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Gene and Velma Daum own it now...
Clark's Store, is woven into Grass Range history

Lewistown News Argus**
Sunday, December 15, 1991
Christmas Edition by Margaret Hedman, Grass Range correspondent

(Editor's note: This information wouldn't have been possible without the help of Ann Teigen.)

      Portions of the following was taken from a 1964, 50th anniversary observation of Clark's Store in Grass Range. It was 20 years later, July 1984, the store was sold to Gene and Velma Daum.

      The Sumner Clark Sr. family became woven into the history of Grass Range when they moved by train to Montana on Feb. 28, 1914. It was a warm day with muddy streets and it is recalled their first purchase was overshoes from the Grass Range Mercantile located at the south end of town. They also ate dinner at Mrs., Riley's restaurant, one of ten eating places.

       Sim Long, a family friend from the days in North Carolina who had promoted the idea by correspondence, drove from his place 12 miles North, to greet the family and take them home until they could rent a little house.

     Soon a lot was purchased for $350 from the Grass Range Townsite Co. with Butte Tipton, agent. Sim Long and his sons, Hays and Milo and S. Clark started building the store which would be Clark's General merchandise for 70 years.

     Meanwhile Mrs. Clark took the four oldest children, Luther, Frances, Mabel and Rachael, to the little log school. The teacher, Miss Dora Beer settled them into the already crowded room by putting two in each seat.

     Even then Luther had to sit on the floor for while. The new two room grade school was under construction and was in use by late fall.

     By April 15, the store building was finished and stocked with groceries, Business was good, with farmers coming in wagons to load supplies of flour, sugar, beans and other staple goods. Because this was the end of the railroad at that time, people came from past Winnett, from near Fort Maginnis and from the south country halfway to Roundup.

     Many would stay two or three days. There were many homesteaders and old-time ranchers who traded in Grass Range, namely George Kinnick, John Kinnick, Frank Degner, Dovenspeck, J.M. Johnson, Ole OIson, Iver Munson, Jim Latch, Tom Shaw and Jim Shaw, A.A. Trapp, Charles Brass, Jud Logan, J.H. Ryan, Frank Metzel, Dengels, Mitchels, Weatherfords. Ayers, Sullengers, Fred France, Leif Stromnes, Fleharty, Krueger and many more.

     Mr. Clark sold about four carloads of flour a year in those first years. Once he sold a carload, 800 sacks, in four weeks. Often one customer would take 500 pounds at a time. One rancher near Winnett took 1,000 pounds.

     The potato trade was a big thing too. Farmers raised quantities of potatoes in the good years, and wanted to sell them to the stores. In 1916 Mr. Clark shipped a carload of potatoes to Minneapolis. A firm there offered to take them at a good price, but wanted all white potatoes.

     After spending a lot of time and work sorting them, they shipped the carload of white potatoes. Word came back that a lot of them were red potatoes, and that they would charge for sorting but would not pay for the red ones so it was not a profitable deal.

     During World War I there was a shortage of potatoes, and Mr. Clark ordered a carload from Gamble's Wholesale house and sold them all. By the fall of 1914, the store building was enlarged, with a basement and cistern, and living quarters in the back and upstairs. The town had built board sidewalks the entire length of Main Street, and Clark's share of the expense was $25.

     In front of the store the walk was close to the ground, but there were dips and rises in the Street. so that in places the walk was three feet from the ground. The  creek ran through town, flowing eastward just south of the Main Cafe, and Young's Hotel, so there was a bridge for the walk as well as one for the street.

     In the evening this bridge was a place where several would gather, and lean over the railing, to talk over the events of the day. When the cement sidewalks were put in, the creek channel was changed.

     In December of 1914, a baby boy was born to the Clarks, named Sumner Robert. Dr. Bruge was called to the house, and the charge was $25, with an additional $10 for making the trip from his homestead. Dr. Brown was here then also, and ran the drug store at the south end of town, next to the old post office, which at that time was run by Tena Sanderson and Ebba MacKenzie.

     At first, the store equipment was very simple and plain. Long tables ran the length of the store on each side, with grocery shelves on the north, and dry goods, shoes, shirts, overalls, and bolts of cloth, on the south side. The customers would come in with a list, and the clerks would go around the store, picking up the items ordered.

     They would weigh sugar, beans, rice, macaroni, bulk cocoa, prunes, raisins, and other dried fruits. There was a coffee grinder for the bulk coffee, a cheese cutter to cut wedges from a big round cheese, weighing about 30 pounds.

     There was a tobacco cutter for plug tobacco, and a case full of fragrant pipe tobacco. A whole bunch of bananas hung from the ceiling, slightly green at first, and sometimes the last few were a very dark brown.

     Sweet pickles were in a keg of syrupy vinegar, and little wooden tubs held salt mackerel and pickled herring. Ham and bacon and summer sausage were about the only meats sold since there was very little refrigeration then.

     There were wooden buckets of candy, gum drops, jelly beans, peppermint drops, sugar creams, chocolate creams, and lemon drops, the most alluring items in the store, in the opinion of many a youngster. Butter and eggs were brought in by the farmers' wives, and traded for groceries. (As late as the early 70s a dozen eggs was tied with string that was pulled from a strong holder fastened to the ceiling.)

     By seven or eight o'clock on Saturday morning, they started arriving to spend the day, visiting and shopping. Several chairs in the dry goods department were in use much of the day. When the weather was favorable, there would be a deluge of eggs, and the price always went low.

     The Clark children were initiated into the store business by first having the job of transferring eggs from the farmer's crate to the larger shipping crate.

     In 1915 the town incorporated and Sumner Clark was one of the first councilmen. Austin Saylor, and J.M. Vroman were also on the council. There was a heated contest between Jim Charters and Bill Weber for the office of Mayor. Charters won.

     All the land around town was owned by Jim Charters, and he had sold the townsite to the Milwaukee Railroad. He owned the Grass Range Hotel, and the Grass Range Mercantile, both doing a booming business.

     The Moose Hall was a large building with a dance floor on the second story, besides rooms for offices and apartments. The first floor housed the meat market with Gomer Davis as proprietor, and on the south side, the Palace a clothing and dry goods store, was operated by Lilllan Parente. The top floor was remodeled, and one side held the old post office.

     The First National Bank was south of the Moose Hall and in 1917 the brick building south of the store was built for the State Bank with Bill Weber as president. On the north side of the building there was room for a store called the Bank Store and upstairs them were rooms and apartments. The building now houses furnished apartments and a large laundromat.

     In 1917 the Grass Range Flour Mill was built, owned and operated by Mr. Koetitz and that year J.O. Burt started to install the telephone lines here and in Winnett. Service started in February 1918. A light plant was installed in 1920 by Mr. Koetitz which supplied the town with lights for many years.

     The high school started here about 1916 and was first held in an added room on the grade school building. Later the new brick building was built with the first classes being held in 1922.

     Mr. Clark was a member of the school board for three terms during the 1920's. He helped promote better education in any way possible, and was also a loyal supporter for the town and the state of Montana.

     Sumner Clark Sr. was born in Massachusetts. His parents moved to North Carolina when he was 14. Later he went to Kansas and Oklahoma and was married in Oklahoma there Luther and Frances were born. They moved back to Highlands, N.C. where he bought a general store and stayed six years. Mabel and Rachael were born there.

     He sold his store and went to Nevada where he purchased an irrigated farm. While there his horse fell with him, breaking his ankle which was set incorrectly, causing him to limp the rest or his life. Ann and Archer were born in Nevada. They sold the farm and came to Montana, where Bob, Albert and George were born.

     In 1920 The Bank Store closed, Mr. Clark bought their fixtures and stock. The counters and show cases were nicer than the homemade tables formerly used.

     In the thirties the store was rearranged with counters in the center and shelves left for the customers to help themselves, although it took a while to get the public used to new ways

     The first lights in the store were kerosene lamps. At the back of the store kerosene was pumped from a barrel to fill the customer's gallon or five gallon cans. Later gas lights were used until a 32-volt Fairbanke Morse electric plant was installed.

     When this proved to be a very troublesome machine, Mr. Clark used the lights from the town light plant operated at that nine by R.J. French.  When the R.E.A. came in, the store was re-wired for  lights and electric refrigeration, thus the need for ice and inadequate refrigeration gave way to a large meat cooler, freezers, meat cases, frozen food case and a vegetable walk-in cooler. At that time the store used about 2,500 kilowatts a month.

     When Archer Clark and Lillian Mick were married, Oct. 7, 1941 at Great Falls, Archer was employed at the grocery store in Zortman. His brother George was employed at Clark's Store until he was called to the service during World War II.

     Archer and Lillian then moved to Grass Range in 1942, to work at the store. During the following years their two sons were born. Kenny and Donald, who now excel at their respective jobs in communications.

     In 1946 Sumner Clark Sr. sold the stare to Archer, retiring at the age of 78. after 32 years of hard work in the store.

     For a few years Mr. and Mrs. Clark helped when extra help was needed. The Clarks had observed their 64th wedding anniversary on April 20, 1963, and Mrs. Clark passed away on May 15 of that year.

     In 1950 the building was enlarged with an addition on the north side, which made room for hardware, dry goods, paint and appliances, while the south side was used for groceries and meats.

     Now customers could bring their cartful of groceries to be checked at the two counters in the center. Among the items not seen on customers lists in 1914 were cake mix, pudding mix. frozen pies, ice cream, fresh milk and fresh meat.

     Archer and Lillian continued to weave into the history of Grass Range during the 38 years they
owned and operated A.A. Clark General Merchandise. A basketball plaque was awarded to Archer by the school in appreciation for his strong support. He also received a plaque for being an active mason member for years and a belt buckle for being mayor for 20 years.

     Archer's favorite hobby was to fly his plane with someone on short business flights out of state.
In recent years they have both enjoyed the flights given by their son, Donald.

     The store again become enlarged with new methods of selling, new ready to go items on self-service shelves but one thing remains the same - chairs with people visiting can be found at the Daum's Store of today as was many years ago at the Clark's Store of Grass Range.

     Prior to the Daum's ownership in 1984, Lewie and Florence Griffith had leased the store. They added shelf space and centralized the check out counter.

     Florence had preciously worked as an employee for 10 years.
During the early 1950's one could buy groceries at a Clark Store in Grass Range or Winnett where the late Sumner Clark Jr. had a store.

Copyright 1998-2006 - Ann Kramlich and Betty Distad - All Rights Reserved

** Consent to post the stories and photos for non commercial use from the Lewistown News Argus was graciously granted by Dave Byerly owner and Publisher. These stories and photos may not be used by any commercial entity for any reason without consent from the  Lewistown News Argus.