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Montana is a state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. It was admitted as the 41st state in 1889. Most of the area passed to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was explored by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806. Split for many years among other western territories, the region was organized as the Montana Territory in 1864. Helena is the capital and Billings the largest city. Population: 935,000.

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History

Glacier NP, Montana

Before the white settlers arrived, two groups of Indian tribes lived in the region that is now Montana. The Arapaho, Assiniboine, Atsina, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Crow tribes lived on the plains. The mountains in the west were the home of the Bannack, Flathead, Kalispell, Kootenai, and Shoshone tribes. Other nearby tribes (such as the Sioux, Mandan, and Nez Perce) hunted in the Montana region

Much of the region was acquired by the U.S. from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The northwestern part was gained by treaty with Great Britain in 1846. At various times, parts of Montana were in territories of Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

First explored for France by François and Louis-Joseph Verendrye in the early 1740s. The American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led their expedition across Montana to the Pacific Coast in 1805. They returned in 1806 and explored parts of Montana both going and coming. By 1807, Manuel Lisa set up Montana's first fur-trading post.

In 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.

The U.S. claim to NW Montana, the area between the Rockies and the N Idaho border, was validated in the Oregon Treaty of 1846 with the British. Montana was then still a wilderness of forest and grass, with a few trading posts and some missions.

Cattle raising began in Montana in the mid-1850s, when Richard Grant, a trader, brought the first herd to the area from Oregon. Gold 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.

The mining camps had almost no effective law enforcement. Finally, the citizens took the law into their own hands. One famous incident involved the two biggest gold camps--Bannack and Virginia City. The settlers learned that their sheriff, Henry Plummer, was actually an outlaw leader. The men of Bannack and Virginia City formed a vigilance committee to rid themselves of the outlaws. These vigilantes hanged Plummer in January 1864. They adopted as their symbol the numbers "3-7-77." These numbers may have represented the dimensions of a grave: 3 feet wide, by 7 feet long, by 77 inches deep. Many outlaws were hanged or driven from Montana by the vigilantes.

A large number of early prospectors came from the South, particularly from Confederate Army units that broke up in the Civil War (1861-1865). One of the major gold fields was called Confederate Gulch, because three Southerners found the first gold there.

During the boom years, gold dust was the principal money. For example, missionaries did not pass collection plates at church services. They passed a tin cup for gold dust. Chinese laundrymen even found gold in their wash water after they washed the miners' clothing.

Sidney Edgerton, an Idaho official, saw the need for better government of the wild mining camps. At the time, Montana was part of Idaho Territory. Edgerton wrote to Washington, D.C., urging the creation of a new territory. Montana became a territory on May 26, 1864, and Edgerton served as its first governor.

In 1866, Nelson Story, a cattleman, drove a thousand longhorn cattle from Texas to Montana. Story's herd started the Montana cattle industry in earnest.

The coming of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883 opened the way to the eastern markets and caused even more growth. But disaster struck the cattle industry in the bitterly cold winter of 1886-1887. Cattle died by the thousands in the howling blizzards and frigid temperatures. Ranching continued after this, but on a smaller, more careful, basis.

In 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 Lieutenant George A. Custer and a large part of his men. The last serious Indian fighting in Montana started when the U.S. government tried to move the Nez Perce Indians from their lands in Oregon. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce led his tribe toward Canada through Montana. The Indians and U.S. troops fought several battles in Idaho, and then a two-day battle at the Big Hole in southwestern Montana. Troops under Colonel Nelson A. Miles captured Chief Joseph's Indians about 40 miles (64 km) from the Canadian boundary in October 1877.

Between 1880 and 1890, the population of Montana grew from about 39,000 to nearly 143,000. The people of Montana first asked for statehood in 1884, but they had to wait five years. Finally, Montana was admitted as the 41st state on November 8, 1889. Joseph K. Toole of Helena became the first state governor.

Much of Montana's growth during the 1880s and 1890s came because of the mines at Butte. The earliest mines produced gold. Then silver was discovered in the rock ledges of the Butte Hill. Later, miners found rich veins of copper. Miners came to Butte from Ireland, England and other areas of Europe. Smelters were built, and more men were hired to operate them. The Butte Hill became known as "the Richest Hill on Earth."

Butte 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.

Clark wanted to be a U.S. Senator, but Daly opposed him. In the campaign of 1899, Clark was accused of bribery. He won, but resigned rather than face an investigation by a Senate committee. Two years later, Clark won his Senate seat in a second election. He was helped by F. Augustus Heinze, another mine owner. Heinze had arrived in Butte long after Daly and Clark became millionaires. But Heinze became wealthy though clever use of mining law and court suits.

First Daly, then the others sold their properties to a single corporation, which became the Anaconda Company. The Company organized an electric power company, built a railroad, and constructed dams. It also controlled forests, banks, and newspapers. Anaconda became so important in the life of the state that Montanans referred to it simply as "The Company."

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.

During the early 1900s, Montana made increasing use of its natural resources. New dams harnessed the state's rivers, providing water for irrigation and electric power for industry. The extension of the railroads assisted the processing industries. New plants refined sugar, milled flour, and processed meat. In 1910, Congress created Glacier National Park, which became an attraction for tourists.

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.

Jeannette Rankin of Missoula was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. She was the first woman to serve in Congress. She won fame in 1941 as the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into World War II. Rankin said she did not believe in war and would not vote for it.

The Great Depression (1929-1939) also hit the nation. Demand for the state's metals dropped because of the nationwide lag in production. Drought contributed to the drop in farm income, crought on by the depression.

However, state and federal programs continued to develop Montana's resources during the 1930s. The building of the giant Fort Peck Dam helped provide jobs. Completion of the dam in 1940 provided badly needed water for irrigation. Other projects included insect control, irrigation, rural electrification, and soil conservation. The construction of parks, recreation areas, and roads also continued under government direction. In 1940, Montana voters elected Republican Sam C. Ford of Helena as governor. He was only the third Republican state governor in Montana history.

Montana's 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.

In 1972, Montana voters narrowly approved a new state Constitution. The Constitution went into effect in 1973.

Montana's gas, oil, and coal industries expanded rapdily during the 1970s, when an energy shortage developed in the United States. Coal production increased sharply, from less than 3 million to more than 30 million tons per year. Huge, open-pit strip mines operated at Colstrip and other southeastern Montana sites. The Montana Power Company built four coal-burning, electric power plants at Colstrip. A 30 percent coal severance tax contributed needed funds to the state. But, in the early 1980s, fuel prices fell, and Montana's production leveled off.

Montana's traditionally important industries experienced major difficulties during the mid-1980s. Farmers suffered hardships brought on by drought, low farm product prices, and reduced sales to foreign markets. The lumber industry cut fewer logs than in the past. In addition, the mining industry lost thousands of jobs. The Anaconda Company, once the leading mining company in the state, gave up copper mining altogether.

Montana, today, remains a state rich in natural resources. But state leaders seek to broaden Montana's economy by attracting small business and by promoting electronics and other advanced-technology ventures. The Science and Technology Alliance, created in 1985, looks for new uses for raw materials. The state is also working to expand its tourist industry.

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Trivia

  • Montana has the largest migratory elk herd in the nation.
  • The state boasts the largest breeding population of trumpeter swans in the lower United States.
  • At the Rocky Mountain Front Eagle Migration Area west of Great Falls more golden eagles have been seen in a single day than anywhere else in the country.
  • North of Missoula is the largest population of nesting common loons in the western United States.
  • The average square mile of land contains 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn antelope, and 3.3 deer.
  • The Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area contains as many as 300,000 snow geese and 10,000 tundra swans during migration.
  • At Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge it is possible to see up to 1,700 nesting pelicans.
  • The Montana Yogo Sapphire is the only North American gem to be included in the Crown Jewels of England.
  • In 1888 Helena had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world.
  • 46 out of Montana's 56 counties are considered "frontier counties" with an average population of 6 or fewer people per square mile.
  • At Egg Mountain near Choteau dinosaur eggs have been discovered supporting the theory some dinosaurs were more like mammals and birds than like reptiles.
  • Montana is the only state with a triple divide allowing water to flow into the Pacific, Atlantic, and Hudson Bay. This phenomenon occurs at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.
  • The notorious outlaw, Henry Plummer, built the first jail constructed in the state.
  • No state has as many different species of mammals as Montana.
  • The moose, now numbering over 8,000 in Montana, was thought to be extinct in the Rockies south of Canada in the 1900s.
  • Flathead Lake in northwest Montana contains over 200 square miles of water and 185 miles of shoreline. It is considered the largest natural freshwater lake in the west.
  • Miles City is known as the Cowboy Capitol.
  • Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming was the first national park in the nation.
  • The town of Ekalaka was named for the daughter of the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull.
  • Fife is named after the type of wheat grown in the area or, as some locals contend, by Tommy Simpson for his home in Scotland.
  • Fishtail is named for either a Mr. Fishtail who lived in the area or as the area Indians prefer for some of the peaks in the nearby Beartooth Mountain Range which look like the tail of a fish.
  • The Yaak community is the most northwestern settlement in the state.
  • Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.
  • Near the Pines Recreation Area as many as 100 sage grouse perform their extraordinary spring mating rituals.
  • The first luge run in North America was built at Lolo Hot Springs on Lolo Pass in 1965.
  • Combination, Comet, Keystone, Black Pine, and Pony are names of Montana ghost towns.
  • Virginia City was founded in 1863 and is considered to be the most complete original town of its kind in the United States.
  • Montana is nicknamed the Treasure State.
  • The bitterroot is the official state flower.
  • The density of the state is six people per square mile.
  • The highest point in the state is Granite Peak at 12,799 feet.
  • The most visited place in Montana is Glacier National Park, known as the crown jewel of the continent. It lies along Montana's northern border and adjoins Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, forming the world's first International Peace Park.
  • Buffalo in the wild can still be viewed at the National Bison Range in Moiese, south of Flathead Lake and west of the Mission Mountains.
  • Montana's first territorial capital, Bannack, has been preserved as a ghost town state park along once gold-laden Grasshopper Creek.
  • The Old West comes to life through the brush and sculpture of famed western artist Charlie Russell at the Charles M. Russell Museum Complex in Great Falls. The museum contains the world's largest collection of Russell's work, his original log-cabin studio and his Great Falls home.
  • The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman gained fame through the work of its chief paleontologist, Jack Horner. Horner was the prototype for the character Dr. Alan Grant in the best selling novel/movie, "Jurassic Park."
  • Montana's rivers and streams provide water for three oceans and three of the North American continent's major river basins.
  • Just south of Billings, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his troops made their last stand. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument features the Plains Indians and United States military involved in the historic battle.
  • The western meadowlark is the official state bird.
  • The first inhabitants of Montana were the Plains Indians.
  • Montana is home to seven Indian reservations.
  • Every spring nearly 10,000 white pelicans with a wingspan of nine feet migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to Medicine Lake in northeastern Montana.
  • The Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park is considered one of the most scenic drives in America.
  • The state's official animal is the grizzly bear.
  • The state's motto Oro y Plata means gold and silver.
  • Montana's name comes from the Spanish word mountain.
  • In Montana the elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber the humans.
  • Glacier National Park has 250 lakes within its boundaries.
  • Hill County has the largest county park in the United States. Beaver Creek Park measures 10 miles long and 1 mile wide.
  • Competing with the D River in Lincoln City, Oregon for the title of the world's shortest river, the Roe River flows near Great Falls. Both rivers lengths vary from 58 feet to 200 feet. The source for this small river is Giant Springs, the largest freshwater spring in the United States.
  • There are 28,100 independent farm and ranch operations in the state of Montana. This comprises 63% of the land area. Average size is 2125 acres.
  • Creeks in Montana are often pronounced Crick.

External links

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Montana United States MT US