The museum was founded in 1975 and now includes the 1906 Bank of Terry building, the only steam heated outhouse west of the Mississippi, a pioneer homestead, a Burlington Northern train depot, and the Cameron Gallery.
In the late 1800s, those living along the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana were likely to encounter a woman lugging a large format camera. She carried her 5x7 Graflex camera everywhere and, after nearly 30 years of taking photographs, she had amassed an incredible archive of life on the frontier.
An English couple, Ewen and Evelyn Cameron were among the earliest to settle near Terry. Evelyn was a child of the London aristocracy. Ewen's dream was to raise polo ponies and ship them to Europe. When most of his first shipment of horses died, the Camerons, broke, had to struggle to survive. Evelyn was forced to take in boarders, sell vegetables from her garden, and cook for roundup crews to make ends meet. She purchased a mail order camera and taught herself photography. She photographed everything and everyone around her.
Cowboys, sheepherders, frontier families, people working, riverboats, weddings, wildlife and landscapes. Farmers and their wives all going about their daily activities were her subjects.
In addition to her photographs, Lady Cameron also kept copious notes to detail her photos and life in Terry. Her legacy offers a rare glimpse into that era. While many photographs exist of that time and place, Cameron’s work is unique because she took so many photos and because they are such good photos — sharp, clear and well composed. Cameron’s work is on display at the Cameron Gallery in Terry. Her photos and memoirs have also been compiled in a book, Photographing Montana 1984-1920: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron.
The gallery is part of the Prairie County Museum. The main museum is housed in the old State Bank of Terry, an architectural gem built in 1916 with marble floors, intricate woodwork and leaded glass.