Montana History

  • Wooden Wild Horses: Montana's Seven Carousels

    By Bryan Spellman
    The National Carousel Association publishes an online Index of North American Carousels. That index lists seven carousels in Montana, including merry-go-rounds in Boulder, Butte, Columbia Falls, Helena, Missoula, Shelby and Somers.
  • Get to Know Daniels County

    By Bryan Spellman
    On August 30, 1920, the Montana Legislature took the western part of Sheridan County and the northeastern portion of Valley County to create Daniels County. Named for local rancher Mansfield Daniels, the County covers 1,426 square miles, almost all that land.
  • A Brief and Tasty History of the Beef Pasty

    By Joseph Shelton
    But those first Cornish miners brought with them a delicacy that many Montanans still treasure, a simple hand-pie that continues to nourish and fuel hard-working folks today. 
  • Life During Wartime at the Charter Oak Mine

    By Carl Davis
    The crucial role of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and other big mining enterprises in World War II materials production is widely appreciated. Less so is the contribution of Montana’s many small-scale mine operations.
  • East to Gold Mountain: Chinese Miners in Montana

    By Sherman Cahill
    And when Montana experienced its own gold rush, many Chinese came to Bannack and Virginia City to seek their fortunes; the first mention of Chinese arriving in the area was in an 1865 issue of the Virginia City newspaper The Montana Post, which groused at the arrival of a small group of gold-seeking Chinese workers. 
  • Superfund Sites and the Complicated Legacy of Mining

    By Zuzu Feder
    Montana is home to a whopping 17 federal Superfund Sites. Superfund, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), was established in 1980 to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated, toxic sites around the United States.
  • Modern Mining in Montana

    By Bryan Spellman
    Montana history is mining. All three of Montana Territory’s capitals got their start as gold rush towns.
  • 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.
  • “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.”
  • "We Died an Easy Death:" Three of Montana's Worst Mining Disasters

    By Sherman Cahill
    In hard rock mining, the "nipper" is an entry-level position for someone, usually young and potentially a child, who assists the miners in getting them fresh equipment, exchanging out old bits, and fetching whatever the miners need. In the Butte of 1911, child labor laws were still far down the road, the job was often occupied by twelve to nineteen-year-old boys
  • The Auditor: Spirit of Butte

    By Rob Rath
    How I got into the pit isn't worth mentioning, and I don't remember much about it, anyway. The important thing is that I came here in 1986, to protect Butte, the Pit, and everything around it...
  • "I Await the Devil's Coming": Mary MacLane, Butte's Prodigal Daughter

    By Lindsay Dick
    From her family’s house on North Excelsior Street, MacLane could see the Anselmo headframe and watch the miners change shifts. In "I, Mary MacLane," she explains her relationship with language in a way that recalls both the synesthesia of the poetic mind and the laborious process of mining.
  • Nuts to the Noble Experiment: Montana’s Cussed Women Bootleggers

    By Teresa Otto
    Montana voted in Prohibition in 1916, in part due to the persuasiveness of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They had whipped the voters up into a frenzy over the evils of alcohol. In late 1918, Prohibition under the 18th Amendment began in Montana—at least on paper.
  • A Photographic Trip to Montana's Historic Cemeteries

    By Renee Carlson
    While it is okay to leave respectful memorials to loved ones, or even toys and trinkets on a long-passed child’s grave, it is never okay to leave refuse, graffiti, or other ill-intentioned items. Please join me as we respectfully wander a few of our beautiful state’s memorial gardens.
  • The American Dream Home By Mail: Kit Homes Out West

    By Lindsay Dick
    Imagine that the year is 1910 and you have just moved with your family to Montana. The last spike of the Milwaukee Road was driven in last year just west of Garrison, and the small town where you live is now accessible by rail from both the West Coast and the distant metropolis of Chicago.
  • Montana on The Move!

    By Rob Rath
    Historically, agriculture has always been Montana's foremost economic engine from jobs to exports. Because of the Great Depression and World War II, only 30% of working farms used gas-powered equipment into the 1940s, while the rest still relied on horses to work in the fields.
  • Get to Know a County: Lewis and Clark

    By Bryan Spellman
    Gold attracted people to the region, and Helena’s “main street” is a memorial to the early prospectors. Much of Last Chance Gulch is a pedestrian mall, and the turn-of-the-century architecture lining the sidewalks attracts the eye, just as the various window displays attract shoppers.
  • Constructed From a Vision: The Extraordinary Home of Chief Plenty Coups

    By Joseph Shelton
    Plenty Coup said that "The Cheyenne, and the Sioux... have always been our enemies... But when I fought with the white man against them it was not because I loved him or because I hated the Sioux and the Cheyenne, but because I saw this was the only way we could keep our lands... And it was my dream that taught us the way."
  • Butte Will Rise Again!

    By Sherman Cahill
    You already know the story: thousands of immigrants, arriving at Ellis Island, carrying signs bearing the name of their intended destination. They read, not "Butte, Montana," but "Butte, America." Because Montana, one of the biggest states in the Union, was too small to contain the legend of the Mining City.