The N Bar Ranch traces it roots to the celebrated open range cattle era of the American West. In 1878, the Newman brothers left Nebraska trailing 12,000 N Bar-branded cattle to Montana with a contract in hand to provide meat for the Indian reservations.
In 1885, Tom Cruse, an Irish immigrant who made his fortune in the gold fields around Helena, Montana, bought the Montana Sheep Company—including the 2,842 acres along Flatwillow Creek where the N Bar Ranch Headquarters are now located. The legendary, brutal winter of 1886-1887, forced the Newman brothers out of business and Cruse bought the Newman's remaining herd and the N Bar brand. Over the next 25 years, Cruse built a cattle empire stretching from the lands of the N Bar Ranch over 100 miles to the east to Jordan, Montana.
Anton Holter, a Norwegian immigrant and businessman who made his fortune on the Montana frontier, and a group of prominent local investors purchased the N Bar Ranch from Tom Cruse in 1913, a year before Cruse's death. Holter and his family—joined by the Milburn brothers in 1930—owned N Bar Ranch for 50 years.
Under the vision and stewardship of Jack Milburn the N Bar Ranch evolved into a modern, world-class cattle operation. The ranch grew from 10,000 to 40,000 deeded acres and its reputation was established through the N Bar line of purebred Aberdeen Angus cattle. Milburn also instituted an annual cattle sale at the ranch, which solidified the N Bar's brand and reputation and integrated the ranch into the fabric of the community as well as the culture of the region.