From a Military Post Grew Agriculture Research
Fort Assinniboine was built in 1879 in reaction partly to General Custer's defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The War Department closed Fort Assinniboine in 1911 and Congress gave the buildings and one section of land to the State of Montana. The State bought an additional 2,000 acres at $2.50 per acre.
Thirty thousand acres were set aside for the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation and several thousand more were opened to homesteading. The State of Montana tried to convert the buildings at Fort Assinniboine into a college, but there was never enough funding available. In 1914, the North Montana Branch Experiment Station was establish on Fort Assinniboine to conduct agricultural research.
George A. Morgan became the first station agronomist in 1915. Few dryland crops had been grown in the area and none on station land. A steam outfit and horse drawn tillage implements were used to break ground. Station personnel used a binder and a stationary thresher powered by an 8-horse engine for harvesting. Morgan experimented with 2-, 3-, and 4-year rotations of winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, barley, flax and corn. His most significant contributions included the idea that tools for proper summer fallow were very important, that time of fall seeding was significant and that trees would provide protect as well as beauty for the landscape. In 1922, he was offered the position of the North Montana Branch Station's first superintendent for an annual wage of $3,000. Morgan remained at the station for 20 years.
The Station's second superintendent, M.A. Bell, is remembered for his 1931 report on drought conditions. Using years of research on tree-ring and weather records, he concluded that there had been previous periods of drought as extensive as those during 1915-30, and that dryland farming in the Havre area would tend to follow the variations of an erratic climate regardless of type of farm enterprise or cultural practices. His findings proved true when examining crop yields in the dry 1940's and 60's.
Fred Willson served as superintendent from1940-43. His greatest contribution was in reseeding rangeland with crested wheat grass in drought years and using it as early spring pasture for cows and young calves. Willson was succeed by John Sturm. Sturm conducted a daily radio broadcast disseminating research to producers. He was instrumental in showing the benefits of using stubble mulch. During this time, strip farming was accepted. The two methods together have increased the success of dryland farming. One of the greatest discoveries is chemical control of weeds in grain crops.
Joe Urick served as superintendent in an interim position until Claude Windecker was appointed superintendent in 1960. Donald Anderson served as Superintendent from 1975 until 2002 and Gregg Carlson from 2002 to 2010. Current Superintendent is Darrin Boss, 2011 to present.