History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
Native American Indians lived in Montana when French trappers first
arrived around 1740.
In 1803, the United States acquired most of Montana in the Louisiana Purchase. Soon afterward, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived to explore the area. By 1807, Manuel Lisa set up Montana’s first fur-trading post.
1841 missionaries built St. Mary’s Mission, the first attempt at a
permanent settlement. In
1847, the American Fur Company built Fort Benton on the Missouri River.
This town is now Montana’s oldest continuously populated town.
was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in 1862.
Thousands of prospectors built mining camps throughout Montana as
gold strikes were discovered. Some
of these include Bannock, Diamond City, and Virginia City.
these same years, the cattle industry came to Montana.
Nelson Story drove a thousand longhorn cattle from Texas to
Montana in 1866. With the
completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, the industry grew
rapidly as meat shipped to eastern markets.
1876, the U.S. Army arrived at the Little Bighorn River to place all
Native Americans on reservations. In the famous battle known as “Custer’s Last Stand,”
Sioux and Cheyenne Indians killed brevetted Major General George A. Custer and a
large part of his men. Serious
fighting also occurred in 1877, when Nez Percé Indians were forced from
their lands in Oregon. Chief
Joseph led his tribe toward Canada through Montana.
Several battles occurred in Idaho and a two-day battle at Big
Hole in southwestern Montana. The
Nez Percé were soon captured and forced back onto reservations.
Hill was called the Richest Hill on Earth during the 1880s.
Gold, silver, and eventually copper have been mined there.
Marcus Daly and William Clark controlled the largest mines and
competed both in business and politics.
Eventually, both sold their properties to the Anaconda Company.
This company had great control of forests, banks, and newspapers
and became very important to life in Montana.
became the 41st state on Nov. 8, 1889.
In the years that followed, dams were built that provided water
for irrigation and electricity for industrial use.
Food processing plants opened and railroads were extended.
World War I, drought hit Montana. The
Great Depression (1929-1939) also hit the nation.
Many lost their farms and their jobs.
The U.S. government continued to develop natural resources in
Montana. More than 10,000 workers were paid to build the Fort Peck
Dam. Others helped with
irrigation, soil conservation, and construction of parks and public
roads. This program was
called The New Deal.
economy flourished during World War II (1941-1945).
Flour, meat and metals were all in demand.
After the war, prices for grain dropped and many farms were
abandoned in search for work in the cities.
Oil was discovered in Williston Basin and the Anaconda Aluminum
Company opened a large plant in northwestern Montana.
the mid-1900s, tourism grew to be an important source of income for
Montana. Parks, historic
sites, summer and ski resorts were developed.
Irrigation and water conservation were also expanded during this
time. Gas, oil and coal
production increased due to an energy shortage during the 1970s.
Because of the harsh effect on the environment, new laws were
passed to protect Montana’s land and water.
and slowing farm economy again hurt Montana during the 1980s.
The lumber industry slowed and the Anaconda Company closed all of
its copper mines.