History

Historical Photo

The backdrop of the majestic Crazy Mountains define the magnificent setting of the WD Ranch. It was here, in 1858, that Chief Plenty Coups (the last great chief of the Crow) saw his famous vision that the buffalo would go away forever, and the white man’s cattle would cover the plains. By 1885, the Melville community was established with the creation of the first Lutheran church in Montana. Today, Melville is a classic ranching community that many of its founding families still call home.

William Henderson Donald came to Montana from New York in 1909. After working on ranches in the Melville area, he bought his own ranch and gradually added to his personal holdings over the next twenty years. While his main enterprise was commercial and registered Hereford cattle, he also developed a dude operation (the Donald Ranch), raised Morgan horses, tried his hand at dryland farming, and at one point even raised some sheep. Then, the depression and the drought of the thirties took their toll. He sold off a majority of his land in the late thirties, and deeded the home ranch on Sweet Grass Creek to his son, William Donald, Jr., upon his death in 1945. Aside from ranching, Bill was also a remarkable cartoonist and humorist, leaving a wonderful legacy of twenty years' worth of illustrated diaries depicting life in the Melville area.

In 1954, Bill Jr. and his wife, Ann, purchased the adjoining ranch on Cayuse Creek and incorporated the ranch as the Cayuse Livestock Company. Bill Jr. concentrated on commercial Angus cattle, Rambouillet sheep and dryland farming. Through their hard work and determination, those enterprises paid off well enough to add several more adjoining ranches to the operation in the sixties and seventies. Bill and Ann have since passed the ranch on to their children and grandchildren.

Today, the third generation of this family continues to operate the beloved Cayuse Livestock Company. Daughter Elli, and husband Paul Hawks, live and work on the ranch full time. They have two daughters: Jenny and her husband John Martin have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Joy; daughter Gina and husband, Jess Bainter, have two sons, Clayton and Owen. Also living and working on the ranch full time are the Donald Family Bill III and wife Betsy, sons: Josh and his wife Mery (daughters Isabella and Emma) and Wyatt, his wife Stacy (son William and daughter Ann Marie). While the major enterprise of the ranch now is commercial Angus cattle, two historic dude cabins from the days of the Donald Ranch have been renovated to accommodate a limited number of ranch recreation guests—the start of what we now call the WD Ranch.

WD Ranch