Moonshine and Moose

Imagine: The year is 1922 and you’re a locomotive engineer on the Great Northern Railroad with a hankering for moonshine. (Just go with it.) Your train is headed through the newly minted Glacier National Park, along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. You pull up to a rickety platform, stop the train and blow the whistle four times. From thick timber on the other side of the river emerges a weathered old woman. She clambers into a tiny rowboat and paddles across the raging river with four quarts of hooch. Josephine Doody—bootlegger—at your service.

History of the Homestead

“Colorful” is one way to describe the history of the Doody Homestead, which was until recently one of the two largest privately held properties, or inholdings, within Glacier National Park. Settled by prospector Dan Doody long before the park was established, the property has become a signature piece of Glacier folklore. The ecologically diverse 120-acre parcel was home to Dan’s hunting lodge, but was made famous for his fugitive wife Josephine’s moonshine racket.

Dan Doody loved Josephine ever since he first saw her working as a dancehall girl—never mind that she was also addicted to opium and wanted for killing a man in Colorado. Seeing his tucked-away Montana retreat as a solution to both his and her problems, Dan tied Josephine to the back of a mule one night and stole away with her to his rustic settlement along the Flathead River. Soon after the kidnapping, the land surrounding the Doody Homestead was declared a national park and Dan was appointed one of the first Glacier park rangers.

Though Dan would eventually lose his ranger post for excessive poaching, the Doodys were liked and respected by fellow rangers and the men who worked the railroad. This camaraderie enabled him to successfully hide his wife (and her moonshine stills) from Colorado lawmen and tax collectors until their dying days.

Habitat for Wildlife; Playground for People

Today, Flathead river rafters float right by the Doody Homestead, where remnants of Dan and Josephine’s two-story hunting lodge still stand. The decrepit building is, and will always be, the only one visitors will see: after two centuries of private ownership, the homestead finally enjoys public and protected status as an official part of Glacier National Park.

The acquisition of the Doody Homestead was made possible by The Trust for Public Land’s Northern Rockies office, its partners, the National Park Trust, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It’s a victory for the rich history of the area, but also for you and me: the land sits on a wildlife and public recreation corridor along the Flathead, considered one of the purest and cleanest rivers in the world. Mountain lion, grizzly and black bear, moose, bald eagle, and many species of fish live on and travel through the property, helping to maintain the delicate balance of one the most pristine watershed ecosystems—and natural playgrounds—in the world.

“This win-win deal protects the Middle Fork of the Flathead river for people to enjoy, while also protecting the colorful history of the park,” says Alex Diekmann, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land.

Protecting America’s Investment

In a perfect world, our national parks would be 100 percent public and protected from development. But three percent of them are not; within our national parks lie an estimated 2.7 million vulnerable acres of inholdings, public property consisting of historic mining claims, ranches, homesteads, and settlements that predated the parks. The problem isn’t just about preserving the view, either—this land could be developed into mega resorts or vacation homes at any time, and adjacent development is listed by National Geographic as one of the top threats to water quality, clean air, and other vital aspects of park environments.

“From a natural resource perspective, this is as pristine as it gets,” says Deb Love of The Trust for Public Land. “By acquiring inholdings such as this, we are protecting the investment of the American taxpayer in the history, wildlife, and landscapes of their national parks.”