320 Guest Ranch history affords an intriguing window into the early days of Western tourism and Big Sky back in the day. Our historical guest ranch journey began in 1898, when Sam Wilson homesteaded 160 acres along the Gallatin River. In 1900, Sam´s father, Clinton, claimed an adjoining 160 acres and they combined their two properties, naming the stunning parcel the “Buffalo Horn Resort.”

On January 16, 1936, Dr. Caroline McGill, a woman far ahead of her time, purchased the ranch from the Wilson family. In addition to being Montana’s first woman doctor and first pathologist, Dr. McGill was an avid hunter and fisher. She believed that time spent outdoors was physically and mentally beneficial and bought the ranch as a retreat for her patients and friends.

Soon after, the ranch’s popularity began to grow. In the summer of 1938, Dr. McGill trucked in a Cadillac engine to generate power, bringing the ranch electricity 10 years before power lines showed up in the Gallatin Canyon.

Black and white photo of family dining.

In 1955, Dr. Caroline McGill was awarded an honorary degree from Montana State University for her outstanding service to Montana in medicine and her dedication to Montana’s natural resources. That year, she retired from medicine and settled here at 320 Guest Ranch permanently, living in a cabin that the crew finished for her on Christmas — now known as the “Christmas Cabin.”

Over the years, Dr. McGill acquired an extensive collection of antiques from around Montana, filling buildings at Montana State University with items of historical interest. In August of 1956, she turned the collection into a small museum housed in an old dairy located on campus. In January 1967, the now-famous Museum of the Rockies opened to the public, featuring Dr. McGill’s artifacts—although for many years, Bozeman residents referred to it as “The McGill Museum.” In 1998, the Museum of the Rockies opened an exhibit dedicated solely to Dr. McGill’s life. Also, part of her collection at the 320 Guest Ranch was donated to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bovey to help in their restoration of Virginia City and Nevada City (two historic Montana mining towns now preserved as popular tourist attractions).

Bride and Groom in a horse-driven carriage. Text: Jim and Pat Goodrich. All Hitched and ready. Fall '53.

On January 4, 1959, at the age of 79, Caroline McGill passed away in her Christmas Cabin. In her will, she gave her good friends, the Goodrich family, the option to purchase the ranch, which they did, and continued to manage it until 1987 when the ranch was sold to Dave Brask, the current owner.

Since then, the 320 Guest Ranch has grown from a capacity of 20 guests to well over 200. Dr. McGill’s original ranch house was moved to a more secluded setting near Buffalo Horn Creek, ranch staff occupy the Christmas Cabin, and the original Wilson homestead cabin is now the saloon at McGill’s Restaurant. Very few of the original accommodations could be saved, but even the new cabins capture the feel of those old buildings, from the days when Dr. McGill spent the day on the trail with her guests. Of course, at our historical guest ranch, the mountains and the big skies haven’t changed a bit.