frank (1910-2007); Wallace H. (1914-1990); Virgie Mae Millegan Baird (1921-1999), all of Helena, and Roy Eugene (1926 - ) of Whitehall, Montana.


The Millegan Family, Jan. 6 1934
25th Wedding Anniversary of James Roy and Effie Millegan, Warren School
Pass Cursor Over Faces for Names and Dates

Gladys Lucille Millegan Frank 1910--2007 Virgie Mae Millegan Baird 1921-1999 John Herman Frank 1932-2012 John F. Frank 1899-1979 Wallace H. Millegan 1914-1990 Edward Roy Frank, Sr. 1928-1967 Effie Lidolph Millegan 1888-1980 James Roy Millegan 1880-1953 Roy Eugene Millegan, Sr. - Born 1926


Views of the Millegan Ranch, 1920s-30s
Photos Courtesy of Roy E. Millegan, Sr.

The spreading willow tree was planted about 1910 by Martha A. Rockefellow Millegan. The story, passed down through the family, is that she buried a dead chicken, and stuck a green willow shoot into the hole. This beautiful tree was the eventual result.

The house did not have running water or indoor plumbing, except for a kitchen sink which drained into a septic tank. The hand-dug well under the wooden back porch was about 15 feet deep and lined with rock. The water was brought up with a long-handled manual pump. Hot water was made by filling a reservoir on the side of the wood and coal-burning Monarch kitchen range.

Electricity was not available until 1948.


Putting Up Hay, 1927

Putting up hay with a derrick, using one horse on the wagon and one on the derrick. The hay was mowed, raked with a dump rake, shocked, then loaded onto the wagon and brought to the stack yard.

Atop the haystack is James Roy, with his oldest son Wallace H. on the wagon, and his youngest son, Roy Eugene, playing in the tub.

James Roy Millegan farmed exclusively with horses his entire life; he never owned a tractor.


James Roy Millegan and Horses, 1930s


Effie Lidolph Millegan, 1939


Effie Millegan often drove this buggy into Helena and back, taking chickens, butter and produce to trade for groceries and other goods. The horse's name was "Blackie".

A large garden provided the family with most of the needed vegetables. There was an abundance of milk and beef from home-raised cattle, and hogs were also raised.

Model-T Ford Did Double Duty


This old Model-T provided some transportation, and was also employed for sawing wood. The back wheels were jacked up and blocked, a belt was put on one of the back tires then connected to a buzz saw to cut splittable rounds from logs. Logs were brought from the many cottonwood trees that grew along the banks of Prickly Pear Creek, but also from as far away as the wooded hills north of Lake Helena.

Sitting in the car is family friend Daniel W. Schofield; photo taken about 1943.


The log building, on the left, was originally the blacksmith shop. It was later used to house the newborn calves. Along the east side of the log building was the outdoor blacksmith bench, where one would sharpen mowing machine blades, shovels, and do any sort of heavy work.

Behind Effie Millegan and the dog is the barn. On the right is a well house, from where water was drawn for the livestock, usually for the horses as the cows drank either from Prickly Pear Creek, which ran through part of the pasture, or from the irrigation ditches in the summer.


The south side of the barn, with black kitties in the window. The barn had five horse stalls which could hold nine horses, a milking barn which could hold four cows at a time, a granary and room for hay strorage. The hay yard was just north of the barn.


James Roy Millegan Dies, 1953

Operations on the ranch slowed down somewhat after World War II, as James Roy and Effie entered a sort of semi-retirement. Some jobs were hired out, such as putting up the hay. Dairy cows were no longer kept.

James Roy died suddenly in 1953. Following his death, Effie rented out the pasture land.

Family Gathering at the Ranch, 1963
Pass Cursor Over Faces for Names and Dates

By the late 1960s, Effie Millegan's health began to decline, so the ranch house was shuttered and she moved into town to live with her children. She eventually entered a rest home, and died on January 13, 1980 at age 91. The land was subsequently sold.

Roy E. Millegan Sr. Tells About Growing Up on the Ranch
PDF Download

Roy and Vera Millegan in Whitehall, Montana, 2016


Millegan Ranch House in 1974

The Wood and Coal-burning Monarch Range from the Millegan Ranch
Seen on Display at the Jefferson Valley Museum in Whitehall, Montana

2015 Vigilante Parade Float


The May 1, 2015 Vigilante Parade featured a large float depitcting the Millegan Homestead.

Back to The Helena Valley

Herman Lidolph  1857-1941 Frances Ann Hardgrove Lidolph 1846-1905 Effie Lidolph 1888-1980 Robert Gow Short 1873-1954 Ottie Lidolph Ettie Tipton John F. Frank 1899-1979 Effie Millegan 1888-1980 Virgie Mae Millegan Baird 1921-1999 Roy E. Millegan, Sr. Gladys Lucille Millegan Frank 1910-2007 Margene Millegan 1948-1964 Vera Millegan Barbara Glover Wallace H. Millegan 1914-1990 Daniel Glover Kennon Baird Wallace "Skip" Millegan 1951-1982 Roy E. Millegan, Jr.