Early Settlers

There were many large ranches in the early days and in the The Slope County Saga written by Carrie Narum she states that the E-6 cattle company trail went between the two buttes and headed south to the south end of the ranch, 40 miles east of Buffalo, South Dakota. She also writes that according to an 1883 survey, it is likely that the Dickinson-Deadwood stagecoach line also used the trail. From the top of the butte you can also see the Rocky Ridge to the west where the Medora Deadwood stage made use of the ‘high and dry’.

The butte was the scene of a 4th of July picnic in 1886, which was organized by Charles Mead and this is the first record of what was to become many picnics held on the butte. No one was able to say when the picnic grounds high on the east end of East Rainy was first used but it soon became the favorite spot for church, school and family picnics for years to come. In recent history Darcy Braaten was married on the butte. Mrs. Florence Bakke relates that the road up to the picnic ground was pretty difficult until the CCC built a good road in the 1930’s. Rachel Rundle Hoovestal recalls that the butte was the site of a party hosted by Chicky Brown to welcome back the young men who safely returned to town following World War II. Early residents recall playing baseball at the picnic grounds, which sounds like tough duty for the outfielders.

At one time there were a number of “stone johnnies” on the butte built either by sheepherders or Native Americans, but they have disappeared. The two “stone johnnies” on the west end of the butte were built recently by the Briske brothers, whose homestead just north of the west end of East Rainy is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built of stone by their uncle, John Briske, and they are presently in the process of restoring the farmstead. The Briske’s had many recollections of hunting trips for rabbits up on the butte who once were so numerous that they looked like snow cover. Briskes said that they would shoot the rabbits to feed them to the pigs but that once there was a bounty for the rabbits, the large flocks disappeared.

The children of families who settled between the butte attended school in a building built by Alvin Baumann in 1913. A school on the southeast side of East Rainy called Hanstead and another on the west side of West Rainy, but eventually they were abandoned and the once lively schoolhouses became granaries on local farms.

The Briskes said that there used to be a homestead on just about every quarter of land and that there was even a post office about two and a half miles west of the East Rainy. A man named Charlie Brobery who had homesteaded what became the Everett Bock farm ran the store at Rainy Butte Post Office. Barn dances and birthday parties were occasion for frequent get-togethers in the neighborhood.

R.D. ‘Dick’ Maixner moved onto the Oscar Anson place on the north side of East Rainy in 1946. His son Rick Maixner built a home on ‘Old Baldy’ and was a legislator for 14 years and now practices law in Bismarck.

George Urlacher settled on the south side of West Rainy raising 8 children. His son, Ralph Urlacher, raised another 5 in the same house and has been a Slope County Commissioner for over 25 years.

Carroll Township on the west side of East Rainy was named for John Carroll, who homesteaded there. Near his homestead is the site of Rainy Butte Ranch, which was built by the Bresden-Larsen Lumber Company. The main buildings were erected in 1918 and included two or three barns, one of which was said to be the largest in North Dakota and only recently had to be torn down after being damaged in a wind storm. There was a dairy operation in the barn and the ranch was owned by Bresden-Larsen until 1928 when they sold it to Axel Lindberg who kept it until 1959. The Lindberg’s originally lived near New England before they moved to the buttes.

Earl Rundle bought the ranch from Axel Lindberg in 1959. Earl’s dad came to North Dakota and settled in Dovre Township in 1896. Earl was born in1906 and raised sheep and cattle there until he went into the newspaper business. Earl was the owner of the Marmath Post until leaving to come to New England and buying the Slope Messenger from D.J. Shults. Earl’s banner read “We cover the news like a slicker covers a cowboy.” Earl has worn many hats as legislator, editor, rancher, teacher and umpire. He recently passed on the reins of the ranch to Ken Urlacher, son of Ralph Urlacher, who hopes to continue the stewardship of the buttes started by these hardy pioneers.