Memorial Day to Labor Day
Included with membership/admission

Living History Farm

Step back in time and experience the captivating world of a Montana homestead from 1890 to 1910 at Museum of the Rockies' Living History Farm. This immersive exhibit transports you to a bygone era, where you'll discover the Tinsley House, outbuildings, and the picturesque gardens and groves that complete the farmstead.

The heart of the farm is the original 1889 homestead, a testament to the pioneering spirit of the settlers. As you explore, you'll encounter other meticulously recreated structures, including a milking barn, blacksmith shop, outhouse, root cellar, granary, chicken coop, and shed. Each building tells a story, offering a glimpse into the daily lives and labor of the hardworking homesteaders.

Stroll through the heirloom gardens and groves, filled with a vibrant array of vegetables, flowers, and grains that would have thrived in the region's northern agricultural areas. This living landscape showcases the resourcefulness and self-sufficiency of the homesteaders as they utilized what they had to build their homes, grow food, and create a sense of community.

At the Living History Farm, you'll gain a profound appreciation for the rich agricultural history of Montana and the resilience of those who called this land home. Daily chores were integral to their lives, from cooking and water hauling to wood chopping and milking. As the seasons changed, specialized labor like sowing crops, shearing sheep, harvesting, and preserving food followed suit, ensuring survival and sustainability.

Even social activities took on a practical nature, with quilting bees, sewing circles, and barn-raisings becoming community gatherings intertwined with helpful work. Step into their world and discover the Montana homesteaders' enduring spirit and unwavering dedication.

Come and experience the Living History Farm, where the past comes alive, and the stories of Montanana's ancestors unfold before your eyes.

Cooking and Crafting with the Tinsleys

The proceeds from the classes benefit the educational mission of the Living History Farm. Each class includes a recipe card to cook from home.

Cooking with the Tinsleys: Farmhouse Sourdough Bread and Cowboy Coffee

Check back for 2024 dates.

Come down to the Tinsley House kitchen and learn how to make classic sourdough bread, a staple in many homestead households, with chef Cory Bruder. You will learn how to make and maintain your own sourdough starter, techniques for shaping sourdough bread, and baking using a historic wood-burning oven. While your bread is baking, learn how to prepare coffee from beans to brew, just like those on the frontier would have. This class will also include a spirited tour of the Tinsley House and gardens by Living History Manager Peter Mousseau.

Cooking with the Tinsleys: Biscuits and Cherry Syrup

Check back for 2024 dates.

Bake a set of hot and fresh biscuits according to a 19th-century recipe with chef Cory Bruder. We will make choke cherry syrup from scratch on the wood-fired stove to add flavor. This class will also include a spirited tour of the Tinsley House and gardens by Living History Manager Peter Mousseau.

Crafting with the Tinsleys: Historic Craft Day

Check back for 2024 dates.

How did homesteaders craft rugs, quilts, and other home enhancements? Come down to the Tinsley House and learn about the sort of crafts that would have been common during the Tinsley’s day. Learn about weaving, sewing, and other similar skills.

Cooking with the Tinsleys: Homestead Dinner

Check back for 2024 dates.

In the 1890s, a diet for farmers like the Tinsley family might include meat, eggs, cheese, butter, bread, vegetables, jellies and other preserves, pie, milk, coffee, and tea. In this class, you will prepare and enjoy a full homestead meal composed of locally sourced ingredients with chef Cory Bruder. Sign up with a friend! This class will involve cooking in small groups. The class will also include a brief, spirited tour of the Tinsley House and gardens by Living History Manager Peter Mousseau.

Highlights include:

Missourian William Tinsley traveled to Montana in 1864 to stake his own homestead claim in Willow Creek, Montana. William and his soon-to-be wife, Lucy Ann Nave, met in Virginia City, Montana, where William worked for the Wells Fargo Stage Company and Lucy worked as a seamstress.

After William and Lucy were married, they moved to William’s 160-acre homestead claim in Willow Creek and built a modest one-room cabin in 1867. Eight children and 20 years later, the Tinsley family began building the house that is now the MOR Living History Farm centerpiece. The Tinsley family occupied this house on the original homestead claim until around 1920.

Museum of the Rockies acquired the Tinsley House in 1986 which helped complete the plans for a working Living History Farm exhibit. The house was moved from Willow Creek, Montana, in one piece and restored to its original 1890s condition. After restoration, the house was dedicated as part of Montana’s Centennial on Statehood Day, November 8, 1989.

Today, costumed interpreters work this farm as Montana homesteaders would have done in the 1880s and 1890s. During the summer months, this exhibit is busy with gardeners tending the garden, people cooking the noontime meal, and the blacksmith creating ironworks with the coal fire forge.

As visitors pass through the entrance to the farm, the wildflower garden is located to the right of the walkway. Wildflowers in this garden include Indian paintbrush, lupine, yarrow, blue flax, blanket flower, asters, evening primrose, coreopsis, and others. All plants are native to the Rocky Mountain region and most are native to Montana. Lewis and Clark identified many of these plants in their journals. Some plants are edible and others have medicinal purposes. Some are toxic. These flowers were available to homesteaders and added beauty to the homestead.

The farm garden includes vegetables, flowers, herbs, and fruit-bearing bushes. An heirloom plant is one that is propagated from seed and has been available for 50 years or more. The plant varieties in the Living History Farm’s heirloom farm garden were all available in 1905 or earlier. The museum aims to create a garden similar to those used in 1890 to 1905. Open pollination is required which is not used today in large scale or commercial production. Original homesteaders brought seeds with them because they were small and easy to transport. By the late 1800s, seeds could be ordered from various company seed catalogs.

Grains and wheat continue to be a significant part of Montana’s agricultural economy. The small grains “garden” allows visitors to see the differences between grain varieties available in the early 1900s and those that are available today. Representative grains can include wheat, oats, durum, barley, and spelt. Various uses for these grains include bread-making (hard red spring wheat); pasta making (durum wheat); beer production or cattle feed (barley); horse feed (oats); and feed grain (spelt).

The large planted area beyond the grains garden provides an example of dry-land wheat farming where wheat is cultivated in strips with half of the land allowed to lay fallow. Montana only gets enough moisture every two years to produce a wheat crop. Dry-land farming techniques were developed to eke out some wheat crops each year.

The grove honors Marilyn Freeman Wessel, dean and director of Museum of the Rockies from 1997 to 2003. The grove was a gift to the museum from her many friends and colleagues and dedicated on July 24, 2003.

The grove represents a shelterbelt of native trees and shrubs and is located on the southwest corner of the Living History Farm grounds.

The apple orchard was a gift from the Bozeman Board of Realtors and dedicated on Arbor Day, April 28, 1989.

Montana celebrated its centennial in 1989.

The orchard is fenced and located on the southeast side of the Living History Farm grounds.