The “Cross Half-Circle” mission brand first appeared in Montana with Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean de Smet in 1841 and was subsequently used by other notable missionaries, including Antonio Ravalli. The missionaries’ stock, mostly mules and horses, bore the cross half-circle brand to help identify them from horses belonging to the Salish and Flathead Indians.
Johnny Grant, the founder of the well-known Grant Kohrs Ranch, is said to have used the cross half-circle in what is now known as the Deer Lodge Valley around 1857. Some people think he may have seen the brand on an abandoned and dilapidated fir trading post. Grant used many other brands, and by the time he sold his ranch to Conrad Kohrs, he was using the brand “G hanging J."
Ernest Marks bought one of the first homesteads in the late 1880s, registered in Montana by H.L. Tanner, under the Homestead act of 1864.
Ernest began buying homesteads to support his draft horse business and was using the cross half-circle brand on his working stock. The brand was officially registered on October 27, 1888, as the 1068th brand recorded in Montana.
Ernest Marks son, Merle Marks, continued the agricultural business that had grown to include cattle. Merle also helped neighbors with blacksmithing and began milling timber products for agricultural use. The mill was installed around 1938. These endeavors allowed Merle to trade for additional property in the area.
During the 40s and 50s, the Marks family continued both ranching and milling rough lumber to help support the cattle operation. Merle’s son Bob and his wife, Barbara, continued ranching, using the cross half-circle brand. Bob also continued milling rough lumber to supplement the cattle ranching operation.
In the late 1980s, current Marks Lumber owner Steve Marks and his wife, Laura, retrofitted the old mill and began making railroad cross-ties to support their cattle operation. While manufacturing cross-ties, design and construction began on the current mill, which was completed in 2000.
Completion of the sawmill was a key milestone. However, Steve realized the need to continually innovate for improved efficiencies in terms of product recovery, product diversity, and labor efficiency.
The addition of a planer mill was completed to diversify product offerings.
A bio-fuel powered dry kiln was added to improve product quality.
The addition of a band mill was completed to increase the efficiency of the sawmill.
The purchase of a B66 Rotochopper and the addition of a bark sorting plant allowed for the monetization of wood fiber that had previously been burned.
A 4400 square foot timber frame office and showroom was completed.
Cody Marks began an in-house timber frame shop to provide the value-added service of complete timber frame construction to customers.
Added an optimizing trim saw and end-matcher to improve product quality and make our flooring easier to install.
The old edger and trimmer were both replaced to create a safer, more hands-free work environment. Steve Marks had a UKI edger completely rebuilt to replace the old Union machine and added a new 20-foot trimmer.
Marks Lumber has now adopted the old mission brand “cross half-circle” as an identifying mark on our business logo. The cross half-circle symbol lives on as both a livestock brand and as a logo representing Marks Lumber’s continued commitment to the Montana community, the land, the forest, and to quality timber products.