A Career Bio

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1952, the son of Walter and Shirley Bugenstein, the oldest of four brothers.  I was raised there, in Buffalo, N.Y., and Lima, Ohio.  I became fascinated with maps at an early age, copying political maps from a geography book.  I also had an avid interest in history.  I graduated from the Ohio State University in 1975 with a B.A. in Social Science, but was unclear about my future goals.

While living in Cleveland and working in a warehouse, I would often drive around the labyrinthine streets of the city.  On one of these “expeditions,” a roommate commented that I would make a good cartographer.  He said the same thing a couple of weeks later, and it made me think that it would be an interesting pursuit.  This was in 1978, and I have had a nearly insatiable passion for maps ever since.

Since my background in mathematics and science was somewhat limited, I returned to college and took night math classes at Cleveland State University.  I re-enrolled at Ohio State in the fall of 1980 and pursued a major in Geology, and graduated in 1983.

After graduation, I moved to Great Falls, Mont., and then to Glasgow, Mont., in 1985.  It was there that I began my mapping career.

My first large mapping project was mapping Valley County, Montana, for the local Rural Addressing Program, under the tutelage of Carlo Porteen.  This project involved mapping all ranches, farmsteads, and small towns outside the Glasgow city limits to facilitate 911 emergency response and utility service.  In addition to office work and field mapping, community meetings were held for the residents’ input for exact locations of items in question and local and historical names of roads.

At the conclusion of this project in the fall of 1986, I began work on a Historical Map of Valley County, Montana.  I noticed that there was no comprehensive mapping where all historical items could be found on one sheet.  I began to map and index sites of towns, post offices, settlements, rural schools, pioneer ranches (before 1900), roads and trails, forts and trading posts, mines and mining districts, sites of noteworthy incidents, and other points of interest.  Also included on the maps is a selection of pioneer brands, and an index, list of sources, and acknowledgments.  Mapping historical Montana is a  process which continues today.

To date, I have produced historical maps for the following counties in Montana:

>>> Valley (1987)
>>> Phillips (1987)
>>> Cascade (1987)
>>> Fergus (1987)
>>> Roosevelt (1988)
>>> Blaine (1989)
>>> Petroleum (1989)
>>> Dawson (1990)

>>> Wibaux (1991)
>>> Prairie (1993)
>>> Rosebud (1994)
>>> Richland (1997)
>>> Yellowstone (1999)
>>> Treasure (1999)
>>> Chouteau (2000)
>>> Fallon (2003)

Altogether, I have mapped approximately 4,400 historical sites in Montana covering an area of over 46,000 square miles.  The quest goes on.

In the spring of 1989, I hired out as a brakeman for the Burlington Northern (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railroad.  In the summer of 1991, I became a promoted conductor.  Riding trains in Montana is an experience like no other, from the cold winter wind to the big night sky to summer on the Great Plains.

In 1995, I helped co-ordinate and produce a set of station maps for the Yellowstone Division of the Burlington Northern, which comprised 2,980 miles of main line in Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming.  Mapped were sidings, industry tracks, railroad yards, the Glendive round house facility, and storage tracks,  in an area rich in agriculture, coal mining, and oil and gas industries.  The maps received wide acceptance for switching and main line railway operations, and are still in widespread use.

Other maps that I have created include the Galpin Church Cemetery near Nashua, Mont., and the Beth Aaron Congregation Cemetery in Billings.

Late in 1999, I set a table at the Huff Antique Show to sell historical maps and perhaps add new business clients.  While setting up my table, I met Don Sorensen and Jimmy Griffin of Virgelle Merc (on the Missouri River near Big Sandy, Mont.) who had the table next to mine.  We immediately became friends, and they took an interest in my work.  By the end of the weekend, we had a verbal agreement to produce a Historical Map of Chouteau County, Montana— a historian’s dream job.  The following spring, while the railroad was going through a slowdown, I lived in Virgelle and created the map— spending days and weeks in the courthouse in Fort Benton, the offices of the Fort Benton River Press, and interviewing many of the fine and honorable people living in the area.  The final result was a double-sided map, showing Chouteau County on one side and a detail of the Missouri River on the other, with a separate index with 722 historic sites.  Not only was an important and pertinent map produced, but Don and Jimmy remain close my friends to this day.

 While researching the Chouteau County map, I found that frontier newspapers provide an immediate perspective of the everyday life of those times.  To put the resource to use, in 2001, I organized historical material from the River Press, and divided it into chapter form: Native Americans in transition; mining in Chouteau County; pioneer ranching; the arrival of the “Manitoba Road” (subsequently the Great Northern Railroad); social life; outlaw history; and anecdotes, adding a historical narrative—  quite interesting, but as yet unpublished.  To get a wider, more regional view, I also organized 19th century historical material from other frontier newspapers: the Chinook Opinion; the Valley County Gazette (Glasgow); the Milk River Eagle (Havre); the Harlem and Malta Enterprise; the Yellowstone Journal (Miles City); the Benton Record; the Glendive Times; and the Glendive Independent.  I’ve also researched several  frontier newspapers in Nevada, mostly in the 1890s: the Silver State (Winnemucca); the Wadsworth Dispatch; the Chloride Belt (Candelaria); the Central Nevadan (Battle Mountain); the Belmont Courier; the Reese River Reveille (Austin), and the Lovelock Tribune.  Unfortunately, some newspapers, such as the Landusky (Mont.) Miner and Prespector, published for a short while in 1895, have been lost to the ages, and their priceless information along with it.

In 2004, I met Doug Ellison, operator of Western Edge Books in Medora, N.D., and together we produced a replica of a 19th century brand book for Southwestern North Dakota showing brands that were advertised in the Medora Bad Land Cow Boy and the Dickinson Press from 1883-1900.  We also included an 1885 “Cow Boy Dictionary” from the Medora paper, and I added a historical sketch of the area.  The brands list a “who’s who” of the local pioneer ranchers, some representing Texas cattle outfits, and a young easterner destined for bigger things: Theodore Roosevelt.

In March, 2005, I was contacted by Adrian Heidenreich, a professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University- Billings, about jointly producing a map of the Historical Crow Nation, along with principal Northwestern trails before 1855.  Together we mapped sites of tribal villages (some dating to the 1700s), forts and trading posts, battles and skirmishes, fur-trade rendezvous sites, the Verendrye Trail (from Parkman), and trails which opened the Northwest to European trade.  The map was published in November, 2005.

As the Crow Nation project was winding down, I began work on another local historical project.  Bob and Theresa Frye, ranchers south of Malta, Mont., expressed interest in a historical inventory of the area of their ranch on the vast prairies of Southern Phillips County in Montana.  As a result of much office and field work, the Historical Map of the Frye Ranch and Vicinity was produced, an attractive, easy-to-read 17" x 23" wall map intended as a research tool and family heirloom.   I remain indebted to the Fryes for the opportunity to pursue such a project.

The next “Big Idea” is to produce agricultural maps of farms and ranches in the Northern Plains area.  These maps would include: property lines, improvements, roads and trails, fence lines, crop rotation, irrigation, pasturage, water sources, and other pertinent information that the farmer or rancher might want to include. 

 Early in 2008, while attending the Glendive Agri-Trade Exposition, I met Lance Kalfell who, with his brother Kevin, runs one of the oldest continuously family-owned ranches in Montana.  The Kalfell Ranch, near Terry, was established in 1882 and runs the Montana brand on the left ribs.  Lance and I soon reached an agreement to create an operations and historical map of his ranch along the criteria listed above.  After extensive field and office work, the map was produced that June.  It is an attractive and useful land use inventory that Lance seems to find helpful to his operation.

That fall, Lance approached me about a two-fold writing project: an concise history about the Kalfell Ranch to be a segment in a 125th anniversary issue of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and a larger, stand-alone history of the ranch and its part in the history of Eastern Montana.  After some initial hesitation (I was not sure I could do justice to the endeavor) I accepted the offer; after all,  large-scale projects do not drop in my lap every day.  While in the initial phase of the newspaper research, I was running across countless little-known items in the Yellowstone Journal that dealt with the onset of the ranching industry in Eastern Montana.  I approached Lance about this new information, and soon we agreed to produce a comprehensive history of Eastern Montana using the Kalfell Ranch as a primary focus.  After two years of research, and many interviews with the Kalfell family, the manuscript has been produced and has been submitted to a professional editor, Linda Grosskopf of Billings.  The project was a pleasure.  The Kalfells have been truly open and patient with me— not only did they give me many answers about the ranching industry, but they also taught me to ask the right questions.     

Mapping and historical research in Montana is truly an adventure, but not only for the joy of discovery.  I have had the privilege to meet and work with the kindest, most honorable, down-to-earth, and savvy people that I would ever want to know.  Without their knowledge and patience, my work would be only a collection of records— it is the heirs to Montana’s heritage that brings my work to life.

When I first began work on the Valley County historical map, I was introduced to Bud Burger, a retired cowboy who rode for the Etchart Ranch near Glasgow.  Bud was excited about the project and eager to provide as much information as he could (which was a lot).  But the most important lesson he taught me was when we were sitting around his kitchen table on a cold winter day.  Bud said to me: “My Daddy told me, ‘If you can’t be first, be one of the  first.’ ”  This flash of home-spun wisdom has been a guiding principle throughout my career.  Bud died about a year later— I sure wish I could talk with him now.  

I am interested in any and all inquiries concerning mapping and historical research in the Northern Plains area. Kindly send questions, comments, or suggestions to:

or call (406) 377-1922.

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