For 163 years, my family had a presence in Montana’s Madison Valley. In the 1860s, my ancestors, William H. Ennis and Myron D. Jeffers and their families settled on either side of the Madison Valley, establishing the towns of Ennis and Jeffers, which still bear their names. Since the ‘80s, my grandmother was the last to live in Ennis, in little home on Main Street between the bank and the library. When we could, my family would join her there for Thanksgivings and 4th of Julys. This year, we returned for the fourth and we did the usual things: went to the pancake breakfast fundraiser at the firehouse and the rodeo, watched the parade from the same spot we always had. But this time, the little house on Main Street was gone, now just an empty square of dirt. My grandmother wasn’t with us — she passed last October — and we celebrated her life at the little church in Jeffers she attended for decades. After the memorial, I stayed in Montana with my family, and learned more about my family’s history than I’d ever known: about my ancestors who made home in this valley, those they relied on, those they displaced, and the ways people can be connected to a place and to each other.
All images © Greta Rybus