In November of 1916, Edward Axel Beck filed on a 160-acre homestead claim in Montana’s Swan Valley.

Before receiving a patent for the land under the Forest Homestead Act of 1906, the Becks had to 'prove up' the land. This consisted of clearing and planting 20 acres for agricultural purposes within the initial five-year period.

Both Edward Axel and his wife Hilda were originally from Finland. Their son George Edward (Ed) and Earl were born in Bonner, Montana in 1907 and 1909 respectively.

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The Beck family remained connected with the land and utilized the various components of the land to make a living. Trapping, working seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service, raising cattle, and selling cream were income ventures through the years. Hunting, fishing, gardening, berry picking, and firewood cutting provided needed food and fuel. Ed resorted to cutting and selling a large ponderosa pine tree to pay for his son George's medical bill when he was born in 1949.

In 1934, Edward Axel and his son Ed built the large well-crafted 40' x 40' dairy barn. It served as a shelter for livestock and hay storage for over 50 years.

In 1990, Tom Parker bought the south half of the Beck homestead that included the homestead buildings. In 1997, he and his wife Melanie established Northwest Connections, a non-profit business that was housed on the homestead. The barn was renovated and converted to the present day Swan Valley Connections campus/dormitory facility.

After initially meeting the government requirements to clear the land, the Beck family let nature reclaim some of the rolling uplands that today harbors a stand of lodgepole pine, larch, Douglas fir, and spruce trees. Wildlife continue to use this piece of land both as a home range, and as seasonal and linkage habitat. The high conservation values of this land will be protected in perpetuity by conservation easements held by the U.S. Forest Service on the north half and Montana Land Reliance on the south half.

The land upon where the Swan Valley Connections facility sits has seen a variety of changes and activities throughout the past hundred years. Native Americans traveled through this place before and during the homestead period. From a forest that was shaped by earlier forest fires to land that was cleared and planted by the Beck family, to a place through time that continues to connect with the surrounding land, wildlife, and people, the Beck homestead has had a rich cultural and natural history.


IMAGES: Upper Swan Valley Historical Society