Bert Entwistle’s web page is
Continued from page 146
Pierre Wibaux and his wife Nellie.
After Pierre’s death in 1913 at the age
of 55, Nellie and their son Cyril spent
the rest of their lives back in France.
PIERRE WIBAUX MUSEUM AND WIBAUX PUBLIC LIBRARY AND ND COWBOY HALL OF FAME
personal problems and never returned.
Wibaux and Roosevelt remained in
the area and continued to do business
as usual. However, the winter of 1886
– 1887 proved to be anything but
business as usual for the cattlemen of
the open range. The summer of ’86
had been unusually hot and dry and
a series of brutal snowstorms started
early. By November huge snowfalls
that had never been seen before combined
with days and weeks of subzero
It was not until the snow began to
melt in the spring that people began
to realize just how truly extraordinary
the loss of cattle had been. Tens
of thousands of bloated carcass lay
scattered across the prairie and piled
up in every gully and against every
windbreak on the range. Many of the
remaining cattle were in poor health
and many cattle operations lost as
much as 70% of their herd.
The spring of 1887 proved to be
the beginning of the end for the traditional
open-range cattle operations.
The majority of the ranches were never
able to recover causing huge numbers
of bankruptcies. Pierre Wibaux was
one of those ranchers, losing most of
his herd to the same storms. The difference
was that he saw a clear future for
his cattle business that others didn’t.
Returning to France, he convinced
his father and others to invest in his
new cattle operation.
He would stay in Montana and buy
up all the remaining stock he could
fi nd in the area and create a new type
of ranch, one that didn’t depend on
the open range. He would grow alfalfa
and feed his cattle through the winter.
With fresh investor money in his
pocket, he returned home and purchased
all the cattle he could fi nd for
cheap prices from the other affected
ranchers. Wibaux knew that the beef
shortage would eventually raise the
prices for the cattle he did have and
the animals that had survived would
be the toughest and most resilient
ones of the herd. By the 1890s, he had
amassed what was said to be one of the
largest herds in the country estimated
to be 65,000 to 75,000 strong as well as
hundreds of horses.
As the open range business died out,
homesteaders began to move west, setting
up farms, ranches and businesses.
Again, Pierre saw a need and became
an investor in the area developing
his land and the service industries of
the town. He became the president of
the State National Bank in Miles City
and started his own bank in Forsythe.
Wibaux was also owner and developer
of the Clover Leaf Gold Mining
Company which had found success in
the goldfi elds of the Black Hills.
His success gave him the freedom
to practice his philanthropy in both
America and France. The French
awarded him the National Order of the
Legion of Honor for his help in building
hospitals and model dairy farms
to produce fresh milk for children. He
invested in local businesses and built
churches in the region, including St.
Peter’s Catholic Church in Wibaux. In
the Black Hills gold mining region,
they named the town that grew up
around the mining camp Roubaix,
after his home town in France.
Today, the little Montana cowboy
town just across the western border
of North Dakota is still taking care of
the cattle business as it has done for
generations. The high school’s six-man
football team is appropriately named
the Longhorns and the pride in their
town shows every time they take the
fi eld. The name Wibaux has served the
town well for 123 years and counting.
Pierre Wibaux died in Chicago in
1913 and was buried in his namesake
town. Standing on a giant granite pedestal
in a small park is a twice life-sized
bronze statue of a pioneer immigrant
with a large hat, traditional buckskin
shirt and chaps holding a Winchester
in one hand and binoculars in the
other; Pierre Wibaux, proudly surveying
all that he helped build.
MARCH 2019 I WORKING RANCH I 145