Montana wasn’t settled so much as it was conquered by fierce individualists who vowed to take on natural extremes and physical rigor to create a life out on the frontier. Opportunity seemed limitless on the blank canvas of land that flanked Lewis and Clark’s Missouri River journey. It was in this era of yet unclaimed grandeur that cattlemen declared their valleys by gesturing toward distant mountain peaks to indicate the desired boundaries of their ranches. Thus was born the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch, near what is now Deer Lodge, Montana.
The original Grant-Kohrs Ranch was established when Conrad Kohrs, in partnership with his half brother, John Bielenberg, purchased land from Canadian fur trader, John Grant in 1866. The up-and-coming cattle barons expanded the Grant-Kohrs Ranch until it covered 10 million acres of southwestern Montana. Today the remaining 1,500 acres are dedicated to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Visit Grant-Kohrs today and you’ll find that they still do things the old-fashioned way from blacksmithing horseshoes to haying the fields with draft teams. Since the 1860s not much has changed here including the site’s working cattle ranch.
Part of the original Grant-Kohrs Ranch, the land Rock Creek Cattle Company sits on, was more specifically part of the Kohrs and Bielenberg Land and Livestock Company, which was sold in three large parcels after the dissolution of the Grant-Kohrs cattle empire. The land east of the original ranch house was purchased on July 1, 1919 for $100,000 by Charles H. Williams and Peter Pauly of Deer Lodge. Pauly and his wife immigrated to the United States in the late 19th Century from the city of Pau, near the Pyrenees in France. Pauly arrived in the Montana territory in 1889 at the age of 18, Being a native of the Pyrenees, Pauly fell in the love with the ranch’s surrounding mountains and decided to settle here. In 1895, Pauly was approached by Williams to partner and start a joint ranch, what would become the Williams and Pauly Outfit, the forerunner to the Rock Creek Cattle Company.
Over the next five decades, the Williams and Pauly Outfit grew into a substantial ranching operation. Second-generation ranchers, Peter Pauly II and Ray Williams made a trek to Miles City to bid on bred heifers and headed back home with increased numbers of stock to strengthen The Outfit. The Ranch was passed onto a third generation of the families and it wasn’t until 1948 when The Outfit was amicably divided. The name Rock Creek Cattle Company came from a Kansas City business tycoon who bought the Ranch in 1971. In 2004, Bill Foley purchased the Ranch and began making his vision of Rock Creek Cattle Company a reality. Raised on ranches his whole life, Bill has a deep connection to the beauty and tradition of the land.