Legacy Inductees (1882-1943) (1888-1978) MCHF District 1
John Etchart was born in 1882 in the village of Aldudes, located on the border of France and Spain. At age 18, he immigrated to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen and with his brother Michel, moved to Nevada for nine years, where they operated a sheep ranch in partnership with a banker. In 1910, while John was breaking a horse, his leg was severely fractured, resulting in considerable medical fees that the banker refused to help pay. The brothers soon cashed out and dissolved the partnership, changing the course of John’s life.
John traveled back to Aldudes that same year, and while contemplating his future, he met Catherine Urquilux. They began a two-year courtship in 1911, during which time John returned to the U.S. to consider the purchase of open grazing land in northeast Montana. He bought the ranch on the spot and later purchased two bands of sheep from Deer Lodge.
In 1912, John revisited Aldudes where he and Catherine were married. They sailed to America as newlyweds, arriving in Valley County to build their ranch together.
Around 1914, the Etcharts entered into the cattle business, buying Hereford range cattle. In the early 1920s, they expanded their holdings along the Porcupine Creek, adding more grazing lands for both sheep and cattle. They purchased the Tom Dignan irrigated farm near Tampico, twelve miles northwest of Glasgow, and around 1922, moved the family to the newly acquired property.
As the ranch grew, the public domain lands were a free-for-all fight for grazing rights. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 divided public domain grasslands into districts, which had to be held under permit by qualified ranchers. John was the chairman of the Montana State Grass Conservation, which helped implement the act.
Catherine, an early riser, worked alongside John on the day-to-day operations, keeping financial records and making payroll. With her assistant cook, she prepared breakfast for the ranch hands by 6:30 each day. Cleaning chores and food preparation for the noon and evening meals began shortly thereafter. Catherine, who was enterprising, raised hogs, Holstein dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, and an abundant vegetable garden. To everyone’s delight, she made French custard and chokecherry wine. While frugal, she was generous, donating time and money to St. Raphael’s Catholic Church and other charities.
John was the director of the Montana Production Credit Association, Montana director of the National Wool Marketing Corporation, director and Vice President of the Montana Wool Growers Association, and a member in good standing with the Montana Stock Growers.
John passed unexpectedly in 1943. His children took over the day-to-day operations with Catherine’s guidance. She continued the recordkeeping and chores for the Tampico ranch until her death in 1978.