Orr descendants make surprise museum donation

James and Judy Quinn, of Norman, Oklahoma, donate items used by William C. Orr on his huge Beaverhead County ranch to the Beaverhead County Museum. M.P. Regan photo


The Beaverhead County Museum last month received a surprise visit from strangers bearing gifts who quickly revealed themselves as new friends donating valuable historical artifacts from one of southwest Montana’s oldest and most prominent families.

James and Judy Quinn, of Norman, Oklahoma, came to Dillon on May 22 to donate items used by William C. Orr on the huge Beaverhead County ranch he owned and operated with Phillip Poindexter.

“They were stacked up in the corner of my shop,” said James of the items, which included gun holsters and branding irons, some with the Orr/Poindexter operation’s famous squared compass brand.

“The squared compass brand was the first registered brand in Montana,” commented Beaverhead County Museum Director Lynn Giles, who said that the items would go on view after getting reviewed and approved by the Museum’s trustees.

“They won’t go down in the basement, I can tell you that. They will be on display.”

James Quinn said he inherited the items from his uncle, Phil Orr, the son of Matthew Orr, owner of the electric light and power plant in Dillon and son of William C. Orr. 

A native of Ireland, William C. Orr in 1866 moved to Beaverhead County, where he and Poindexter bred horses, cattle and sheep on their huge ranch, the P&O.

He married Rachel Cunnard in 1869, and the union produced sons Matthew, Ernest, William II, Charles, Bert and John.

William C. Orr died in 1901. A number of the artifacts from his Montana ranching days got passed down to his son Matthew, and then to Phil Orr, who died childless in 1990 and left many of the items to his nephew, James Quinn.


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