Gilbert McEwen Norcutt and Addie Kelly, my paternal great grandparents, moved their family to several locations throughout their marriage. Previous to living in Montana, the family moved from Exeter, Missouri to Goshen, Oregon, stayed a relatively short period, then returned to Missouri by early 1912. The journey took them across the midwestern prairies, over the Rocky Mountains, and through southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. The exact dates are not known but Missouri land records document they were in McDowell, Barry County, Missouri in 1909. The 1910 census (dated 5/2/1910) shows the family living in Goshen, Gilbert was 37 years old and Addie was 36. The children at home were Lucy Olive (14), Ora (13), Lottie (9), Noble (7), Forrest (5), Rachel (3), and Mamie (1 year and 7 months). They left Missouri after Mamie’s birth on 23 Sept 1908 and returned to Cabool, Missouri before Myrl Earl’s birth on January 18, 1912.
In my grandmother Ora’s personal papers, there is a comment that she was about 15 years old when they moved to Montana. On December 10, 1912, she celebrated her 16th birthday. Naomi was born in Geraldine, Chouteau, Montana on October 24, 1914. It seems that the family moved to Montana sometime in 1912 or 1913. They initially settled in the Clear Lake area which is north of Geraldine. A few years later, Gilbert filed a homestead claim on farmland east of Clear Lake.
Why would Gilbert and Addie leave Missouri and head north to Montana? There must have been a strong, perhaps emotional, reason to move their young family such a long distance. Perhaps they had relatives already established in Montana. Earlier this year, I became acquainted with a Norcutt cousin, Cary, who lives in Montana. His great-grandparents, William H. and Alta Norcutt, moved to Montana in 1910 and established a dairy farm and a creamery near Stanford, Fergus County. William (aka Bill) was one of Gilbert’s older brothers. It is likely Gilbert and Addie were inspired by Bill and Alta’s success.
Bill was not the only Norcutt sibling to take advantage of the agricultural boom and homesteading opportunities occurring Montana. Brothers Henry and Spencer and sister, Lucy (wife of William H. Wright) had established homesteads and were farming their lands before Gilbert and family arrived. My great grandparents had the great advantage of immediate family members to support them in establishing a new life in Montana.
It is curious that Gilbert and Addie did not settle closer to the rest of the family. Perhaps there was more homestead land available in Chouteau County or perhaps Gilbert wanted to grow wheat on the vast prairie. His homestead (and my grandparents’) was located about 18 miles north of Geraldine. Travelling today’s roads, Geraldine is about 38 miles NE of Stanford and about 74 miles north of Lewistown. It would not have been an easy trip and likely, not one made on a frequent basis which makes their final location even more interesting.
My grandparents, Ora Norcutt and Arthur Wentworth, were wed in Lewistown on November 8, 1916. Fort Benton would have been a logical choice as a wedding destination as it is only 27 miles NW of Geraldine. My grandfather had no family in Montana but my grandmother had all those family members down in Lewistown. Going to the family likely was the reason for the long trip south. So far, I have found no record of who attended the wedding but no doubt the Norcutt uncles, aunts, and cousins were present. What a great day that would have been for everyone to be together and celebrate a new beginning.
One more Norcutt family member filed a land patent, Gilbert and Addie’s daughter Lucy Olive Norcutt. Lucy, aka Olive, filed two claims on land adjacent to her sister and brother-in-law’s, Ora and Arthur, farm and across the road from her parents.
Homestead records are available through the General Land Office at the Bureau of Land Management website: https://glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx. Select “search records”. Using the tables below, you can search by name or Accession number to see the records on file as well as maps showing the locations. It is interesting to see where they were in relationship to each other, sometimes literally next door.