The fertile Sun River Valley attracted twenty-six-year-old, Kentucky-born James C. Adams, whose worldly experience belied his youth. Orphaned at ten and a Civil War prisoner at sixteen, he came to Virginia City in 1864 at eighteen, already a seasoned teamster. Working as wagon boss for Fort Benton’s Diamond R freighting outfit brought Adams excellent income. In 1874, he bought this property along the Sun River. He figured soldiers at Fort Shaw would provide a ready beef market. Adams’ cattle business flourished and soon he needed more room. In 1882, he hired two Swedish stonecutters to build a monumental barn. They carved sandstone blocks from a nearby quarry and hauled them by buckboard. Completed in 1885, the barn cost an astounding $10,000. Its triple-sectioned first floor housed horses and tack, winter shelter for cattle, and wagons, buggies, and a meat locker for butchered beef. An open buckle meant welcome and Adams—always a generous host—chose that symbol as his brand. His hospitality was indeed legendary. The matched hardwood floors in the expansive hayloft above accommodated many a traveler and saw roller skating parties and community dances. Financial setbacks in 1901 prompted Adams to leave for Chicago. In his absence, his second wife and their nine children turned the ranch around. Adams died in 1913 and subsequent owners have kept the landmark barn in constant use. Upon the barn’s completion, the Sun River Press commented that it looked as if it could withstand the “storm and decay of a century at least.” Thanks to careful stewardship, it has.

Images

Audio

J.C. Adams Barn Audio
Historical marker text read by Montana Historical Society staff member Ellen Baumler. Presented on the Soundcloud channel "Montana History on the Go" 2015. ~ Source: Montana History on the Go ~ Creator: Ellen Baumler ~ Date: 2015
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Map

NE of Sun River off U.S. Highway 81, 1¼ miles West of town Sun River, Montana ~ private