Historic homestead returned to wildlife
Wed, Feb 24 2010 at 3:52 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
If only the land could talk, what stories it could tell. Fortunately, Mary Jane Lindner is happy to speak for a treasured piece of the Rocky Mountain Front that was homesteaded by her father Sylvanus "Sylver" White. This fall, his family donated the 327-acre homestead to The Nature Conservancy where it will be added to our Pine Butte Swamp Preserve.
The gift is a biologically-rich addition the preserve — enfolding rugged reefs, the North and South Forks of the Teton River and habitat that offers both shelter and sustenance for the Front's abundant wildlife. But, besides its natural riches, this land is a part of Montana's history.
Sylver White was born in 1894 just west of Augusta, Mont. — just five years after the territory had become a state. The land was still wild and unsettled when Sylver took a job with the Ear Mountain Ranger district in 1919. Fresh out military service in World War I, he decided to homestead a piece of land nearby.
During his time as the district's first ranger, he laid out many of the trails used by hikers today — especially visitors to the Conservancy's Pine Butte Guest Ranch. And even though his work would take him to homes in other parts of Montana, his summers were devoted to camping at the homestead and exploring the surrounding wild lands. His daughter Mary Jane (now 86 years old) remembers dangling her feet in the cool waters of the South Fork River.
"It was always a very special place to go," recalls Mary Jane.
Sylver was living in Choteau at the time of his death in 1990. He was 96 years old, and had recently been honored as the last living veteran of WWI in Montana. His family chose to give the homestead to the Conservancy in order to honor their patriarch and his feelings from this place. His daughter Mary Jane says she didn't have any doubt that this was the right thing to do.
"Dad loved Montana so much and I feel good about giving it to the Conservancy because they will take care of it as he would have wanted."
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.
Featured image: Sam Beebe / Ecotrust/Flickr