The story of Fort Howes and the Circle Bar Ranch
Captain Calvin Howes, who was Bill’s Great-great Grandfather, homesteaded the Circle Bar Ranch in 1883. He gave up his seafaring life in Dennis, Massachusetts for ranching when the steamships took over the oceans where the sailing ships had once ruled. The ranch was started as a partnership between Captain Howes, Judge Strevill, and George Miles in 1883. In 1898, this partnership dissolved, and the Circle Bar cattle were sold along with the “Circle Bar” brand. At the same time Levi Howes, one of Captain Howes’ sons, took over the ranch; first under a lease arrangement, then a few years later he bought the land. He ran the ranch from 1898 until his death at the age of 95. In 1997, Bill and Jan were able to purchase the original “Circle Bar” brand back. The ranch still remains in the family, with our children making the 6th generation here. In 2016 the 7th generation was born with the ranch welcoming our grandson, Tyler, and in 2018 his brother Cody. The ranch is a working cattle ranch, raising calves to sell in the fall of the year. The Custer National Forest, that the riders will spend much of their time on, is where our cattle spend most of the year.
Fort Howes, the rock structure pictured above, was built in 1897. The fort was build by local ranchers after some local Indians were suspected of killing a local sheepherder. The women and children were sent either to Sheridan, Wyoming or Miles City, Montana because of the fear of an Indian uprising. The men then began to take rocks up the hill to build the fort. Fortunately, the “Indian Uprising” didn’t occur. Instead, some 12 men were deputized by the Custer County Sheriff to go to Lame Deer to bring back the suspects. Included in those 12 men was Levi Howes, Bill’s Great Grandfather. After much discussion through interpreters, the guilty men were turned over to the authorities, though later they were released to the reservation. The fort still stands today as it did 122 years ago. The roof has been replaced, as needed, when the old ones fell apart. There are still portholes all the way around for rifles to point out of and one large hole for the men to enter. Visitors are welcome to climb up and look at the fort.