Cattle Roundup at Roy, Montana, Early 20th Century
February 17, 2021
This beautiful historical photo captures a moment during a cattle roundup in Roy, Montana sometime in the early part of the 20th century. Considering the clothes and the sepia-color of the print, we think it was probably between 1900 and 1920, but it's hard to tell when, in so many ways, the cattle ranching life doesn't change all that much over the years.
Roy, Montana is a tiny town located on Highway 191 northeast of Lewistown, in Fergus County. It's heyday was around 1915 (giving a clue to when this photo was likely taken), when it's population swelled to around 400. At that time, there was approximately one homesteader every 160 acres.
The indispensable Names On the Face of Montana by Robert Carkeek Cheney reports that "[t]he name was supposed to be Ray, for a member of [an early settler's] family, but through a mistake in the Post Office Department, the name Roy was assigned..."
Cheney goes on to say that "Saturday night dances were the big thing. People came by horseback or in a buggy. One man ran the general store for fifty years and never sent out a statement. 'People paid when they could,' he said, and always voluntarily. Some accounts ran for twenty years. Most homesteaders left when World War I broke out, and only a few returned."
Indeed, Roy now exists as a "census-designated place" with a population of about 108. Even so, it has its own post office, and the local Legion Bar and Grill serves cold beer and some pretty tasty Montana beef.