Photo of the Old Parker Place, near Three Forks, MT

Weekly Gem #241, $18 and a helluvalotofwork

Published 10/3/20

Location: This Hidden Gem is located about 6 miles southwest of Three Forks, MT (see the Clue Me! Map). 

As you travel around the western U.S., once in a while you come upon an old, abandoned home, that still has a story to tell. The old Parker place is one of those homes.

For $18 and a helluvalotofwork, the 1862 Homestead Act allowed any person the ability to become a landowner! You just needed to pay the small fee to register your 160 acres, move to the acreage and live on it, making some improvement over five years … at that point, the land was yours!

While homesteading was akin to making something from nothing, It was incredibly difficult and dangerous as in the case of Nelson and Rosa Ellen Parker, the owners of this sod-roofed home. In fact, they started with nothing, twice!

In 1890, Nelson and Rosa Ellen were newlyweds, and filed for a homestead on the Jefferson River. They lived in an old mining shack while building their home, then moved in and worked hard for several years to make a go of it. On the bright side, their home was right on the river. On the down side, it was right on the river. A few years after arriving, a spring flood washed away their home and all of their belongings. The family of 5 barely survived with their wits, and an old boat.

In 1901 Nelson and Rosa Ellen again filed for a homestead, about a mile from the Jefferson River (outside of the floodplain, this time). They built this two-room home, this time fulfilling the homestead requirements and receiving their 160 acres. 


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


A roof that a bison could have for dessert!


The old Parker homestead, log cabin with a sod roof

Why It's Interesting

Built in 1901, this is the actual home of Nelson and Rosa Ellen Parker, and their three kids. And their boat! 

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