The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By A.J. Etherington
For the Courier 

Lustre Community Draws Hundreds for Centennial Celebrations

 


The Lustre community celebrated its 100-year anniversary on July 3, 2016 with a crowd of family and friends estimated over 700 people. “I know I had at least 85 people at my house for the weekend,” said Martin Fast, whose family was among the original 1916 homesteaders. Fast added that some of his family came from as far as Oregon, while other families had people come from as far as New York. According to Fast, the idea for the celebration began as individual families planning separate parties as far back as 2015, but as those celebrations grew, the community came together to form a larger community anniversary on July 3.

The anniversary began with a Sunday service at the Lustre Christian High School gym, and the theme was “By God’s Grace”. Fast explained the theme was chosen, because Lustre had a truly tumultuous history that saw many ups and downs throughout the decades. As an example he alluded to God’s grace being influential to the town as he talked of the 1920s and 1930s being horrible for farming, but how the war’s demand for food saved the community in the 1940s.

The service included worship, a presentation by Fast on why they were celebrating, a video on the original Lustre churches, music from local performers, and a message from Pastor Frank Wiens. The service was followed by a complimentary lunch provided by the organizing families. In the afternoon the community dedicated a monument to the community’s 100 years. Fast described the monument as being constructed from two tractor wheels from one of the first tractors brought to Lustre. “We dedicated a monument, because on the 50th anniversary celebration, they dedicated a monument and we wanted to keep that going,” explained Fast.

Lustre as a community began with a concept originated by the railroad in the late nineteenth century. According to Fast, the railroad refused to build through northern Montana unless the government opened up the reservations to homesteading. In 1888 the government reached an agreement, and every Native American was to receive 320 acres of land, and then the rest could be homesteaded. In 1916, the Fort Peck Reservation was opened to homesteading and a young Mennonite man working on the railroad travelled home to convince members of his community to homestead the Lustre area, according to Fast.

Although Fast cannot recall the exact number of families that originally settled in just Lustre, he does recall that some 880 total families settled on the Fort Peck Reservation around 1916. Every family was given 320 acres or a 1-mile long by ½-half mile wide plot of land. Of the original families, 14 descending homesteads remain. Fast listed them as: Monroe Bartel, Jon Clever, Gary Dahl, Martin Fast, Warren Fast, Ronald Olfert, Henry Ortmann, Donald Pankratz, Julie (Schmidt) Reddig, Brooke (Toews) Holzrichter, John Toews, Ross Trimble, Lauren Unrau, and Lyle Wall.

“Lustre is a 20-mile by 20-mile square of farms that is more than 35 miles from the nearest school or town,” said Fast. “For that reason we built our own churches, schools, like Lustre Christian High School, and we supported ourselves.” Fast continued by adding that, “Primarily in the early days everyone spoke German, being a Mennonite community and all, and the kids had to learn English in school, being the official language of the country.” According to Fast, even the church service was in German up until the World Wars when the congregation decided to move to English, because of the United States conflict with Germany.

 

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