Montana History

  • Stuart's Stranglers

    By Nick Mitchell
    A cabal of rich cattlemen met in Helena in 1883 to discuss what was to be done. There were plenty who had reason to want the horse thieves taken care of—among them Granville Stuart, cattle baron, politician, and sometime vigilante.
  • Mark Twain and "Clark of Montana"

    By Brenda Wahler
    When a witness came forward to testify that he was given a $30,000 payoff, evidence of bribery was dismissed as “inconclusive” by a Helena-based grand jury of Clark supporters. Indeed, Twain rightly said, “No one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary.”
  • The Remarkable Sarah Bickford

    By Doug Stevens
    On April 10, 2012, the State of Montana honored Sarah Bickford by inducting her into the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans in the Capitol Rotunda in Helena. As a former slave who became one of Montana's most prominent early businesswomen, Bickford certainly deserved this honor.
  • The Devil’s Brigade in Helena

    By Nick Mitchell
    The knives were stiletto-thin, able to slide between an enemy combatant’s ribs with appalling ease. But unlike traditional stilettos, sharpened only at the point, the V-42, as it was eventually named, was edged on all sides, so that it would pull through a Nazi’s throat as easily as it could pierce his steel helmet.
  • Paving Montana

    By Ednor Therriault, with photos by Tom Rath
    The Good Roads advocates wanted better, smoother roads for the popular new craze sweeping the nation: the bicycle. At the forefront of this effort was the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), which had been lobbying for better roads since 1880.
  • Buffalo Bill's Last Tour of Montana, 1914

    By Joseph Shelton
    He was still handsome in a way that even time and illness couldn’t diminish. His looks, which had inspired a poem by an anonymous English woman who, apparently speaking for much of the female population of Victoria’s kingdom, had called him “[n]ature’s perfected touch in form and grace.”
  • Granite, Silver, and the Dollar: The Making of a Ghost Town

    By Joseph Shelton
    Granite was founded in the 1870s, situated over a few particularly rich veins of silver ore. It was a big enough town to have neighborhoods roughly divided by country of origin, with a Finnish street, a Cornish street and, of course, an Irish street.
  • The Flathead Lake Monster, Still At Large

    By Ednor Therriault
    A few imaginative paleontologists have suggested that what people are seeing could be a plesiosaurus, an aquatic reptile from the Early Jurassic period. Some eyewitness reports are uncanny in their description of this carnivorous dinosaur, from its 40-foot length to its large flippers and snake-like neck, tiny head and long tail.
  • James J. Hill, Empire Builder

    By Amy Grisak
    In 1884, Hill visited Paris Gibson, a business associate from St. Paul who was plotting the new town of Great Falls. While standing on the edge of the Missouri River, Hill recognized the potential of the region.
  • The Salish Discovery of the Corps of Discovery

    By Doug Stevens
    From the journals, we learn only the bare facts. It was September 4, 1805. They had had a very difficult time climbing out of the North Fork of the Salmon. The steep terrain and deep snow left many of the horses lame from falling. A lack of forage and game left both humans and horses hungry and weak.
  • Saleesh House: David Thompson's "Haunt" in Montana

    By Doug Stevens
    Those winters in northwestern Montana were very challenging, both physically and mentally, even brutal at times. There was constant repair and maintenance work on the post itself, as well as canoe building, firewood collection and hunting.
  • Lost Montana

    By Todd Klassy, Photos by the Author
    The Dooley Church, was mostly forgotten by everyone except the residents of Sheridan County and a handful of photographers who travel across the country to photograph old, abandoned buildings.
  • Montana's Historic Hot Springs

    By Charlie Dennison
    These were some challenging times for travel in Montana, but in the 1930s, when Lolo National Forest West was established, a dirt track was constructed to the resort from Highway 200. Better days were ahead for Martin Quinn's favorite destination, and —through it all—the location stayed in the family name.
  • Knights of the Tie and Rail

    By Joseph Shelton
    Names were given to ways of life that would have seemed fantastic at the dawn of the previous century: hobos, tramps, yeggs or yaggmen, bums, bindlestiffs, gentlemen of the road, knights of the tie and rail. 
  • When Steamboats Ruled Montana's Waters

    By Douglas Schmittou
    Christened the Yellow Stone, its voyage in 1832 was, according to Hiram Martin Chittenden, a “landmark in the history of the West. It demonstrated the [feasibility] of navigating the Missouri by steam as far as the mouth of the Yellowstone, with a strong probability that boats could go on to the Blackfoot country.”
  • “Give me a high drop, boys” - Frontier Justice and the Ghost of Henry Plummer

    By Doug Stevens
    Lynching at the hands of a group of self-appointed vigilantes was employed in many mining towns across the Western U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, including Montana. With the legal structure of courts, lawyers and judges lagging well behind the growth and the ensuing lawlessness of each gold strike, expedience was sometimes the preferred instrument to establish “law and order.”
  • Telling "The Story of Butte"

    By Sherman Cahill
    There are, at the time of this writing, 329 separate entries in the Story of Butte database, with more coming all the time. In addition to discrete entries, there are also many tours that organize locations into a series of stops that tell a fuller story, such as the 11 locations featured in the Murder of Frank Little tour.
  • The Lakota Delegation: Portraits from 1868 - 1877

    By Douglas Schmittou
    Studio photographs of Spotted Tail’s wife and Running Antelope, a Hunkpapa headman, were taken by Gardner in Washington, D.C., during 1872. Running Antelope was splendidly dressed in a magnificent quilled shirt, peace medal, dentalia-shell ear pendants, otter-fur hair wraps, and three eagle feathers, one of which bears specific war-exploit markings.