Charles E Conrad


CE Conrad

Charles E. Conrad,  in 1891 founded a town at the site of the new Great Northern Railway division point Kalispell.
Born on May 20, 1850 he died in 1902 at age 52 from complications of diabetes and tuberculosis.


The Kalispell Bee
Kalispell, Montana April 29 1901

Of Buffalo Driven in From the Range to the Park on Stillwater.
Twenty-eight head of yearlings, two year-olds and aged buffalo, were
driven in from the Blackfeet reservation Saturday, having been cut out
from the Allard herd for Mr. C. E. Conrad, who purchased the bunch from
the former owner A. Stinger.

 Arthur Larivee, a well-known range man, formerly of Missoula, had charge of the herd and was assisted in driving them in by Charles Allard and A. Stinger, and the job was a tough one, as the buff were wild and skittish. Two animals were said to have been lost on the drive, through overheating and fretting, but two new calves were born on the trip, which evened up the bunch.

The animals were driven into and confined in a small, high corral on the brow of the hill north of town, just about a mile distant, and as soon as the big pasture has been fenced strongly the intention is to let them roam at will over that whole section of land, but visitors will be warned to keep outside the fences as the buffalo are more dangerous than Texas steers. A herder will be in charge of them all the time and the buffalo herd will be a novel attraction of Kalispell for this summer at least.

Yesterday the corral was visited by throngs of people, from early morn till dark, but the buffalo were so tired out by their long and arduous drive that they appeared rather docile except on occasion when a stray dog would go nosing along the corral, when one of the mother cows would liven things up a bit. The younger animals did considerable milling, but they were not awe inspiring, nor did they seem very like to the old timers, who have seen them in countless thousands roaming o’er their native plains.

At this season of the year they always look ragged, chunks of fur being stripped from their haunches in the process of shedding, but the band was an object of much interest and curiosity to most of the visitors. Several new calves will be added to the bunch within the week, and when they get rested up the Conrad bunch will be one of the wonders of Kalispell. Two noble old patriarchs are in the band and their tossing manes and fiery eyes bode ill to anyone who gets too close when they are at liberty.

The Butte Miner
Butte, Montana
30 Nov 1902



(Special Telegram.) Kalispell, Mont., Nov. 29. The funeral of Mr. C. E. Conrad will occur tomorrow and will be the largest in the history of northern Montana. Numerous friends from all parts of the state will be present. Governor Tools expected yesterday to leave for Kalispell, but was prevented by press of business. The dead man was a prominent lodgeman and all of the fraternal organizations of Kalispell are to Join in last tribute to his sterling worth. Foremost Citizen. The death of Mr. C. E. Conrad re moved one of the foremost citizens of this state. He was and had been for many years most prominently identified with the interests of the state, with its upbuilding, and its welfare. When a boy, at the age of eighteen, he had the hardihood to come to the town of Fort Benton and make his start In life, which has proved to be one of the most brilliant careers ever set up by man for himself in this western country.

Working as a clerk in the firm of I, G. Naken & Brother, he and his brother, W. G. Conrad, became sole owners in that vast business in eight years from the time they set foot on Montana soil. How their business grew and prospered is part of the history of this young and prosperous commonwealth. Going into the banking business at Fort Benton, they afterwards removed to Great Falls, where they cast their fortunes and how they have risen in this state in the number if enterprises they have set upon foot is one of the wonders of the last century. From young boys thirty-four years ago, coming to Montana with barely enough to sustain life until they arrived, they have thrived until today they are reckoned among the wealthy men of the state.

Many Interests.
Mr. Conrad was interested with his brother in every business venture they ever made in the state and at the time of his death was interested in two banks, four cattle companies, thousands of acres of timber lands, thousands of acres of grazing lands upon which they have constructed many miles of irrigating ditches, making productive what was a barren waste, and in townsite companies and vast interests in mining properties, both in this state and Washington.

Montana can ill afford to lose such valuable men as C. E. Conrad was to her. She has lost a gallant son and one who was a great aid and comfort er to the young and growing man hood of this state. To Mr. C. E. Conrad may be ascribed the success of many of the young men in northern Montana, and to the young business men of Kalispell he will be a serious loss. Always a ready listener and a wise counselor, he aided the young business man of this city many times, of which very few are aware of. He had always been a ready adviser and a true friend to one who was worthy. Mr. Conrad’s taking away is a serious loss to the whole of this county as well as to the whole of the state of Montana.

Those Left.
 Of his parents his mother survives him, his father having died some six years ago. Besides his devoted and faithful wife, he leaves a son, Charles, who is now twenty years of age, a daughter, Catherine, who is now seventeen, and another daughter. Alicia, who is ten years of age. His family will remain in Kalispell and his remains will be buried here. It was his earnest wish that he be buried on a high cliff on the Stillwater river east of the city, and his wish will be gratified. A temporary brick receiving vault has been erected and in the next summer a large mausoleum will be erected upon the place he wished prepared for his last resting place.

Eight years ago Mr. Conrad had poor health and his physicians advised that he travel and get away from business worry, and following their advice he traveled extensively, and It was thought that he had fully regained his lost health. Last winter he and his family spent at Hot Springs, Ark., and it was while at this noted resort that he contracted his last and fatal trouble, acute tuberculosis. Upon finding himself with this dread trouble, he came with his family to his home in Kalispell, after consulting eminent physicians in New York. Arriving here he called his family physician, Doctor Macdonald, and began his treatment. His trouble could not be warded off end he began to fall in health until the end came on Thursday. Realizing that the end was near he arranged all his business affairs and gave all directions in regard to his last wishes, and resigned himself to his fate. He was conscious until almost the last few hours and fully understood and knew all around him. His family are amply provided for and will continue to make their home in this city, where they have so many warm, sympathizing friends. 

Bison calf nursing milk cow cir 1904_1906 Conrad herd

Cow and calf, Conrad Buffalo herd c1905

Taming calves Conrad buffalo herd circa 1904_1906








1908 – The Conrad buffalo herd was found on its summer range, an eight-hundred-acre hilly tract, part grass and part woodland, six miles west of Kalispell. A stout rail fence encloses the range. All the animals, numbering ninety-two head, including eighteen calves of 1908, were in good condition. As a herd they are very tractable, and as a rule can be rounded-up and handled much like domestic cattle. Every fall they are driven sixteen miles along the country roads, even through the streets of Kalispell, to their winter range, where they roam over sixteen hundred acres of grass and grain land until spring, when they are driven back again. 

Buffalo Cow given to ABS by Conrad Estate

The Secretary discussed with Mrs. C. E. Conrad, executrix of the C. E. Conrad Estate, the aims of the
American Bison Society, with the result that a fine pair of buffaloes from this herd was presented to the Society
for preservation on the new Montana range. Soon afterwards the following letter was received from Mrs. Conrad :

Kalispell Montana, October .5, 1908.
Mr. Ernest Harold Baynes,
Secretary, The American Bison Society,
Meriden, N. H.
My Dear Sir:-
After considering your suggestion made while you were here a few days ago, namely, that inasmuch as Mr. Conrad was so much interested in the preservation of the pure-blood American Bison that he gave a great deal of personal time and means to the work, founding the C. E. Conrad Buffalo Herd, his heirs might present a pair to the Bison Society in his name as a nucleus of the Flathead Reservation herd, we have decided to do so. We have selected for this gift the finest pair we own, “Kalispell Chief,” a nine year old male, an animal to which we believe it would be difficult to find an equal in the world today, and as his mate, the herd leader, a vigorous, sagacious cow having a calf each year,—one which would be of the greatest value to the new herd. We have depended upon her wise head and good sense in our management of the herd, and have no cow to equal her. 

Kailispell Cheif

“Kalispell Chief”

Hoping that the Bison Society will accept this gift in the spirit in which it is given, and wishing every success to the undertaking in which every one who gives these matters
thought must be keenly interested, I remain, Yours very truly,  Alicia D. Conrad.

Mrs. Conrad agreed to deliver the buffaloes in crates at Polson, at the south end of Flathead Lake, free of charge, and the Secretary arranged with Messrs. Ethell Bros, of Ravalli, to carry them free from Polson to the range. 


Jan 1 1908 the Conrad herd contained 80 head of bison. Thirty bulls and fifty cows, plus twenty four calves born in 1907. 

By March 20, 1909,

Amiable Cow 2
President and Vice-President Kennard Journey to the Conrad Ranch to check out the herd for shipment.

It presently became clear that the logic of the situation pointed to the herd of bison at Kalispell, founded by the late C. E. Conrad, and during recent years maintained by Mrs. Alicia D. Conrad, as executrix of the Conrad estate. Through a prolonged correspondence it was learned that the herd referred to contained, in the summer of 1909, a total of ninety-two animals, and that throughout the twenty years of its existence, not one drop of the blood of domestic cattle ever had been per mitted to enter it. The herd was sufficiently large to afford a satisfactory range of choice in the selection of individuals for the new herd. The price named was very reasonable, and the close proximity of Kalispell to Ravalli would reduce the cost of delivery to a minimum. Finding it quite impossible to make so important a purchase of live animals by correspondence alone, the committee reluctantly decided that it must give up three weeks’ time to an inspection of the Conrad herd before purchasing, and afterward inspect the new bison range, at Ravalli. 

An Amiable Cow

Owing to official engagements, Treasurer Williams was unable to go to Montana, but during the month of September the President and Vice-President Kennard journeyed to Kalispell and Ravalli, and rendered the services required of them.

The Conrad bison herd was found in exceptionally fine condition, immaculately pure of blood, and also singularly free from aged and useless animals. With but two exceptions, all the members of the herd were in the most perfect physical condition. Their well rounded muscles and thick, glossy coats clearly betokened good health and full vigor. Fortunately, the members of the herd were sufficiently accustomed to men and horses that it was possible to drive through the herd and view its members at close quarters, without being attacked. After prolonged consideration, a price of $275 per head was agreed upon, delivery to be made in the National Bison Range, near Ravalli. A contract of sale was executed, with Mrs. Conrad as executrix, whereby


Registering the Conrad Herd in Kalispell Corral

The American Bison Society acquired by purchase thirty-four head of carefully selected bison to constitute the main body of the nucleus herd. The purchase consisted of the following animate:—

1 “Understudy” to “Kalispell Chief,” five years old.
2 Males four years old.
2 Males three years old.
3 Males two years old.
4 Males one and one-half years old.
Total, 12.

3 Females six years old.
7 Females four to five years old.
3 Females three years old.
5 Females two years old.
4 Females one and one-half years old.
Total, 22.

In addition to the above there came as a gift from the Conrad estate: 1 Male herd leader, “Kalispell Chief,” seven years old. 1 Female herd leader, six years old. 
Early in the spring of 1909, Mr. Charles Goodnight of Texas forwarded his gift pair of young bison to the Conrad estate, at Kalispell, to be kept there pending the erection of the fence around the new range. During the interval the male individual died; the female was finally shipped to Ravalli with the nucleus herd.
The Committee on Purchase takes this opportunity to record here an expression of its high appreciation of the sympathetic interest manifested by Mrs. Alicia D. Conrad, and her son, Mr. Charles Conrad, in the forming of the nucleus herd. Their splendid gift of their best breeding pair of bison is already known to and gratefully appreciated by all the members of this Society. We were indeed fortunate in finding in the Flathead Valley, within seventy-five miles of the new range, a herd of bison so large and so fine in quality that thirty-six perfect and satisfactory animals could be drawn from it in one body. The animals purchased represented, to a certain extent, the pick of the herd at that time; and thanks to the intelligence and care bestowed upon their delivery, they finally reached the range in a condition that leaves nothing more to desire in them.
It may be of interest to note that of the purchase price of $275, including delivery, the Conrad estate estimated $25 per head as the cost of delivery, and the actual cost footed up within a few cents of that amount.

On October 11 Warden Hodges reported in person to Mrs. Conrad at Kalispell with the news that the range fence had been finished and the range was ready to receive the herd. On October 12 the bison purchase and the three gifts were driven to the stockyards of the Great Northern Railway, and in the presence of many interested parties, including a photographer, the business of cutting out, crating, and loading the Montana National Bison Herd began. While Mrs. Conrad and her son stood on the bridge directing the operation, the bison boys and cowboys of the Conrad outfit rode into the corrals and cut out the candidates.

Without any noise or shouting—which is absolutely forbidden in handling the Conrad herd—each animal was driven singly into the corral that communicated with the loading chute. From the first it had been agreed that, in order to deliver the herd at the new range with out excitement, without chasing, and without exhaustion, it would be best to crate each animal separately and ship by rail.

October 12 1909
October 12 1909 Ready to be Crated and Shipped

The first animal to be crated was “Kalispell Chief,” the king of the herd; and this is Mrs. Conrad’s description of the operation:
“The big gate of the chute quietly swings open, then shuts, and the grandest buffalo in the West stands alone fearless, confident, sure of his friends and of himself. For forty minutes he thought it over, not sulking, it was plainly to be seen, just thinking it out as he walked about the narrow enclosure. Finally he made up his mind and went into the crate on a run, as if he had said to himself: ‘Well, here goes! I’ll see it through!’ It was lucky for us that the bars held.

“Then came a very different proposition,” continues Mrs. Conrad’s letter. “It concerned the handsome young bull you selected as your ‘understudy’ to ‘Kalispell Chief,’ to take the leadership in case anything should happen to him. For the last two years—in fact, ever since he has grown up—he has been jealous of the master, rebellious, whipped by the older animal whenever he considered it necessary, but tolerated when he was good.

“For three hours he raged, charging the great gate three times, breaking it down, leaping like a mad thing, furious at this circle of quiet, determined men. At last he rushed into the crate, was shut in, and stood in sullen silence while being rolled into the car. The lesson will stay with him. He has tried his utmost strength and failed, and now I think he never again will try to destroy a fence and escape.”

One bull lay down in the chute, and utterly refused to rise and go into the crate under his own steam. He was finally roped, dragged into the crate by ropes and pulleys, and when the door shut behind him he leaped high up with a tremendous crash, smashing the top bars of the crate. But for the iron clamps he might have escaped. As it was, he lifted up his voice in a mighty bellow, then settled down to fight his crate from Kalispell clear through to Ravalli.

Says Mrs. Conrad: “The crate reached Ravalli with two big chains around it; and then they simply took the pieces of the crate from about him and let him go. There was not enough crate left to open.”

The thirty-seven bison reached Ravalli on the night of Saturday, October 16; on the 17th they were unloaded at the new switch in the south side of the range, two and one-half miles west of Ravalli station. In the unloading there was no mishap. As the crates were opened the bison backed out of them, looked about for a moment, saw their Paradise Regained looming up on the farther side of the Jocko River, splashed across the stream, and climbed up into their new home.

Warden Hodges’ latest letters to the Bison Society report that the bison herd has come through its first winter on the range in fine condition, and quite surpassing his expectations. As master of the herd, “Kalispell Chief” has warned away his understudy “Ravalli Chief,” and the latter has taken three cows and retired to the western side of the range.

September 20, payment to Conrad Estate as per contract 2,000 . 00
October 19, final payment to Conrad Estate as per contract 7,450.85

May 1, 1910 Conrad Estate has now about 40 head of bison. (may not include calves)


Here is a great site with much information about the families of the Conrad’s and images of the interior of the great estate.


Charles E Conrad

Conrad Mansion.

Sitting in the middle of Kalispell, the Conrad Mansion Museum is a fulcrum around which the history and growth of the Flathead Valley.

The 13,000-square-foot mansion served as the home for Charles E. Conrad, considered the founding father of Kalispell, and his family, where they celebrated many milestones and welcomed many guests.

Though the home was completed in 1895, it would take another 80 years before the mansion became a museum.

Before it was Buffalo Hill Golf Course, Buffalo Hill was where Conrad kept a large herd of bison, whose bloodline would later help establish the National Bison Range in Moiese.

For more information on the Conrad Mansion Museum, visit “