Town Sign for Garryowen, MT
July 24, 2012 -
The entire historic town of Garryowen, Montana, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder on August 15. The 7.7 plus acre site is among the smallest known towns in the U.S., with a population of only two. Its historical significance, however, is Garryowen’s primary claim to fame. “This is the beginning of where the Battle of Little Bighorn took place in 1876,” seller Chris Kortlander said. Also known as Custer’s Last Stand, the battle is where George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry was soundly defeated by the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho people. Custer himself was killed during the battle, along with two of his brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law.
Chief Sitting Bull Garryowen has been in private hands since 1926, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn. Kortlander, the present owner, said, “What got me interested and the reason I purchased Garryowen was I couldn’t believe that the federal government or a tribal identity weren’t paying attention to the historical site. This was Sitting Bull’s camp.” Sitting Bull (1831-1890) seen here, was viewed as a holy man among his people and was said to have experienced a premonition of defeating the cavalry, which motivated his followers to victory.
Chief Crazy Horse Yet another Native American leader during the Battle of Little Bighorn was Chief Crazy Horse of the Oglala Lakota. This is an alleged photo of Crazy Horse taken in 1877. Some sources believe that Crazy Horse was never photographed, so this image is often disputed. Like Chief Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse took up arms against the U.S. Federal government to fight against encroachments on his people’s territories and way of life. He has since become a legendary and heroic individual for some. Author Chris Hedges said, “there are few resistance figures in American history as noble as Crazy Horse…his ferocity of spirit remains a guiding light for all who seek lives of defiance.”
Image: "The Custer Fight" by Charles Marion Russell The 7th Cavalry, created just after the American Civil War, included some veterans from that war. Others, however, were only marginally trained and had no combat or frontier experience. From Garryowen, Kortlader said, “If you were standing here 130 years ago, bullets would have been flying over your head.” The total U.S. casualty count, including scouts, from the Battle of Little Bighorn was 268 dead and 55 injured.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Located within the town of Garryowen is the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, the only private memorial of its kind. It holds the remains of a cavalryman killed during the Battle of Little Bighorn as well as mementoes placed within it on the 50th anniversary of the encounter. The granite Peace Memorial behind the tomb was dedicated on the 125th anniversary of the battle.
Burying of the Hatchet Fifty years after the Battle of Little Bighorn, White Bull, a Sioux Indian Chief, and General Edward Godfrey symbolically “buried the hatchet” in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The soldier’s body was found during the construction of an interstate, I-90, in the area.
Garryowen Building Complex The town of Garryowen was named after the old Irish tune, "Garry Owen," which was one of General George Armstrong Custer's favorite marching songs. The auction of the town, to be conducted by the firm of Williams & Williams, includes the Garryowen Town Hall, an approximately 15,400 square foot three-level building containing a convenience store, a sandwich shop, retail space, a U.S. post office and a penthouse residence. Kortlander said that, although the town only has a population of two, “We see over 3.9 million vehicles per year on the interstate” nearby. “Rich in American history and military lore, the sale of Garryowen is a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” added Robb Bridges, Williams & Williams vice president of commercial sales. “It’s a chance to own a piece of history, but also own and operate a business at one of the country’s major tourist destinations.”
Elizabeth Bacon Custer Manuscript Collection The manuscript collection of Elizabeth Bacon Custer will also be auctioned on the same day as the Garryowen sale. She was the wife of General Custer. The writings include unpublished and un-catalogued manuscripts, documents and correspondence all assembled by Elizabeth Custer. Aside from those documents, the materials include a 200-page unpublished interview with Buffalo Bill, an American soldier, bison hunter and showman from the period. The collection, which also features rare personal photographs, is believed to be the largest Custer document collection in existence.
Custer Documents Aside from including historical documents, the Custer manuscript collection provides a glimpse of the family’s life, from Christmas cards to personal notes.
ortrait of Elizabeth Bacon Custer Elizabeth Bacon Custer, who died in 1933, became an outspoken advocate for her husband’s legacy. She wrote three history books that glorified her husband’s memory. She traveled extensively and moved to New York, her last home. She never, however, visited Garryowen or any of the sites associated with the Battle of Little Bighorn. PHOTOS: Civil War Photography