This history is being recorded on behalf of the DNRC oral history project called, From the Ground Up, Montana Women and Agriculture. I am Denise Thompson and I am here at the home of Barbara Kirscher. We are recording on February 27, 2014.
It has been transcribed by 6th grade students at the Townsend School.
(0:08) Mrs. Thompson: Now, who is Edna Kirscher?
(0:08) Mrs. Kirscher: She was Joe's mother.
(0:09) Mrs. Thompson: Okay...And so she was part of the homestead ranch then.
(0:18) Mrs. Kirscher: And actually from her side of the family, no she was not in the homestead. That was the generation before her, but... she actually had a relative that did come over on the Mayflower.
(0:31) Mrs. Thompson: Really.
(0:31) Mrs. Kirscher: Yeah. So John Chatland his name was, but they came down from the English parts down there. It was just, kind of funny old time pictures.
(0:44) Mrs. Thompson: Now what is this carriage one? Where was that taken?
(0:49) Mrs. Kirscher: Well it must have been when they were young. Still in the Gallatin. That's Frita and Edna Kirscher.
(1:02) Mrs. Thompson: And Dorothy?
(1:04) Mrs. Kirscher: Frita and Dorothy Smith something. EBK that's Edna.
(1:11) Mrs. Thompson: Okay.
(1:11) Mrs. Kirscher: But this would have been when they were young and of according age. So Frita might have already been at Montana State College at that time, but Edna and Guy, Joe's parents, both graduated from there, but it was the agricultural college then. So they have been a part of the history for a long time.
(1:43) Mrs. Thompson: Uh huh.
(1:43) Mrs. Kirscher: But I just thought that was just kind of... interesting to add.
(1:46) Mrs. Thompson: Yeah, that's really neat. Oh no, what's that? “Now I lay me down to sleep,” Deaconess baby.
(1:52) Mrs. Kirscher: In Harmel (?) Illinois.
(1:55) Mrs. Kirscher: So that was probably Edna Bull Kirscher, Orilla. Yeah mother and dad’s ranch home at the springs. Now this was Frita when she was just a teacher or just had graduated from college. And this was one of their cousins. And this was Joe's mother here. I hadn't even looked at this for ages. I don't have any idea. This was...Grandma Bull. Aunt May and Aunt Nell. So this would have been back in Illinois.
(2:52) Mrs. Thompson: Wow
(2:52) Mrs. Kirscher: Ha anyhow.
(2:53) Mrs. Thompson So do you have any pictures when the ranch when you were first married?
(2:56) Mrs. Kirscher: Well that's what i was looking at here.
(3:01) Mrs. Thompson: you know no rush because when you find them....
(3:01) Mrs. Kirscher: That was Viv growing up.
(3:03) Mrs. Thompson: Oh3:03 Mrs. Thompson: She was such a beautiful girl, and still is.
(3:07) Mrs. Kirscher: That's when she was in about High. She was in about 6th grade then. These were a bunch of pictures of her. I dragged a bunch of those out. But I'll have to look.
(3:16) Mrs. Thompson: Okay. Well you sit where ever you like to sit and I'll ask a few more questions. Where ever you want to sit.
(3:40) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, this is my favorite chair, so I'll sit in my favorite chair. Okay
(3:50) Mrs. Thompson: (laughs) Alright so we got a few more questions that i got on my little paperwork. So, this is Denise Thompson with Barb Kirscher. Carrying on from the interview earlier at the school....One thing I wanted to make sure was, Is the spelling of your last name. Is it B-e-e-r-s?
(4:06) Mrs. Kirscher: Yes, my maiden name was.
(4:08) Mrs. Thompson: Okay. And you did say that you were born in Judith Gap at your grandma's house.
(4:20) Mrs. Kirscher: Yes
(4:20) Mrs. Thompson: And what was your grandma's name?
(4:23) Mrs. Kirscher: Her name was Barbra Ellen Stewert Beers. And she was an Irish immigrant.
(4:30) Mrs. Thompson: Okay... And what was your date of birth? I don't think we got it.
(4:45) Mrs. Kirscher: Yeah I think so, but April 15, 1927.
(4:46) Mrs. Thompson: Okay, so your going to be 87 pretty quick.
(4:46) Mrs. Kirscher: Yep...Not very long.
(4:57) Mrs. Thompson: Alright...Now...And you had two siblings?
(5:06) Mrs. Kirscher: Yes, I have a brother and a sister both younger than I am.
(5:09) Mrs. Thompson: Okay, now your children. You had four, but then I thought you had two more, but they passed away in infancy?
(5:15) Mrs. Kirscher: One. One did. I have four living children.
(5:19) Mrs. Thompson: Okay... And do you...
(5:24) Mrs. Kirscher: Three of them were involved in agriculture.
(5:29) Mrs. Thompson: Right
(5:30) Mrs. Kirscher: Vivian never was, but she did the outfitting.
(5:38) Mrs. Kirscher: So actually it's still part of the...land.
(5:38) Mrs. Thompson: I would consider that kind of conservation, too.
(5:40) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, yeah.
(5:40) Mrs. Thompson: Which brings me to a question that I wanted to ask you. What do you think it means to be a steward of the land and do you think farmers and ranchers have to be stewards of the land?
(5:47) Mrs. Kirscher: Yes, and I think more so now than ever because of the fact that they have so many pesticides and herbicides and artificial fertilizer is sort of thing that...farmers and the... you know, now we were worried about erosion for we never ever used to be worried about things like that and I think that...those things the land has always been precious to those who have lived on it but I think were more conscious now about preserving things for the future.
(6:28) Mrs. Thompson: Very good.
(6:29) Mrs. Kirscher: Used to be more consumerist of me you know, we thought everything would last forever...and now we know it won’t.
(6:37) Mrs. Thompson: Right, very good point...so you’re...obviously you’re going to leave a legacy and what do you hope that legacy is?
(6:46) Mrs. Kirscher: My personal legacy or the legacy of the land, the land that we lived on?
(6:50) Mrs. Thompson: Both!
(6:53) Mrs. Kirscher: My personal legacy I think will...live through my children and progeny the fact that I hope that I’ve instilled in them the values that...that are important to us you know the value of...family of community I’ve been raised...both sides of the family as...as community people were we give back...of our time and our resources to the...the not only to the land but to the people with whom we live...so my personal legacy would go through my children to hope that they and...the generations beyond them are...good...storage that while are resources not only our land and air and water but...our human resources as well.
(7:53) Mrs. Thompson: That's very good...very good...”From the Ground Up: Montana Women and Ag” is a project whose mission is to collect the stories and histories of ordinary women living ordinary lives and making significant contributions to their communities and agriculture. Can you tell how it feels to have your story collected, saved and shared so others can hear your story and feel your journey?
(8:23) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, I don't feel...never felt that my personal story was important, but I know I am part of history and for that reason I think not only my story, but those of my contemporaries and others, are important. I think that these rural stories...are so important because we've...we've lost all those things my grandmother's...didn't talk about their past...we don't know about their lives because they didn't tell us...so we...we have to live that part of history through those people who did and so much of our history and our history books is...is not the true story...because that hasn't been told...so I think it’s important that...that ...that be done.
(9:19) Mrs. Thompson: Very good...very good...how can we help each other, non-Ag and Ag people, to understand and respect each other’s lifestyle and our work...there is a saying, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood,” this is an important point we have heard through all of the oral history's please share your thoughts on that; how we can help...Ag and non-Ag people learn and understand...their views and their lifestyles.
(10:00) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, I think we have to go about it on a one to one basis...that's...that's the best way...but I think that...things through the school are probably the best way to reach the most people...that...that if...if we have an exchange...program for instance between urban and...and rural children through the schools or we have speakers, for instance, come to...to assemblies...and share some of their stories...the exchange programs we had was students and different countries for instance...is has been so valuable...that I think that as people grow up with this understanding they’re better able then to...to work in...In government...and...and serve the whole global...industry not just...I think it’s so difficult...for the people in urban cities...you know the rural really really...people who are stuck there never get out...of their little places and we…we know about gang warfare and in this sort of things...that to me is so difficult and if I were some of our country kids still some of the work ethic, some of the values they had...it would help I think all of us get along better.
(11:35) Mrs. Thompson: Now, you talked about how you were raised to...always give back and especially to your community and to the Ag community and the city or town you live in and you have definitely done that and what does that mean to you and what are some of the community things that you've been committed to?
(11:54) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, when I first came to this community my mother-in-law said there were two things that she wanted me to do; she wanted me to...to be a part of the...the Canton Valley Women's Club...and the Methodist Church, so those and education are the things that I have been most educated about, and well, well, you know… things like our hospital, I've been interested in promoting that. The women's club has done so many projects both locally and globally, and of course, our church projects have done that. So I was always a joiner. My husband was not so happy with that. Anything I did for the church was all right, he couldn't fight that, but he didn't think I should be doing things like the woman's club and that sort of thing. But I did, and I had to keep reminding him that I was that person when he met me.
(12:58) Mrs. Thompson: Do you have a network of women friends that you work with and socialize with?
(13:04) Ms. Kirscher: I have a number of different groups that I socialize with and work with. For networking friends, there is the women's club and I’ve been honored to be one of the only individual awards of the women’s clubs does nationally, and in fact, I’m up for national recognition for that, so that speaks good for our little women’s club here, but we have done a lot there. I’ve belonged to church. We've networked with a number of programs locally and internationally. I am involved with the senior citizen’s club; I pinochle with them, I play bridge with another group. I belong to the Order of the Eastern Star and we're fraternal organization, and I belong to the Daughters of the Nile, which works for the crippled children's hospitals.
14:09 Mrs. Thompson: You do “red hat” too, don't you? (laughter)
14:09 Ms. Kirscher: Oh yeah, that's strictly for fun, strictly for fun, but that is another network. It’s another group that's different.
14:19 Mrs. Thompson: Yeah, I think you kind of answered a lot of this with the children in class today, but in case maybe something else comes to mind, speak about the rewards and benefits and the challenges of raising your children on a ranch.
14:36 Ms. Kirscher: Well, I think that the biggest challenges for raising the children on the ranch was the fact that they thought they didn't have some of the opportunities that the town kids had because in those days, girls didn't have the same interests as boys, but they couldn't take part in them anyhow because of the transportation; we couldn't afford to drive them back and forth either from time or the money situation. That's different now.
(15:09)Mrs. Thompson: And what about rewards, other than you?
(15:14)Mrs. Kirscher: I think learning and the fact that they saw animals grow up, you know, and they knew how crops grew. They knew how our garden things grew, they knew what basic nutrition was, because we paid more attention to that even though they say that farmers ate meat and potatoes. We ate a lot of vegetables and we grew our own. We were self-sufficient and I think maybe that self-sufficiency was part of it. I think we learned to be kind to each other and help each other. When Joe, it turned out he was not going to live through the summer, there were ranchers from all over the community that came to put up our hay and to help Keith, who was a college boy, with the harvest and to mentor him and that sort of thing. You know, we were a community, we were not a bunch of individuals.
16:32 Mrs. Thompson: Do you mind me asking what happened to Joe?
16:33 Mrs. Kirscher : Well, he did die of pancreatic cancer, but in those days we didn't have scanners and we didn't know what it was and we took him from one place to another and they kept saying, “Well, at least you don't have to worry; it's not cancer,” because they couldn't find any lump anywhere and the only way that they found it was to operate, and then it was too late. He only lived a couple weeks after that, so he didn't have a drawn out years and years and things, it was a matter of six months.
17:12 Mrs. Thompson: And how old was Joe when he passed?
17:21 Mrs. Thompson: Any life experiences or challenges that have impacted you and that you would say have really altered your life?
17:29 Mrs. Kirscher: Well, the fact that I was widowed at age 46, and had to go back into the work force at age 50 without any real work experience, I would say that there my college degree opened doors for me, even though I had never taught. Well, I had substituted here, but I had never really used my degree, and that’s so important to kids now days.
(17:60) Mrs. Kirscher: The kids nowadays to get that basic education, even that little piece of paper that said they had spent four years post-secondary education, with that much focus, that's what’s important. Not so much where their degree is, because a lot of kids never, ever work in the field for which they were supposedly educated.
( 18:26) Mrs. Thompson: Yep. In regard to your work and your life, do certain experiences or situations stand out to you?
( 18:37) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, I think the saying that, you know, “when one door slams in your face, God opens a window,” and “be careful what you ask for.” I always felt that maybe I cheated myself by not working before I was married, then when I got thrown in the work place I thought, “Well, you shouldn't have asked for this. Is that why my husband died?” I don't know what the grand plan was, but the things I learned after age fifty were amazing, because as I say I have had the chance to travel, and to broaden my experiences, but I came right back here to finish out my life.
(19: 23) Mrs. Thompson: You came home.
( 19: 25) Mrs. Kirscher: Yep. Not home to Judith Gap.
( 19:30) Mrs. Thompson: No, back to Townsend home.
(19:31) Mrs. Kirscher: I do think no matter where I’ve been, this little valley right here, out of all the world, is the place I chose to live.
(19:40) Mrs. Thompson: I agree. Yep, I agree 1oo%, pretty special little valley.
(19:46) Mrs. Kirscher: Well, it is where the “banana belt” of the nation.
(19:53) Mrs. Thompson: Yeah, that’s why we’re full of monkeys here.
(19:55) Mrs. Kirscher: I don't know, Denice, I don't know. But I know you feel the same way.
(20:00) Mrs. Thompson: Yep. Yeah, I feel very blessed to live here. And I think you mentioned your favorite part of the ranch. You liked the baking and the gardening. But you didn't like the hauling the water.
(20:12) Mrs.Kirscher: No, no I didn't. I liked comforts. But I like the home making too. I like painting the house. I liked building the home. I liked raising the children. I didn't like chickens. I didn't particularly like the pigs. But I did like the cattle.
(20: 40) Mrs. Thompson: Now, when you were a child in Judith Gap, was there like any memory that stands out to you as a child?
(20:49) Mrs. Kirscher: I have lots and lots of memories. You know, I can remember playing football and baseball. I remember my tenth birthday when my sister threw a rock at me and knocked the back of my teeth. I wasn't letting her play the games with us. I was a tom boy, raised as a tom boy. And I remember the boys made me fight the new kids that came to town. If they couldn't beat the girl, then they certainly weren't going to get in fights with the boys. I remember coming home from school and there was one boy a year younger than me, but a whole lot bigger, and he would start beating the tar out of me, and I would get the best of him. Then his cousin would weigh-in on him. Then my mother took them to task, and she said “Just let the kids alone.” Well, Mike never bothered me anymore after that, cause I beat the tar out of him. Growing up in a town full of boys, no girls my age until I got into high school, it was very different.
(22:15) Mrs. Thomson: Did you go to school in Lewistown? In Judith Gap… Wow. Okay, and that building is still there, isn't it? It's the taller building.
(22:22) Mrs. Kirscher: It was a grade school and high school all in the same building. We did have a gymnasium, and it's still there, but they added on a building since I was there, and the church right across the street. And the interesting thing was my grandmother was Catholic, and my grandpa was a Mason. He told her the first four boys, they would be his to raise. The rest were hers. Well, he died. Well, my youngest uncle was there. But he was the only one who didn't go to school there. He started there, then they moved to Missoula. But the rest of them all graduated from there. All of them, except him, came back to graduate from there. My mother actually met my dad there. She came to teach. Charlie Beers and his partner actually started Judith Gap. They started Garner first, but the train was going to go through “the gap.” And that's why they started the town. It was pretty much a bustling community once. It’s a good place to be from.
24:02 Mrs. Thompson: All right, so maybe the other thing is to make sure we have a spelling of your four children’s names correctly. Umm, So you had Keith as the oldest...
24:16 Mrs. Kirscher: No Marie.
24:19 Mrs. Thompson: M-a-r.
24:19 Mrs. Kirscher: I-e .
24:20 Mrs. Thompson: Kay and then Kirscher is K-i-r-s-c-h-e-r.
24:26 Mrs. Kirscher: Right
24:27 Mrs. Thompson: Romo r-o-m-o then you have Keith
24:32 Mrs. Kirscher: No Jane, Jane was next.
24:33 Mrs. Thompson: Okay, sorry.
24:34 Mrs. Kirscher: It doesn't matter.
24:34 Mrs. Thompson: Jane Tersher.
24:41 Mrs. .Kirscher: keltener .
24:43 Mrs. Thompson: Jane Kirscher.
(24:40)Mrs. Kirscher: Keltner
(24:41)Mrs. Thompson: And how do you spell that?
(24:42)Mrs. Kirscher: K-e-l-t-n-e-r
(24:45) Mrs. Thompson: Kay
24:46 Mrs. Kirscher: And then Keith
24:47 Mrs. Thompson: (Writing) Kay (Writing) and then?
24:53 Mrs. Kirscher: And then Vivianne V-I-V-I-A-N-N-E
24:60 Mrs. Thompson: (Writing) and Anderson is A-
25:04 Mrs. Kirscher: Anderson S-O-N
25:07 Mrs. Thompson: A-N-D-E-R-S-O-N
25:08 Mrs. Kirscher: Right
25:08 Mrs. Thompson: Okay and I know that Vivianne has two children; Rosanna and Cole.
25:15 Mrs. .Kirscher: Cole uh-huh
25:15 Mrs. Thompson: Keith had three children; Amy, Shannon, and Joe. And Jane…
25:24 Mrs. Kirscher: Has one child Marty M-A-R-T-Y
25:26 Mrs. Thompson: M-A-R
25:30 Mrs. Kirscher: T-Y
25:31 Mrs. Thompson: Oh, Marty is that a girl or boy?
25:31 Mrs. Kirscher: That’s a girl.
25:31 Mrs. Thompson: A girl and Marie had two…
25:36 Mrs. Kirscher: Yes.
(25:58)Mrs. Kirscher: And my Joe Kirscher was married on his grandfather’s, Joe Kirscher eightieth birthday, and so this Joe Kirscher is also named for him and so was my husband and there is another Joe Kirscher Cousin.
(26:12)Mrs. Thompson: Wow
(26:14)Mrs. Kirscher: My sister in law said, “Oh, you’ll be so pleased to know that there will be a baby, and they’re going to name him Joe,” and Keith's face fell and he said, “but we wanted to name our son Joe.” I said, “That's okay, doesn't matter. They’re only like three months apart. These two Joe's; they'll probably never come together except family reunions, and they probably won’t (laughter) because the other Joe is going to be a doctor.”
(26:55)Mrs. Thompson: Well anything else…any other stories? I think you were going to say something about…um
(26:59)Mrs. Kirscher: I think probably the Canton
(27:02)Mrs. Thompson: The Canton Valley, yes
(27:03)Mrs. Kirscher: Was so important in the Kirscher's growing up because they live down there on Canton Lane, as we called it “The Old Canton” and that was Moses Doggett’s land, but that was at five hundred Acres that Joe Kirscher farmed. When we first came back, that was still in the family and we did farm land down there and then of course the Houses from there were moved up to the Beiber place, which was also Kirscher homestead land cause that was pretty interesting. But that house came up from that lane and went on that land and then burned, and they brought two; one of the......Kotter house and Kirscher house to the Beibers for them to live in because they have 13 kids and then of course the Canton Church was important because Joseph Kirscher helped build that Church and my grandson, Joe Kirscher, he and another girl were the last ones baptized in that Church up there.
28:28 Mrs. Thompson: Neat
28:29 Mrs. Kirscher: So that was part of the history of the valley, not so much of my history.
28:36 Mrs. Thompson: So what do you remember about the town of Canton?
28:43 Mrs. Kirscher: Not much because it was… we came here in… well, not till 48 really and then that was the presence of them purchasing all that land and moving the buildings out, and so actually people were still living on the Canton lane and the Kirschers of course were still living along there too and so I was here when the Dam was built and all that land was removed and they are not the happiest memories; we had made a big change for most from that land that was all sub irrigated to go up to the dry land and put it under irrigation.
29:38 Mrs. Thompson: And does all that flood irrigating.
29:39 Mrs. Kirscher: Yep, Yep,Yep
29:39 Mrs. Thompson: A lot of work.
29:42 Mrs. Kirscher: It was a lot of work.
29:43 Mrs. Thompson: So when you look back on Canyon Ferry Lake before and after, do think it was a good move or a bad move?
29:55 Mrs. Kirscher: My father in law always said if they had just put the dam down the river another five or six miles they could have had just enough storage and would have saved all that wonderful sub-irrigated land along the river...instead of taking it out... of production and irrigating because they had to...for acres they had to put irrigation land out in the Toston flats where.......where it was during the dustbowl...and the early years we were here, the dust blew so bad there that you couldn't go from Townsend to ...............
(30:38)-Mrs. Thompson- Three Forks
(30:38) Mrs. Kiersher- Three Forks without changing your air filter.
30:42 Mrs. Kirscher- It was that one summer was so bad... the dust was just thick ya know and that wasn't even the dirty thirtys, so that was in the late 40s, early 50s.
30:54 Mrs. Thompson- WOW
30:57 Mrs. Kirscher- So, it was nasty, but you wouldn't know that anymore now because all that land has been put under irrigation.
31:03 Mrs. Thompson- Right
31:03 Mrs. Kirscher- But it was a waste because that is all marginal land up there, where we have all this down here.
31:11 Mrs. Thompson- That was good land.
31:12 Mrs. Kirscher- Good, fertile land and it was political; it was more for....Montana power.....was the biggest political thing, but they wanted that water to irrigate the Helena Valley too. They said it was for flood control, but we could of had much more efficient....flood control had they used for storage and recreation est. involved there is no doubt about it...
31:51 Mrs. Thompson- Hmm
31:51 Mrs. Kirscher- but we were worried at one time that they would…this was called the low dam and the high dam would have flooded out Townsend and we did prevent that.
32:04 Mrs. Thompson- Good...I have never heard about that.
32:07 Mrs. Kirscher- Yeah, yeah, that was the original plan; it would have taken out the whole town of Townsend......so that didn't quite happen.
32:19 Mrs. Thompson- And you often talked about 4-H; now was it your mother-in-law you said that started it?
32:25 Mrs. Kirscher- Yes, yes, she was in the beginning Edna Bow Kirscher.
(32:28) Mrs. Kirscher- She was a home economist. She graduated in home economics. She taught in Bozeman for one year before she came here, and then she started the home demonstration program here in Broadwater county and she worked with the extension service to get 4-H started here.
(32:51) Mrs. Thompson-That's great, and 4-H was a pretty big part of your family life with your children.
(32:56)Mrs. Kirscher- Yes, yes…well, even my mother was a 4-H leader in Judith Gap so I was involved in 4-H.......and in the state fairs.
(33:06)Mrs. Thompson- What were your project areas that you focused on?
(33:09)Mrs. Kirscher- Well, when I began, it was sewing and cooking.....was what women did and even when I came here and was a 4-H leader when I was () and that was one thing that Joe didn't want me to do, but the pressure was on ..... because there weren't very many of us that could do that; to be a 4-H leader even before I had children and those days it was mostly cooking and sewing and like.
(33:36)Mrs. Kirscher- The livestock projects and all these other married projects came later.
(33:45)Mrs. Thompson- Good, well… anything else you would like to add?
(33:47)Mrs. Kirscher- I don't know, you know, when you lived 87 years, there is just a lot of stories that keep running through your mind.
(33:59)Mrs. Thompson- YEP! Yeah, well have your… we will have to have your family get you a recorder and every time you think of something turn it on and record it.
(34:10)Mrs. Kirscher- and that is what I am telling other people, you know, get that recorded, get that recorded before she is dead.
(34:17)Mrs. Thompson- Yeah, lots of great stories, lots of words of wisdom that even though you think people don't listen they really do, Barbara, they really do listen and try to learn from your example.
(34:28)Mrs. Kirscher- Well, we don't learn much from our mistakes. It seems like every generation has to learn the same thing, look back in history and that's the way it is; we don't learn much…
(34:44)Mrs. Thompson- Well, thank you so much for the time!
(34:47)Mrs. Kirscher- You’re welcome! My goodness….