MHS Welcomes Three Families to Centennial Farm and Ranch Register

Montana Historical Society
  • November 05 2021

Three family farms and ranches, whose owners persevered despite numerous obstacles, recently were honored as Centennial Farm and Ranch properties.

The Joyes Farm and Ranch northeast of Plentywood, the Chvilicek Homestead in Hill County, and the Raunig Ranch near Stockett all received a signed certificate from Gov. Greg Gianforte and a roadside sign to honor their families’ remarkable achievements.

“By honoring families who have owned their land for 100 years or more, we help preserve Montana’s strong agricultural roots and the stories and traditions that define our rural communities,” said Christine Brown, MHS Outreach and Interpretation Historian. “These families deserve a hearty pat on the back.”

The Joyes Farm and Ranch in Sheridan County tells a unique story of a leased Centennial farm. In 1918, Peter Bruvold sold his farm to his sister and brother-in-law Evelyn and Edward Joyes. Bruvold leased some of the land and still owed money on other acreage but agreed to spread the Joyes payments to him out over five years. The Joyes took over his lease on the state land and began an ambitious program of farming and ranching.

However, in April 1921, their large house, only six years old, burned to the ground. Meanwhile, Bruvold defaulted on his payments and the state reclaimed the land he sold, leaving the Joyes with a growing family stranded on state land.

Still, they forged ahead, leasing the reclaimed land from the state and building a smaller house, barns, corrals and a grain mill. They survived the 1930s drought and depression, and Edward Joyes retired from farming and ranching following Evelyn’s death in 1942. Their eldest son Arnold and his wife Iris took over the operation.

Following Iris’s death in 1984, their son Aldon took over most day-to-day operations, although Arnold remained an active partner into his 90s. About every ten years, the Joyes tried to purchase the leased land from the state, but it never worked out. The property legally passed to Aldon and his siblings in 2004, which Aldon continues to manage.

Frank and Mary Chvilicek emigrated from South Moravia, Czech Republic, in the early 1900s and eventually homesteaded near the Fairchild/Goldstone community in Hill County in 1913. Farming was good in the early years, but after a dismal harvest in 1919, the Chvilicek’s couldn't pay county taxes in 1921. The county seized the land and tried to auction it off in 1928 but no one bought it. In 1929, the county auctioned the land again. This time, Frank paid $80 to get the land back, and promised to pay the remaining $220 debt.

After Frank died in 1932, their son John and his wife Marian faced similar hardships. They nearly went bankrupt in 1936; to save the farm, they took advantage of Farm Security Administration loans that helped pay for machinery, livestock feed, and spring planting. By 1941, they had repaid the loans and started purchasing abandoned farms. When they passed the farm to their sons James and Leonard in 1956, it had grown to more than 2,000 acres. James and Leonard split the farm in 1963. Leonard and his wife Loy raised cattle and grew wheat, barley, oats, safflower, and mustard. They also added more than 1,000 acres to the farm. Before Leonard died in 1993, he put most of the farmland into a trust. Today, Leonard’s son Charles and Charles’s wife Lauri continue to farm the land.

German immigrants Alois and Mary Raunig started their family ranch in 1909, where they raised eight children and amassed more than 800 acres by 1938. Alois and Mary passed the ranch to their youngest son Fred and his wife Clara in 1943. Fred and Clara also had eight children and to make ends meet, Fred was superintendent of a construction business. Fred and son Richard ranched together from 1964 to 1969; Richard and his wife Marvene took over in 1973 and still manage the property today.

Since 2010, the MHS Centennial Farm and Ranch program has recognized our state’s agricultural traditions by celebrating the perseverance and stewardship of Montana families on their farms and ranches.

The MHS accepts applications for the Centennial Farm and Ranch register all year. Requirements for induction include:

  • Must be a working farm or ranch with a minimum of 160 acres or, if fewer than 160 acres, must have gross yearly income of at least $1,000.
  • One current owner must be a Montana resident.
  • Proof of founding date and continuous ownership by members of the same family beginning with the founder and concluding with the present owner, spanning minimally 100 years. Line of ownership may be through spouses, children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, or adopted children. For homesteaded properties, ownership begins with claim filing date (not patent date).
  • $100 fee

To download all requirements and the application, or for more information, visit; email to request a copy by mail; or call Christine Brown at 406-444-1687.