Harbaugh Ranch was established in 1910, when Walter Lee “WL” and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Elbert) Harbaugh filed for homestead rights on Sand Creek near Jordan.

WL’s dream had always been to own a large cattle ranch in Montana. The Harbaughs were both past 40 years of age when they saw that dream through.

Traveling by wagon from the railhead at Miles City, the Harbaughs brought with them their six children, a milk cow tethered to the back of the wagon, and a few household items. WL and Lizzie tried their hand at growing corn, oats, wheat, and hay, in addition to their gardens and raising a few cows. As determined as WL was, the labor-intensive, droughted-out years starting in 1915 were overwhelming for even him. His dream of raising abundant corn, lush vegetable gardens and milk-producing cows dried up as fast as the hot sun baked the prairie.

When WL and Lizzie made the decision to move to Miles City in 1922, their two youngest children, Carl and Paul, purchased the homestead and immediately embraced the cowboy way.

The brothers’ vision was steadfast: to build a large enough tract of privately held land that drought, hard winters, and stray livestock grazing their land could not put them out of business. Many of the early homesteaders had left the country and when they did, they often turned their horses loose to fend for themselves.

As a result, horses lined nearly every horizon in Eastern Montana. Carl and Paul started gathering horses, breaking them to ride, and then shipped the horses to the Midwest to sell. Proceeds from this venture paid for many of the expanded acres on the ranch. In time, the two brothers split the partnership. Paul stayed near the original homestead and Carl moved his family just a couple miles east to the present- day Harbaugh Ranch headquarters. Both brothers acquired nearby ranches building their own holdings while raising livestock and horses.

Carl’s son, Carl, Jr., eventually took over fulltime management with his wife, Velma. They expanded the herd of Hereford cattle to include Black Angus
and sheep, while continuing to raise wheat.

Their sons Wade and Shane joined the ranching operation, and later bought out their parents and split the ranch. Wade and his wife, Bev, continued to manage the Harbaugh Ranch raising livestock and feed grains for hay. Their son, Wally, is currently raising his four children on the ranch, while working for his parents. Shane and Holly established Four Aces, and are raising livestock and crops. Their son, Skylar, works with them.

Harbaugh Ranch exists today because six generations have dedicated themselves to a Western way of life—working side-by-side to feed the world.

MCHF District 2: 2022 Legacy Inductee (Est. 1910)