The story of the Quast House begins with John Summers, who was born in 1849 in Galloway Green County, Missouri. When he was only 19, he worked as a blacksmith traveling by horseback through Montana, until he finally settled in Corvallis in 1877, at age 28. Juda Chaffin, daughter of Elijah and Margaret Chaffin (homesteaders of the Chaffin House on Teller) married John in 1878. Moving to various locations around the valley, the flourishing couple became substantial landowners and ranchers, eventually owning more than 1,000 acres and 1,500 head of cattle.
In 1894, “Copper King” Marcus Daly, a wealthy Montana miner and businessman, purchased most of the Summers’ land in the Skalkaho area. At Daly’s invitation, they subsequently moved into a house in Hamilton which was formerly Daly Enterprises.
Ten years later, in 1904, the Summers purchased 360 acres and constructed the Quast House, a gracious Colonial Revival style home. They developed a highly successful and diversified farming operation. In 1907, the crop yield of 22,000 bushels of oats was the largest crop ever produced by one farm in the Bitterroot Valley. Failing health forced John Summers to sell the home in 1911.
The new owners were Otto and Helena Quast, who moved from their dairy farm in the Rattlesnake Valley north of Missoula, Montana. They further diversified the farm, adding 150 Holstein dairy cows and a herd of Hereford beef cattle. After his father’s death in 1931, Otto Jr. took over the growing dairy farm. By 1957 it was “one of the finest and most diversified farms in the valley, consisting of 660 acres devoted to raising cattle, beets, and grain.”
Upon Otto Quast Jr.’s retirement in 1971, the house and farm were sold separately, a transaction described by Western News as “one of the most important transfers of real estate that has transpired in Ravalli County for many a year.” In 2006, thirty-five years later, the Quast home was purchased by Teller Wildlife Refuge, to serve as its administrative office, thanks to a generous donation from board member Keith Johnson, in memory of his wife Jane.
Today, the marvelous home is a treasured reminder of the significance of ranching and farming in the Bitterroot Valley, and of the pioneers who thrived here. The two story house with an inviting veranda and commodious rooms has seen minor renovations and remodeling throughout the years, but remains a vision of another era, and in 1997, the homestead was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Quast House serves as a warm welcome to visitors and an inspiring place from which to execute and promote Teller’s mission.