Powder River Historical Museum
The Museum was opened in Broadus, MT in June of 1988 at the location of the Midland Lumber Company (formerly the Yellowstone Lumber Company). Horace and Charlotte Wilbur Broaddus, as a gift to be made in memory of the Broaddus, Wilbur and Fudge families, purchased the property. It is operated by volunteers and supported only by donations and memorials from the public. The mission of the Historical Society is to preserve, assemble, protect and memorialize any item or items of local historic interest. It contains many valuable historical collections, including photos and books, Indian artifacts, old guns and ammunition, pre-1900 buggies, vintage autos, rebuilt engines, threshing machines, tractors and farm implements. A prized acquisition are battlefield artifacts from the Reynolds Campaign in 1876 – a forerunner of Custer’s last stand. In the Museum’s relatively few years of operation, the half block complex is rapidly filling up with these objects.
The 1992 acquisition of the famous Mac’s Museum was a big development. Mac’s Museum was previously housed in the local high school and is now located in a separate building, financed by the sale of a local-interest book consisting of a WPA-financed interview project of pre-homestead era settlers. Mac’s contains over a thousand arrowheads, birds’ eggs, butterflies, geologic specimens, as well as one of the finest and largest, about 20,000, sea shell collection – a real tribute to one person’s efforts. Visitors come away in disbelief that a small town museum could have such a unique collection. This has resulted in many return visits.
A recent major gift and subsequent restoration project has been the renovation of a one-room rural log schoolhouse. Furnished with period school room trappings, it brings back fond memories to all who received their early day education in these (now) hallowed rooms. Another log building just arrived at the Museum. Reportedly the first true filling station in Broadus, its use was short-lived due to the fact the highway it was located on was changed. It has had several uses in its later years.
To note briefly, other major and unique contributions include a Bucyrus-Erie steam shovel which was brought overland to dig coal and gravel in our area. One will also find the county jail, especially constructed for Powder River County when it was created in 1919. Naturally it is a real center of attraction, particularly to the younger generations.
Another major attraction located in the museum is the Ben Patten spur and bit collection. This valuable display has to be seen to be appreciated.
A spectacular vintage clothing display added in 2006 is a must see.
All of the above is just a ‘taste’ of what the Powder River Historical Museum has to offer. No wonder visitors call it the ‘best kept secret’ in small town museums.
The museum is free but accepts donations.
Brought to you by the Powder River Chamber of Commerce in Broadus, MT.