Christopher and Edward Wilson chose this narrow canyon as headquarters for their ranching operation in 1887. The brothers lived in a dugout while they built a more serviceable two-room cabin using granite hand-cut from the nearby hillside. By 1895, when Edward brought his bride to the ranch, the brothers had finished a two-story home of hand-cut sandstone complete with running water piped in from the nearby spring. In 1900, Lonetree was designated a post office and served as both mail and stage stops between the railroads at Fort Benton and Lewistown. When the “sodbusters” began arriving between 1908 and 1912, Lonetree was the mailing address for hundreds of homesteaders. New arrivals filled their wooden barrels at the Lonetree spring until their own wells could be dug. In 1912, the Lonetree School was established in the two-room cabin. On colder days, students gathered in an upstairs room of the “big house.” Lonetree had become the focal point of a community scattered over 400 square miles, but when the Milwaukee Road bypassed it in favor of the town of Geraldine, Lonetree’s importance dwindled. In 1915, the stage line disbanded, the post office moved to Geraldine, and the school closed. The 1920s offered Lonetree a new beginning when newlyweds John and Mary Tanner added the Wilson ranch to their holdings. As a child, Mary had traveled on the Fort Benton stage and stayed overnight at Lonetree. The “big house” gained new importance as home to the Tanners and their four daughters, adding yet another chapter to Lonetree’s long, varied history.

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Three miles West of Montana Highway 80 between Geraldine and Square Butte Square Butte, Montana ~ private