Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beans and sheepherders' hors d'oeuvres ...

Here's a shot I took of the interior of the Jersey Lilly Saloon in Ingomar, which tragically closed last winter ... a classic Montana bar in every sense of the word. Pressed-metal ceiling, lots of animal heads, ancient backbar, cowboy hats.

It was a great place to stop for a meal, too. For years, the Jersey was famous for its beans, which were brought to your table (or barstool) in ancient enamelware pans. And you could also get something called "sheepherders' hors d'oeuvres" -- do-it-yourself appetizers that consisted of slices of processed cheese, onion, and orange, all resting atop a Saltine cracker. Both menu items were the creations of Bill Seward, the ex-boxer who owned the bar for decades and was one of the great characters of eastern Montana.

I'm really going to miss this place ... and Rosebud County just won't be the same without it.


  1. If you ever have occasion to be over this way, I'll be pleased to buy you a libation at the King's Inn; their back bar could be a near-twin to this...and has a lovely/lurid history perhaps similar to the JL. If you're up for lunch the Snake Pit is just up the road...sometimes I go there for a Rocky Mt. Oyster fix.

    It's really hard to give up old stompin' grounds.

  2. We have a deal! I confess, though, that I'm not sure where you are ... north Idaho, right?

    And as for stomping grounds, they come and go ... which is really as it should be. But I'm still a sentimental fool when it comes to stuff like that.

  3. See, now you're breaking my heart. As big as Montana is, I still managed to see most of it in the 17 years I was there. When I moved to Baltimore (for family reasons) 3 years ago, I resolved that whatever little remained in Montana yet undiscovered by me would still be there when I got back. Alas, I'll never get to eat beans or sheepherders' hors d'oeuvres at the Jersey Lilly. Thanks for documenting this place. A real piece of the real Montana.

  4. Looking out my window in the Silver Valley I can see the I-90 Corridor traffic clearly as it rolls by. Closer to Spokane than Missoula, but not by much, so I never go west unless I have to.

  5. Angharod, I know that part of the world a bit ... did a small research project on the area's mining heritage a number of years ago. And one of my college roommates was from the Kellogg area (Elk Creek, I think ... does that sound right?).

    And thanks, Ceilon. You know, no matter how much time you spend exploring a place, you'll never see it all ... which is actually a very good thing. And as the old places fade away, others will come along to take their place. Hopefully a few of the new ones will turn out to be almost as interesting as the places that are gone ...

  6. Mark - good news (sort of) -- supposedly, I heard today, there is "a guy" who is "trying to open" the Lilly. I don't know if he wants to buy, rent, lease or whatever, but apparently negotiations are underway. I'll let you know when and if. - Mike B.

  7. Mike, that's potentially great news ... definitely keep me posted. If it happens I'll be in the car ASAP to drive out and buy a big pan of beans! :-p

    Of course, the Lilly isn't the only thing to worry about out there ... the guy who owns it also has the old school and the train station. It would be pretty sad to lose ANY of that stuff.

    Thanks, Mike ... take care.

  8. Mark, we were talking to a guy from Elk Creek just this afternoon...he was moaning that his old school was torn down for new construction, well over a year ago. That lovely old building was the nicest thing there, despite the new buildings that filled the footprint, and more...
    You mightn't recognize the Valley now, but there's a lot of history still hanging on.

  9. Made me sad to hear that the old Elk Creek school is gone ... places like that always have more than their share of memories, and it's really distressing when they're destroyed. I haven't been out that way in a while, but I remember it sitting there, just north of the freeway.

  10. Hey there, I came across this post from a Google search on the Elk Creek School. I've visited the school twice a few years ago before it was torn down. Sort of a treasure find for me, as an admirer of old buildings, we don't have many in Northern Idaho (at least that I am aware of). I don't know anything about the history of the school, but my dad and I snooped around inside and took some pictures. There was a room on the top floor with trash littered all over the floor, and a few abandoned pianos. I have a few of my better shots from that exploration on my flickr page, here's a few:

    (forgive the quality, my scanner is not the best)

    If you or anyone else has any information about the school's history (specifically the reason it was abandoned?), please send me an e-mail at

    I was upset when I found out they tore down the school. It seems like every time I get really excited about abandoned places, they are torn down.

    Hope you enjoy seeing what little physical memorabilia I have of the place.

    (sorry if this double posted, I wasn't sure if it posted the first time)

  11. Hi, Kay ...

    Many thanks for your note, and for sharing the photos!The shot of the old piano is especially poignant, I think.

    I dearly love exploring old buildings, too ... and I know what you mean about the way they disappear as soon as we "discover" them. The world keeps moving forward, forgetting the past, whether we want it to or not.

    Take care, and again ... many thanks for the note!