BOB SOUTHLAND, ARTIST
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SHERIDAN COUNTY
A MONTANA CENTENNIAL PROJECT
click an image to enlarge
THE MURAL PORTRAYS THE EVOLUTION OF LIFE IN SHERIDAN COUNTY
- The early Indians on foot with dog travois.
- The Indian on horseback moving camp.
- The buffalo hunted for food and hides.
- The trapper in mid-l9th century harvesting beaver and other furs.
- Sitting Bull meeting with the military near the present site of Plentywood. He later
surrendered at Fort Buford; it was the beginning of the end of the plains
Indians way of life.
- Abundant grass and water made the area ideal for the livestock industry.
- The coming of the railroad to the county in 1910 encouraged the homesteader to make this his home.
- The land was meant for agriculture and new machinery was continuously being invented.
- Crops varied with weather conditions; however, harvest time was always exciting in
spite of long hours and hard work. Hopes for the good life brought new settlers,
and towns grew along the railroad.
- Roads were built where prairie trails once were; schools became a necessity, and in
the second decade of the century the automobile started to replace the horse and
- The stock market crash was devastating to the whole nation; however, the year 1929 ushered
into Sheridan County a long dry spell which later became known as the Dirty
Thirties. Soil erosion from wind and drought started an exodus from the
farms, which continues even today.
- The 1932 election produced a new administration,
which introduced various programs to give people a subsistence income. In spite
of federal subsidies, the economy remained sluggish. One man said in 1937 It
is more difficult to make 25 cents today than it was to earn $25 in 1928.
- The PRODUCERS NEWS championed the cause of the hard-pressed and persuaded many that it was
time for a more socialistic economic order. The editors views were too
radical for the majority; in 1937 the PRODUCERS NEWS printed its last
- The year 1938 brought an end to the drought and gradually the county started to recuperate from the depression.
- The decade of the 30's left an indelible imprint on the county; the need for soil
conservation became evident resulting in strip farming and contouring; the
Medicine Lake Refuge came into existence; the main core of the Courthouse was
built; Carrol Dam (which washed out in 1946) came into being; federal subsidies
increased the domination by Washington of our agriculture.
- The Medicine Lake Wildlife Refuge symbolizes the interest in our wildlife - ducks, geese, deer, antelope, pheasants and various
predators. The county has become noted for its display of exotics: yak, lions, buffalo, elk, ostriches, llamas and others.
- The last section of the mural illustrates the present. Agriculture is still the basic
industry; oil, although receding in production, is an important factor.
- Symbolic of our part of a unified nation, a jet flies high overhead while below a small
plane surveys the surroundings; and one muses what the future will bring as we
approach the 21st Century.
Bob Southland, the artist a native of northeastern
Montana, began work on the mural, in May of 1989 and finished in August. The
mural (measuring 74" by 4") is painted in oils on one piece of stretched
canvas; it is purported to be the longest interior painting in Montana.
Southland did his work in the north room of the Civic
Center. Fifteen men moved the finished canvas and lifted it to its present
The idea of depicting the story of Sheridan County has its roots with those who began recording our history. More precisely the
building of the museum deserves credit, publication of DAYBREAK I & II, the
formation of the Historical Association and the encouragement of many. It can be
truly said it is a contribution from the whole county, since so many purchased
the books, and many dedicated individuals helped with the stories.
At the August 1989 dedication the mural was presented
to the Board of County Commissioners as guardians for all of Sheridan County.