8 Aug 2012

Tiny town marking Custer's Last Stand up for sale

10:30 am on 8 August 2012

A tiny Montana town near the banks of the Little Bighorn River - where US Army commander George Custer made his last stand in 1876 against Sioux and Cheyenne warriors - is to be sold at an auction in August.

Garryowen, a 3.1-hectare town of just two residents in the Little Bighorn battlefield in south-eastern Montana, was bought by Chris Kortlander in 1993 after a wildfire destroyed his home in Malibu, California.

Concerns about his health are now prompting the 54-year-old dealer in historical artefacts - the town's only resident, along with a caretaker - to auction the gas station and convenience store, as well as a manuscript collection representing the papers of Custer's wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

Custer had been a successful Union Army commander in the Civil War before being dispatched to postwar campaigns aimed at forcing Plains Indians onto reservations.

On 25 June 1876, the 36-year-old Custer and more than 200 7th US Cavalry soldiers were killed by Sioux warriors including Crazy Horse and Cheyenne forces in a battle that has gone down in history.

Historians credit Elizabeth Bacon Custer, author of three books about her life with Custer, for fostering a fascination with him that flourishes 136 years after his death in a battle popularly referred to as "Custer's Last Stand".

Mr Kortlander says he hopes both the town and the collection will go to a sole bidder dedicated to building on a legacy he has shaped for 19 years.