Ernest, just released from the army at the end of WWI, had a job hauling freight by team and wagon between the railroad and West Yellowstone. During one of his trips he met Grace, a minister’s daughter from Massachusetts, who had moved west as the assistant to a professor at Montana State College in Bozeman.
Newly wed, they were able to acquire a homestead on Sage Creek in the Gallatin Canyon for back taxes. With Ernest’s and Grace’s love of the outdoors and of people a dude ranch was a perfect dream. From that first summer on, they explored the country and thrived on sharing their love of it with people from other places. Pack trips and day trips by car into Yellowstone Park were high points of a summer experience.
By the end of the 40’s, Elkhorn had expanded to include the two adjoining homesteads, known as Cow Camp and 7-11. On the main ranch a variety of individual cabins were built from the surrounding timber, the corrals were moved across Sage Creek and today’s barn was built. Summer is beautiful at the ranch but in the winter roads were closed for months at a time and it was necessary to find the means to provide for key crew members and to winter the horses at a lower elevation. For many years the Madison Valley was the answer; then, in 1946, Grace and Ernest opened a winter Elkhorn Ranch in Arizona.
Drawn back to the incredible Montana country and the western way of life, guests returned year after year to Elkhorn often coming at the same time so as to join up with ranch friends. Among those returning were Minxie and Dwight Minton, both second generation Elkhorn guests. After coming every summer since 1959 and having two of their three children work on the ranch, the Mintons purchased the Montana Elkhorn from the Miller-Hymas family in 1987. The Minton’s love of the ranch and their appreciation of its importance to generations of families is apparent in their dedication to preserving its style and traditions.
Today the Elkhorn is managed by Linda Miller, Grace and Ernest’s granddaughter, and Jim McGuiness, the Elkhorn foreman, who began dude ranching when his parents worked with Barb and Ron Hymas.