In 52 years on his property alongside the Shoshone River, Jim Battershell has hosted 81 weddings, some alongside the river that cuts through his property, some on his nine hole golf course and a few …
In 52 years on his property alongside the Shoshone River, Jim Battershell has hosted 81 weddings, some alongside the river that cuts through his property, some on his nine hole golf course and a few in a chapel named after his mother, built with logs that survived the 1988 Yellowstone fire.
In 2020 Battershell, who is now 85, decided with his wife that it was time to stop hosting weddings. Although that doesn’t mean the memories are gone for those who said their “I do’s.”
Years later he still has the occasional couple stop by to remember their ceremony on the land that he first began cultivating over five decades ago.
Here comes the bride
Battershell was first approached about allowing a wedding on the property by members of his church. After that more followed, and in the meantime, Battershell kept clearing and grooming the land.
“I think the unique thing about the property is that, of course, it’s riverside, that kind of sets it aside. And it’s not very far from town, that’s why it was so ideal for weddings is that it was convenient,” Battershell said. “You had a river view, and while you’re down there you can’t really see any other houses or anything. You feel like you’re away from society, you feel like you’re kind of out in the wilderness.”
The Battershells never charged the wedding parties for using the riverside property — weddings incur enough other costs. Allowing people to use the land was a way of “paying it forward.”
“I feel like God gave me this little piece [of land]. I’m caretaker for a short time and so I don’t really see it as mine,” Battershell said. “I just see it as I’m the caretaker and so why not let people down on God’s creation?”
A lawyer friend had cautioned Battershell when he originally decided to open his land to the public, but Battershell said he has had very few issues.
He has however had numerous unique memories come out of the many wedding ceremonies. Raccoons have run down the chapel bell startling the bride and all of the attendees, bride and groom have departed via boat and some stories are better left untold, to be remembered only by the Battershells and the wedding couple.
“Oh, they’ve all had something unique. I think that’s what’s special about weddings, none of them were the same,” Battershell said. “Everybody had different ideas and they had great ideas, things that I never would have thought of. “
Battershell grew up just a quarter mile south of where he now lives. He would play in the river growing up with his friends and had always dreamed of owning a riverside property. Years later while Battershell was teaching in Douglas he decided to pull the trigger and buy his riverside property. When the initial piece of land he looked to purchase fell through, he settled on 30 undeveloped acres.
“I bought it. April Fool’s Day, 1970. Thirty acres of wasteland,” Battershell said.
To even start on the property the first item on Battershell’s to-do list was to create a driveway.
“There’s a drain ditch that runs in front of the property and you couldn’t really get into the property except going through the neighbors to the south and coming north,” Battershell said. “Well, you didn’t want to keep going through their yard.”
Over a period of years Battershell and his wife built a home on the dream property while grooming the land.
Eventually, dreams of log cabins and chapels began to appear and “if you build it they will come.”
Built with love
There are three cabins and one chapel on the Battershell’s land. There’s also years of hard work and many memories.
Battershell had been inspired to build the cabins in the late 90s after being inspired by friends Rob and Anna Cragoe who had recently built a log home and aided him in his efforts.
“I thought, what am I going to do now?,” he said. “Well, I started building cabins on the river.”
After completing the cabins Battershell wasn’t quite done, so he built a log chapel in honor of his late mother Margaret. She was a nurse in Powell for many years and helped to bring many Powell babies into the world.
“I spent a lot more time on it, but it was in honor of my mother who is very deserving because everybody liked her, she was very unselfish,” Battershell said.
The memorial chapel went on to host five weddings after its construction. In the chapel’s threshold, visitors to the Battershells’ property can find a list of the many weddings that have taken place on the property and even some photos.
Battershell said he never had a plan for the property’s multiple buildings including the chapel, or the many weddings and recreational facilities that would come along; he just liked to work.
“I sure didn’t have a big vision of anything. It was just a slow progression of ‘clear this area and that inspires you to clear this’ and on it went,” Battershell said. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to do all this in one full sweep.’ I didn’t have that kind of vision. I just, I like to work and so things just kind of kept expanding.”