Thirteen Mile Farm is the site of one of the first homesteads in the Gallatin Valley. John Reese, a geologic engineer from Wales, came to Montana by way of Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Utah in 1864. Initially Reese mined for gold in Virginia City, Montana, southwest of here, but within a few years he transitioned to agriculture, raising food for his family and the new communities beginning in the region. He had his choice of much of the valley and selected this site with it’s deep soil, natural sub-irrigation and springs, and a slight slope to the south. The log barn was built in 1864 and the log home was completed in 1865 (both in the photo). The Reese family lived on and worked the farm until 1904 when it was sold to the Sexton family. Becky Weed and Dave Tyler purchased the farm from descendants of the Sextons in 1987.
Dave and Becky, like the two previous families who moved onto this piece of land from elsewhere, bring along their own history (and its limitations). That includes education and employment in engineering (Dave) and geology (Becky), but also their own particular mixtures of past work in some of the wildest places on earth and some of the most urbanized. It’s impossible not to be grateful for the privilege of living here, even as it is impossible not to be reminded of what the indigenous cultures (human and otherwise) have lost as the development juggernaut that is now Bozeman sweeps over Montana. We occasionally kick up arrowheads when we (rarely) till the soil underfoot, and the sites of former Native American tent rings and a small buffalo jump are within sight of this homestead. Several native groups hunted, fished and travelled through this “Valley of the Flowers” (the Gallatin Valley), and today many living tribal members of the region struggle to remember and rejuvenate their relationship to the Yellowstone ecosystem and its original inhabitants, especially buffalo. Our own efforts to devise some form of viable agriculture inside this long-term context is accordingly flawed, uncertain, sometimes distracted, and always evolving.