Montana Photojournalist Thomas Lee -Centennial Ranch 09
Laura Etta Smalley was a 25-year-old school teacher in Canada in 1910, prohibited from owning land because she was a single woman. That summer, she traveled into Montana, hired movers and a couple of wagons to carry a 12-by-16-foot cabin to a half-section of land just 10 miles south of the Canada border. When the movers left, she spent the night alone for the first time in her life. Her nearest neighbor was half a mile away.
More than a century later, her grandson Tom Bangs watches over that original half section, plus a few more, while his son Jeff eases into taking over the operation.
“It’s a pretty appealing life, really,” Tom says. “To be your own boss, to manage the land.”
Tom and Carol Bangs pose with their son Jeff and his wife, Katie. Carol, a native of Havre, is glad Jeff and Katie are there. “I value heritage,” she says. “Continuing on what your family started.”