For sale: Historic Montana town where Custer fell

Sun Aug 5, 2012 11:54am EDT
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By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A tiny Montana town near the banks of the Little Bighorn River where U.S. Army commander George Armstrong Custer made his last stand in 1876 against Sioux and Cheyenne warriors is to be sold at an auction this month.

Garryowen, a 7.7-acre (3.1-hectare) town of just two residents in the Little Bighorn Battlefield in southeastern Montana, was purchased by Chris Kortlander in 1993 after a wildfire destroyed his home in Malibu, California.

"The only thing I had were the clothes on my back," he said.

Concerns about his health are now prompting the 54-year-old dealer in historical artifacts to auction the gas station and convenience store that anchor the economy of Garryowen, as well as a manuscript collection representing the papers of Custer's wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

The auction of Garryowen marks the most prominent recent sale of tiny historic Western towns that have included the auction in April of Buford, Wyoming, population one, which was bought for $900,000 to international fanfare.

Garryowen is the site of one of the few U.S. monuments outside Arlington National Cemetery that is dedicated to an unknown soldier. It sits on Interstate 90 midway between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Custer had been a successful Union Army commander in the Civil War before he was dispatched to post-war campaigns, triggered by Western expansion and driven by the U.S. government, aimed at forcing Plains Indians onto reservations.

On June 25, 1876, the 36-year-old Custer and more than 200 7th U.S. Cavalry soldiers were killed by Sioux warriors including Crazy Horse and Cheyenne forces in the territory of Montana in a battle that has gone down in history.   Continued...