The History of Egan Ranch

   In 1867, Kieran Egan had married Margaret Claffey in Ferbane, Ireland; they had seven children; born in 1869, James Egan was the oldest. He came to America in 1888, landing in New York. In 1895, James Egan married Delia Hatch, who had migrated to America from England but whose parents were Irish. James and Delia Egan had seven children, including Joe who was born in New York City in 1905. In 1909, James—a blacksmith and a carriage builder—died at 40 years old, leaving Delia with a houseful of children to raise alone in New York City.

   Delia’s sister Margaret Gilpatrick lived in Miles City, Montana Territory, sent word that the West was a wonderful place and that the land was free. Delia loaded her children on the Northern Pacific Railroad and came to Miles City with hope of a new life. She most certainly had a new life, but she struggled nonetheless to care for the children, working as a cook around the coal mines and as a housekeeper at the Spear O Ranch in the Sheridan, Wyoming, area (see Spear O Ranch—1896). The children lived part time with the nuns at Great Falls and Miles City. 

   About 1917, Delia Egan, a tough soul, mustered a homestead three miles east of Colstrip on the head of Cow Creek. The family lived in a tent until neighbors came and built a log cabin. From there, her 12-year-old son Joe walked down the creek to the Philbrick Ranch (see Garfield’s Diamond Ranch—1887) where he tended the horses while the working men ate lunch and other chores.

   Second generation Joe Egan worked the homestead ranch and made a living as a cowboy. In 1929, second generation Joe Egan married second generation Minnie Rose Bailey, the second daughter and fourth child of Henry and Alice Bailey. Joe and Minnie worked with Henry and the rest of the family building their own ranch while helping Henry and Alice on the home ranch. Joe had a Cat and scraper that he earned money with to make more land acquisitions.

   Joe and Minnie had three children: Larry in 1933, Bailey in 1942, and Kathy in 1949. In 1959, when the Montana Stockgrowers Association celebrated its 75th birthday in Miles City, Bailey and four friends, all Colstrip High School juniors and seniors, rode horseback to Miles City to take in the festivities. “We gathered at the Woods Ranch on the Lame Deer divide. We were a pretty wild bunch. It was a two-day ride, and we stayed in the basement of the Moon Creek school house the first night. We made the Miles City Star; I think we were the group that traveled the farthest horseback. We all agreed to regroup in 25 years at the 100th and do it again. I called all of them in 1974, but the enthusiasm had waned!”

   Minnie’s father Henry Bailey kept a small acreage and his home buildings until he died in 1961 at which time Minnie’s heirs bought out Margaret’s and Jim’s heirs. 

   In 1963, third generation Bailey Egan married Esther Colgan and moved into the home Henry Bailey built for his family in 1918. Bailey and Esther had three children: Scott in 1964, Joseph in 1966, and Lisa in 1970.

   Joe Egan died on 30 Oct. 1970 at the age of 64 just short of his 65th birthday; Minnie Bailey Egan died September 13, 1996, at the age of 84.

   Today, both of Bailey and Esther’s sons, fourth generation Scott and Joe Egan, are on the ranch operating it, and their children will be the fifth generation that we hope someday will continue the tradition.