The History of Paws Up Ranch

Paws Up Ranch is located in the heart of the picturesque Blackfoot Valley, 30 miles northeast of Missoula, in Greenough, Montana. The beginning of the ranch itself dates back to the homesteader days of the late 1800s. The history of the land goes back even farther to the time when the Blackfoot River served as a transportation corridor for Nez Perce, Flathead and Blackfeet Indians; then later on fur trappers, miners and loggers. The Indians called the river "Cokalahishkit" which means "the river of the road to the buffalo."

Captain Meriwether Lewis, the first celebrity known to follow the well-worn Indian trail along the Big Blackfoot, arrived in July of 1806, on his return trip of the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition. Although no paparazzi were on hand to memorialize Captain Lewis's travels through land that would become the future Paws Up, it is believed that he climbed a tall, craggy rock formation in the rushing waters at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clearwater rivers. From that vantage point, he would have looked forward up the trail that would take him onward to the next leg of his memorable trek.

Nearly 75 years after Lewis's historic journey, miners and loggers became prevalent in the area and the town of Sunset materialized. Placer mines were active in the area as early as the 1860s producing gold, silver and copper. An abundance of gold was discovered in 1898 at the Nancy Hanks Mine in the town of Garnet, located just down the road from the main entrance to Paws Up Ranch. Garnet became a boomtown and during its heyday was home to nearly 1,000 people. Although ravaged by several fires, Garnet is now one of Montana's best-preserved ghost towns. Paws Up property has also had its share of mining claims, including one for placer gold that was registered in 1882 by homesteader Henry Martin. His parcel of land, now known as the "Martin Pasture" sits just up Sunset Hill Road past ranch headquarters.

In 1885, the Big Blackfoot Milling Company started the first large-scale timber cutting operation at Sunset. The mill's primary customers were the rapidly expanding mines that created an almost insatiable appetite for lumber. In 1898, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company took over the mill and formed the Big Blackfoot Railway to move timber from the outlying areas to the Blackfoot River. The main line of the railway ran from Greenough to McNamara's Landing, which was located on the river about five miles north of the mill in Bonner. Today, remnants of old railway ties and track locations can still be seen throughout the ranch.

It was about 1915 that a young man named Paul Greenough acquired four homesteads, and along with the purchase of additional land, formed the first 3,800-acre ranch then called Sunset Valley Ranch. Paul was the son of affluent businessman, Thomas L. Greenough of Missoula, who made his fortune in mining and timber. A graduate of Andover, Paul did not follow in his father's footsteps, but instead began his career in ranching. He was the only ranch owner to stock the spacious pastures at Greenough with sheep, in addition to cattle and horses. Paul was a big man with a big heart, whose sense of humor was evident by the fact that each and every wooly white coat belonging to the Greenough flock of sheep sported a large green "O" painted right on its back.

In 1917, a new, one-room Sunset School was built and welcomed a grand total of six inquiring minds that year. The original "schoolhouse" was a log cabin constructed on the Martin Homestead. The new school was located nearby on Morris Ranch property and was later moved the short distance down Sunset Hill Road to its present location just outside Paws Up headquarters. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company returned to Sunset in 1926 and twelve logging camps swung back into action, producing millions of feet of lumber over the next eight years. By the end of that year, 20 railway cars of logs were being loaded daily at Sunset. Evidence of the ACM headquarters is still visible in the pastures behind the old working facility.

In July of 1926, the Hartley General Store opened a post office right next door to the current site of the Sunset School. Austin Hartley became the first Postmaster and recommended that the post office be named Greenough in honor of Paul. In the coming years the ranch itself and the surrounding area also became known as Greenough. Paul died of leukemia at the age of 41; however, nearly 100 years later, the Greenough name and history lives on.

Over the course of the next seven decades, the ranch would host eight diverse and fascinating owners. The first owner, Paul Greenough, had never married, so upon his death, the ranch became the property of the Greenough family trust. An uncle, John Epperson, took charge of the ranch for the next twelve years until Don and Mary Hunter purchased 3,500 acres in 1939, and leased an additional 16,000 acres. Hunter's Point, a landmark located almost dead center in the middle of ranch, is named after him. Don mysteriously fell to his death from a San Francisco hotel window in the early fifties, and the property was then sold to Gibb and Grace Kreis in 1952. Kreis was a former car dealer, and he ran a successful commercial Hereford business on the ranch for the next nine years. In 1961, a gentleman from California named William Duce bought the Greenough land. Herefords once again dotted the pastures. Duce had ties to Hollywood, and actors and actresses were known to frequent the ranch, including the lovely Maureen O'Hara.

The Lindbergh Cattle Company took over the ranch in the year 1965. Brothers Land and Jon Lindbergh, sons of the celebrated aviator, owned the property for the next 21 years, longer than any other owners. During this time, Land orchestrated the formation of the current boundaries of the Paws Up Ranch. He purchased the neighboring Morris Ranch (which added another 3,999 acres to the total deeded acreage), bought several smaller parcels along Nine Mile Prairie, and was instrumental in a three-way land swap that brought the total deeded property to just over 10,000 acres. In 1986, the Lindbergh Cattle Company sold the property to Bill Moore of the Kelly Moore Paint Company headquartered in California. Missoula lawyer Bob Mullendore became the next ranch owner in 1991. He formed the Greenough Cattle Company and was the first rancher to keep registered herds grazing at Greenough. Bob teamed up with environmentalists to control timber and headed up a major conservation project to reroute a large section of Elk Creek in order to stop erosion.

The year 1997 heralded new owners, the Lipson family, who purchased the ranch that had now expanded to 10,000 deeded acres and 27,000 leased acres. Arriving from Colorado, they brought with them a herd of superior horses, the desire to build a first-class Black Angus seed stock operation, and their beloved ranch name. "Paws Up" was originally inspired by those over friendly, wriggling dogs who greet visitors by putting their paws up in the air while their tails thump the floor a mile a minute. A member of the Lipson clan brought the name to life with the highly recognizable double paw logo.

Major improvements to the land and structures began in 1998 including large-scale renovations of the Main House, the Diesel House (the original bunkhouse), the Morris House, the Bull Barn, the Little Barn, and several other residences. Brand new buildings were also added at Ranch Headquarters. Not exactly a "shack" by definition, an architecturally impressive 7,000 sq.ft. Cook Shack was built of beautiful stone and timber. This spectacular facility houses the ranch offices, an inviting dining hall and a comfy recreation room. It has an eye-catching, two-story turret with one of the best viewpoints on the property.

Another significant 7,000 sq.ft.-building – the Sale Barn – was constructed at headquarters and comes complete with an appealing lounge area and a massive arena that seats up to 350 onlookers and features a removable polished wood dance floor. Three enormous plasma screens grace the walls of the arena; perfect for seminars or viewing the ultimate cowboy classics – just imagine watching John Wayne driving big cattle and Clint Eastwood hanging 'em high on these giant screens.

Paws Up also includes a world-class Saddle Club that was built with all the necessary facilities to train, breed and care for horses. The Paws Up staff combines years of experience and skill with a true love for their equine partners, creating the perfect atmosphere for superior breeding and training. The club also includes 56 stalls and an impressive indoor horse arena that has been described as one of the biggest and best in the entire state of Montana. (The latest 'Gallop' Poll shows that 100% of the horses living on the ranch enthusiastically agree...).

In addition to the eye-appeal of the land within the Paws Up boundaries, there's also a vast expanse of natural beauty in the surrounding areas. Majestic mountains and scenic forests include the protected Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Garnet Mountain Range, the University of Montana-owned Lubrecht Experimental Forest and the Mission Mountains. These areas are rich with abundant wildlife, which often stop to set up house at Paws Up for a season or two. A variety of winged creatures are also frequent visitors, including the many ducks that exercise splishing and splashing rights on their very own pond in the middle of the property.

As well as providing water for the working aspects of the ranch, the seven scenic miles of the Big Blackfoot River that wind through Paws Up offer some of the best fly-fishing in the West. With over six species of game fish, the "Big Blackie" has much more variety for the avid angler than most trout streams. The Blackfoot is known worldwide due to its prominence in the best-selling novel, "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean and the successful movie directed by Robert Redford and starring Brad Pitt.

In 2003, after just five short years in the registered cattle business, Paws Up was rated as one of the top 10 Black Angus seed stock operations in Montana. After the annual production sale that year, the decision was made to focus on new enterprises, including running a commercial cattle operation and opening a first-class, luxury resort. And no wonder – such a unique and colorful history combined with miles and miles of wide-open space and spectacular beauty just has to be shared. Incomparable scenery and Big Sky hospitality make Paws Up truly "The Last Best Place."