A Miracle – the Farm!
When I started planning this adventure and my visit to Bozeman, the one thing I was one hundred percent sure of was that there was absolutely no way that the farm still existed. I had looked at Google maps before my departure because I knew from Rachel [from the Gallatin History Museum] where about the farm property had been, and I did see that this land north of the Bridger Creek was still green and not developed. However, from the many small roofs, no buildings could be identified – and I just thought that they were some farm buildings.
I just wanted to stand on Gottschalk’s property, but I found an old building
Equipped with the map including the farm’s outline from the Clerk & Recorder in Bozeman and Otto’s drawings of the farm houses, I cycled to the property one day. I crossed the Bridger Creek on Story Mill Road and shortly after I had to take a right turn onto a private street. I hesitated shortly because a “No Trespassing” sign told me not to do so, but the longing to stand on August Gottschalk’s property was greater.
I cycled down the road to a spot whereabout the property started. Behind a large modern horse barn I arrived at a small wooden farm house, where I layed down my bicycle. I looked around and saw several modern and several older structures. The little farm house looked old, but was clearly modernized. I took out Otto’s drawings of the farm and looked. And looked again. That modernized farm house looked, besides the porch that was added to it, absolutely exactly like my drawing. However, according to Otto’s drawings, the farm should have been standing on a slightly different spot and turned about 90 degrees – so I wasn’t sure if the building was it, but it very much looked like it.
I kept wandering around the property and found three other old structures which looked like they were from the same period. In that moment, a guy pulled up at the farm and I walked to his car to introduce myself and clarify why I was wondering around the farm. Bob was not the owner, but was very kind to give me the contact of a university professor who had studied the old farm houses on the property.
It was common to move buildings
I soon called Maire O’Neill, Professor at the School of Architecture at the Montana State University and we ended up talking 20 minutes about the farm! Maire confirmed that it was common to move houses, which made it more possible that the house I found was the farm. After sending her Otto’s drawings an descriptions of the farm, Maire basically confirmed that the building was August Gottschalk’s farmhouse. Another time I returned to the farm to where I met Steve, the tenant of the farm house, who confirmed that the house had been moved from a spot about 150 meters away.
Insulation from the 1870’s
I finally received the contact details of the Rugheimer family who owns the farm since 1971. During the phone call, Hallie said that when they renovated the old farmhouse, they found an newspaper advertisement of the farm from the 1870’s in the wall, which finally and absolutely confirmed that this is the exact structure that August Gottschalk had built and my great-great-grandfather stayed at. It was common to use old newspaper as insulation material!
You know, when I started this trip, I just thought I will visit Bozeman and see the place that Otto went to in 1881, but the fact that I actually found the building he lived in is the most incredible experience ever. I would have never dreamed of this, but it has become reality.