Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Montana Stockgrowers Association 125th Anniversary Quilt, by Linda Logsdon. Photo courtesy of Wanda Pinnow.
From the mid-1800s forward, cattle ranching has been an important part of the economic landscape, not to mention the state persona, of Montana.
A Canadian fur trader by the name of Johnny Grant established the state’s first cattle ranch in 1850. He later sold it to a butcher and sausage maker from Germany named Conrad Khors, who became known as “Montana’s Cattle King.”
Khors expanded his purchase into a successful ranching operation that eventually included 50,000 head of cattle and ten million acres of grazing pasture across four states and part of Canada. In the process, he made a fortune selling beef to gold miners. Today the original ranch is designated as the Grant-Khors Ranch National Historic Site and is maintained as a working ranch by the National Park Service.
That tradition of cattle ranching has influenced many subsequent generations of Montanans. While the stereotypical image of the cattle rancher is a masculine one, in fact many women are ranchers as well.
For decades, Montana’s female cattle ranchers have had their own organization, the Montana Cattlewomen. The group’s mission is “to support the livestock industry and its environment by its labor and finances through promotional information, publicity, and education.”
In 2009, the Montana Cattlewomen wanted to do something special to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, a group with which many of the women are also affiliated. They decided to commission a quilt and raffle it off to raise money to promote the anniversary celebration.
Linda Logsdon, a quilter who was also a member of the Baker (MT) CowBelles, a subgroup or “local” of the Montana Cattlewomen, was asked to create a queen-sized quilt that showcased the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
Linda’s design featured a solitary cattleman surrounded by 90 Montana livestock brands, a result of the Cattlewomen advertising throughout the state for ranchers to have their brands included on the quilt. The center of the quilt includes the two oldest brands registered in Montana, and fittingly, those belong to Johnny Grant and Conrad Khors.
The CK brand was registered to Conrad Kohrs and his partner and half-brother, John Bielenberg in 1876, although there is documentation stating that the brand was actually in use in 1867. The Lazy G Hanging K brand was assigned to Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and represents both Johnny Grant and Conrad Khors.
According to the Cattlewomen’s website, the entire quilt represents Montana in some fashion. There is silver, gold, and copper in the thread and material. The background in the center is the blue of the Montana sky and the golden of a wheat field. The Montana Stockgrowers Association logo is front and center, alongside the unmistakable Montana cowboy. The man in the quilt is clothed in leather and suede fabrics and becomes dimensional with his shirt buttons and a metal belt buckle that John Logsdon, Linda's husband, bought at a gun show.
John helped Linda with the building of the quilt by taking pictures of the brands to transfer to fabric and helping cut them out. “It is an art reading the brands,” Linda and John explain, “You have to be educated on how to read them and what they mean to make sure you are getting them right.”
Linda continues, “Even after we had everything laid out right, after I started sewing, we realized that a couple of them were missing pieces or had gotten flipped around. Then you start again.”
Upon its completion, the quilt toured around to various venues throughout the state prior to the anniversary celebration held in Miles City, Montana in 2009. It generated a great deal of interest and excitement and when it was finally raffled off during the anniversary festivities, it was won, appropriately enough, by a cattle rancher whose brand was included on the quilt.
"The quilt is such a work of art and so representative of the Montana Stockgrowers Association tradition that I hope one day it might be donated to a museum for everyone to enjoy,” says Wanda Pinnow, the current president of the Montana Cattlewomen.
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