There is a stone house that stands by itself in a cow pasture along highway 12/287 near Winston Montana that has intrigued many. In a time period when life in the west was a remote adventure and homestead structures were thrown together with logs, and don’t last long, the stone house stands just as straight and tall as it did when it was new. The walls are built with much care and time and the woodwork around every window and door attest to great craftsmanship.
It leaves one with a desire to know more about it and why the owner had built a house of such great prestige in a place that was twenty miles away from anything accept for a couple of ranches and a few mines. The stonework and wood carvings of the construction is akin to the construction of some of the splendid mansions in Helena, some twenty miles to the east. Clearly the same type of craftsman built this home.
The story of just how this home was built is buried in the past, but we do know some about the man who had it built. His name was Warren Dodge and he came to the Winston, MT area sometime around 1885 or 86. He purchased the land that the stone house now sits on in 1892 for about $380. It was 155 acres of land that sat along the Railroad.
The actual stone house was built sometime around 1894, although it is listed as being made of logs, which it clearly is not.
Warren was a businessman who listed himself as being a merchant in the census of 1900. He staked many mining claims in the hills above his homestead in anticipation for the mines that moved into those areas. Warren was evidently also involved in politics in Helena, MT to some degree as he is mentioned by a newspaper in Anaconda as being a delegate to be sent to St Louis for some reason that it does not divulge.
Just looking at the once beautiful staircase, curved wall and the carved wood trim, one would get the idea that the owner was very wealthy. Yet that was most likely not the case. Warren must have been somewhat well off, but he still reported that he had a mortgage on the house in 1900. That may not be really surprising as the house was very expensive to build and was constructed for a total of $3500. As far as the cost of labor goes, that would be the equivalent of $448,000 to $647,000 today.
One thing is certain when you look at the home. Whoever lived there had dreams of fortunes being made and putting down permanent roots. Gold strikes have a way of drawing, not only the mining companies and the miners or laborers, but also those who have the entrepreneur spirit.
The mines and it’s miners need goods, the mining companies need land to mine and someone will always be there to provide what they need for remote life in the west. Warren Dodge was obviously one of those men. Not a miner himself, he was a man who made his living from investing in land to sell or lease to the mines and as a merchant, sold goods of other kinds to the mines as well.
No matter how lofty his dreams were, for some reason the finest house for miles around went from being, to be sure, the envy of all the neighbors to a place where the calves go to get out of the rain.
Life in the west can fall so quickly from glory and promise to something that doesn’t resemble its former greatness in any way. Thankfully, places like this stone house live on and stand firm, as if to say, “Hey! Look what happened here one hundred years ago. Take a look and I will tell you about it.” The stone house of Winston, Montana, is no exception. Being built of stone makes it a solid stone that was meant to last the test of time…and although just a shell now, it probably will.