Friday, April 10, 2009

A Brief History

I drove down through what used to be the township of Black Lake yesterday. Yes, Martha, there is a Black Lake. And there used to be a town. It was a thriving community of ranchers in the late 1800's and early 1900's. This area had been homesteaded in that time by primarily the Trujillo family. Per the 1861 homestead act you could get deeded to you 160 acres if you worked the land for 10 years and made improvements. The menfolk of the Trujillo extended family did and then joined them together into a very large ranch.

In the town of Black Lake - or what remains of it is an old school that is used for little art fairs, the UU Bar Ranch - which was used for filming all the Montana scenes for Lonesome Dove, Poorboy's bar and dance hall - now closed because of the death of the owner, and various adobe and log buildings that have been melting into the landscape.

Us locals that live in "Black Lake" as opposed to Angel Fire have various inside jokes as to where we live here. There is Tween which is between El Bordo hill and the first Black Lake sign. Twixt which is between sign one of Black Lake and sign two of Black Lake. (To get to my house you turn off at Tween but my house is actually in Twixt. ) Then there is Beyond which is as you would likely guess beyond the last Black Lake sign. That actual last Black Lake sign is where the historic community of Black Lake was. And up against the mountains to the west, tucked into the shadows on the UU Bar Ranch is Black Lake, the lake, so named because it is a peat area and between shadows and black bottom does indeed look black.

People miss it all the time. And we constantly get the question, "Is there really a Black Lake?" Yes, Martha, there is. And there is Tween, and Twixt and Beyond too.


  1. least YOU know where you live and
    HOW to get from Tween to Twixt!

  2. Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!

  3. Thanks for the information about the National Park.I knew act lasted until 1976 because a lot of the hippie communes in this area took advantage of the law. Especially if the land in question was obtained under the homestead law and not maintained anyone could go in and make improvements and get title to the land.

    Friends of mine lost 1400 acres of land they thought they owned in "ghost town" because of that.

    The law was passed in part to get farmers and ranchers out west producing products for the railroads to make money shipping back east. And the trains also needed workers where the rails were being built and forests stripped to make ties, etc.


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