Skip Navigation

Whaley Homestead

Whaley Homestead in Summer "The house and outbuildings retain an excellent level of historic integrity. The historic fabric is largely undisturbed, and much of the original detailing remains. The log understructure, with the weatherboard cladding, pedimented fenestration, and hand carved verge boards reflect accurately the original design and character of this transitional vernacular building….the complex strongly conveys its historic agricultural homestead associations." The nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places designation

Square-hewned Logs of Whaley Homestead Whaley Homestead-Vernacular ArchitectureThe Whaley Homestead is on the National Register of Historic Places because it exhibits unique qualities of vernacular frontier architecture associated with the beginnings and evolution of agricultural development.    

History

"The Whaley Homestead was established in 1877 by Peter Whaley, an Irish immigrant whose family came to the United States in 1841. In 1849, the California gold rush brought him westward. In 1859, Peter Whaley married Hannah E. Whitehead. During the years that followed, Peter Whaley alternated between mercantile activities in the Midwest, and mining in the West. His wife accompanied him on these ventures, and the Whaleys had a total of eight children across the West during the years that ensued. Gold strikes in Montana eventually brought the Whaleys to Bannack in 1863 and Alder Gulch in 1864, where Peter Whaley fared successfully. From there, the family moved to Diamond City in 1866; Peter Whaley dealt supplies to the miners for eight years until the camp played out. From there, Whaley went to the old Jocko Indian agency, wher he served as the Agent on the Flathead Indian Agency in Montana from April 1874 to April 1875. In 1875, the Peter Whaley family moved to Hell Gate, and then to the Bitterroot Valley near Florence.   

 Painting of Hannah Whaley Painting of Peter WhaleyIn 1877, Peter Whaley moved his family once more, upon filing a Desert Land claim for this property where he built a small log cabin. The railroad challenged the claim, and for two years Whaley lived on a nearby tract of land, while continuing to cultivate this property. In 1879, Whaley prevailed in his claim, and he "removed [his] House on it?". By 1885, Whaley's homestead proof record cites a major improvement on the property--the substantial house which stands yet today: an eight-room log house, 32' x 48' in dimension. Exterior embellishment appears to have been added by this time. The property was also fenced, and contained a granary, a roothouse and a water ditch.David and Julia Whaley, Peter's children, filed homestead claims on adjoining acreage. David claimed an adjoining 160 acres in 1879, Julia filed claim to 80 more acres in 1883. Between the three of them, the Whaleys owned over 400 contiguous acres in section 11 (map here). Each made the required improvements - a dwelling and cultivation of the land - although only the Peter Whaley house remains today. The Whaley's were reportedly not exceptional farmers, in fact, most farms in the Bitterroot turned out to be marginal. Supplementing the farming income, the Whaley's raised livestock and operated a meat market in Stevensville. And much of their livelihood was derived from a sawmill operation in Florence, and the Stevensville Hotel. In 1905, the Whaley's sold their land; Peter Whaley died in 1912.    

The homestead changed hands two times before Fred and Anna Hagen bought it in 1921. The Hagens returned the property to a self-sufficient small farm, ripping out the orchard plantings and restoring the production to crops and dairy farming, similar to the original homestead activities. During the 1920's, a cannery was established in Stevensville, and the Hagen's were among the first to raise corn in the valley. For a period they raised hogs. They also ran a small dairy, producing 200 gallons of milk per day in 1926. In 1933-34, the Hagen's built a new milk house; in later years, they grew potatoes and converted the building for cutting french fries. In 1940, Harold Hagen took over the operation of the homestead from his father. All told, Hagen's remained on the land for over 60 years. During the late 1960's and early 1970's, they sold off parcels to the Refuge. Harold Hagen (oral history transcription by Refuge staff) retained life use; he lived there until 1988" (copied from National Register of Historic Places Registration Form - Whaley Homestead, authors Chere Jiusto and Nathan Latta [State Historic Preservation Office], November 1990).


 

Management and Future Use

In February 2008, the Montana Preservation Alliance (MPA) received a Preserve America grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to conduct Interpretive Planning and Stewardship for the Peter Whaley House, an important historical homestead located on the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. MPA provided an interpretive framework (report here) that recognizes the significant cultural and interpretive values of the Whaley House and the clear potential the homestead offers, to support the mission and federal responsibilities of the Refuge.
 

Supplemental Information

USFWS interpretive flyer (2012): The Homestead Act of 1862
About the Homestead Act , National Park Service website

 

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2014
Return to main navigation