The Historic Crail Ranch Homestead Museum sits on one acre of the former homestead ranch that encompassed most of the Meadow in Big Sky. The museum's two buildings capture the community's ranching and early resort history.
This exhibit, researched by Anne Marie Mistretta and funded by the Glore Family Fund and the Gallatin Canyon Women's Club, can be viewed in the Main Home of the museum.
The much anticipated railroad arrived in Bozeman in 1883. The much anticipated and heralded arrival impacted the economy by providing a market for Gallatin Valley grains and delivering visitors to the newly established national park.
Ranchers in the Gallatin Canyon immediately realized the financial advantages of dude ranching. (See the gallery titled "Early Big Sky Economy: Dude Ranching" for detailed history of the infancy of area tourism.)
During the first half of the 20th century, the Gallatin Canyon grew the local economy and housed community functions, such as the school and church.
In the West Fork drainage (now called The Meadow), the Crail Ranch dominated the landscape and deterred development.
After a half century of Crail ownership, the family sold the property in 1950.
Although the new owners continued to operate the ranch as a stock ranch, their new dude ranching feature became the focus.
The adjacent acreage of the B-K was annexed and the entire spread was renamed.
Twelve years later Sam Smeding purchased the land to run cattle and harvest timber.
Big Sky of Montana, Inc. purchased the Lone Mountain Ranch and land in the mountains to develop a ski and summer resort. The Old Crail Ranch was transformed into a golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer.
The Crail Ranch transitioned to a tourism community. The wheat crops gave way to commerical buildings and resort housing. The Meadow Village became a new community center.
Chet Huntley's Big Sky Resort opened in December 1973.
You can learn more about the community's transformation in this 25 minute film:
Many of the ranch buildings were destroyed for development of the golf course and resort housing. Two buildings were untouched and were pressed into service as employee housing. The small cabin was nearly lost to a fire.
Community members rallied to save the ranch.
The Gallatin Canyon Historical Society formed to save the property. They were successful in placing the property on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Gallatin Canyon Historical Society disbanded in the mid-1980s, and the ranch continued to deteriorate.
Glen Louise Breneman Einfelt, pictured here with with "Uncle CocoBear" (Emmett Crail), urged county officials to undertake ranch preservation.
By the mid-1990s, the Gallatin Canyon Women's Club undertook the massive restoration project.
In the late 1990s, the Gallatin Canyon Women's Club, along with the Big Sky Owner's Association, successfully petitioned Boyne to deed the land and buildings to the community.
The community restored the structures and the grounds.
The Women's Club raised funds and friends for the project.
After acquiring period furniture from local residents and antique shops, the GCWC opened the Historic Crail Ranch for tours in July 2001.
The GCWC fundraising included sale of cookbooks that featured local cuisine.
The cookbooks are on display in the flat archival files in the Main Home parlor.