By the time 1893 came around Leonard had a team, harness, wagon and a saddle horse but he still owed $161.50 on the team. He heard that there was a job available at the Watson ranch so, on the third of January, he went down there to find out about it. He went to work the next day and, on the seventh, began herding sheep for Alexander Watson. Mr. Girwell came to see him on the fifteenth of March and rented his ranch from him. In April, Peter Lind, the former herder, came back and took over the herding so Leonard could take three weeks off. During that time he went twice to see Frank on Thompson Gulch where he was also herding sheep. After a couple of trips to town and some visiting with friends and neighbors, he went back to Watson’s and finished out the year there.
This was typical of the way his life went until 1896. Working for others for the income kept him busy most of the time but the homestead needed a lot of work too. Fences, ditches and fields all needed maintenance and improving. When he had spare time he visited with friends and neighbors and kept up on his correspondence with family back in Quebec and Vermont. And, especially, he dept in touch with Phoebe.
By 1896 he felt that he had his homestead ready and that the time had come to make it a home – a home for a family. So, now was the time to suggest to Phoebe that she come to Montana. This was exactly what Phoebe had been waiting for and, late in May, she and her mother were on the train to Montana. It was not Phoebe’s idea for her mother to come along. In fact, Phoebe expressed the opinion in later years that her brother may not have died if their mother had stayed in Quebec and cared for him. He died of pneumonia about a month after Phoebe and he mother came to Montana. But Margaret Blackall was not about to let her only daughter go out into that uncivilized and lawless land all alone.
And so it was that Phoebe Blackall was in Townsend, Montana on the 30th of May to marry Leonard Fuller. He had gone there by team and wagon and the three of them made the forty or more miles back to the homestead by the same means.
The homestead cabin now became a home. Surely, modern day couples and even couples of those days, would be somewhat less than thrilled with the prospects of spending a honeymoon in a two-room cabin with a mother-in-law but this couple worked it out somehow.
With phoebe’s help now, Leonard continued building up his ranch while, at the same time, doing whatever he could to bring in a little extra money. For a time he drove the stage between White Sulphur Springs and Diamond City. On this job, he drove a four-horse team in all kinds of weather, including one trip when the thermometer hung at -60 degrees F. One stage stop at that time was near the east end of Smith River Canyon at what is presently the home of Donald (Bud) Buckingham. At that rime, it was the Laney Stage Stop. Another stop was at Fort Logan and it was there that he changed horses.
On the ranch he built a nice shed to shelter the livestock. To do this he cut trees and hauled them from the distant forests to use as posts around the perimeter and for poles across the roof. Over the poles he laid willow sticks that he had cut from along the creek. On top of the willows went a thick layer of straw. He had to buy boards for the walls but then he had a good year-round shelter that, with a little maintenance now and then, protected his livestock from the sun, wind, snow and insects for many years. It even survived several lightning strikes. After Leonard’s death in 1926 the shed began a gradual deterioration and, fifty years later, not a post or willow stick remained to show that it had ever been there.
This couple’s first child was born the twelfth day of October in 1898. She was named Ida Margaret in honor of Leonard’s sister and Phoebe’s mother. All four of the children were born at the ranch house. The next child was named Frank Leonard, using Leonard’s nickname for his brother, Lemuel, and honoring Leonard. Frank was born the 19th of February in 1901. In 1903 on the 22nd of April, their second girl came and they named her Elizabeth Esther in honor of Lemuel’s wife and Leonard’s mother. The fourth child was born on the tenth of January in 1905 and, though he was always called Ned, was named Edward Alden to honor Phoebe’s father and Leonard’s younger brother. While he was a child his mother also called him Toad. These children all grew up on the ranch and took their turns at helping with the chores and labors that were all part of homestead life.
Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS by J. L. Fuller