Dawson County, Montana 1921

Irregular in form, with a maximum length of fifty miles east and west and a maximum breadth of sixty miles north and south, Dawson County covers 2,430 square miles of land area in the extreme eastern portion of Montana, being from fifteen to twenty miles west of the Dakota line. This is one of the older counties of the state, having been created January 15, 1869, and from early days has been a splendid stock county, because of the native cover of a heavy and nutritious grass. Unlike some other parts of the state, the livestock industry has not died out here. On the contrary, pure-bred stock raising is being carried on in industrious manner, dairying is growing rapidly, the county having the finest dairy farm in the state, and the production of hogs and poultry has become a factor in adding to the county's wealth and prestige. Agriculture, however, in spite of the tenacity of the stock growing industry, cannot be denied, and its history here is much the same as in other parts of the state, in regard to its steady and continuous growth. While there is some broken land around the Sheep Bluffs, in the northwestern part of the county, and east of the Yellowstone, smooth prairies and rolling land predominate in the county, making conditions excellent for farming purposes, and the dark sandy loam soil, with a heavy clay subsoil, is a big producer.

The principal crops produced by the agriculturists consist of barley, oats and wheat. During recent years as high as 900,000 bushels have been shipped in a single season from the county seat, Glendive, with other communities likewise contributing large shipments. Sixty per cent of the land is tillable and the remainder affords good grazing. At Intake, Dawson County, are situated the head gates of the Lower Yellowstone irrigation project, which irrigates approximately 90,000 acres, some of which forms a part of Dawson County, and another project soon to be realized, which will cover about 30,000 acres, lies north of the Yellowstone River between Fallon and Glendive. Un-irrigated land, however, has produced excellent crops, and as high as 400 bushels of potatoes have been raised in one acre of un-irrigated land. This product has become one of the leading sources of profit for the agriculturists who have not irrigated their farms. Another crop which is rapidly increasing in acreage is corn, and it is estimated that the 1920 acreage in this staple product in Dawson County alone was as great as the acreage for the entire state in 1910. This is a commentary upon the advance of agriculture and the fact that the farmers are coming to a realization of the possibilities of the state in the way of corn growing. This is not exactly an innovation in Dawson County as in 1915 this county won first and second prizes on Northwestern Dent corn at the St. Paul Corn Show, and in December of the following year, at the First National Corn Show, held at the same city, took first and second prizes and three third prizes.

Lying in the heart of the western third of the Fort Union region, Dawson County is so plentifully supplied with lignite coal, and it is so readily mined, that the settlers have no difficulty in securing fuel, in addition to which this product is used quite extensively in the towns. For some years past natural gas secured in the home locality has supplied Glendive, and the region gives promising evidence of being a good oil field, although it is probable that deep-well drilling will have to be resorted to. Excellent clays for pottery and brick-making are found in the county.

The principal sources of the water supply in Dawson County are the Yellowstone River, which bisects the southeastern half of the county, and the Redwater River, which flows through its extreme northwest townships. Numerous large and small creeks are tributary to these streams, furnishing abundant and accessible facilities not only for watering livestock, but also for small individual irrigation enterprises, and water conservation projects. In the upper bench lands, the matter of artesian well irrigation has received considerable attention. The main line of the Northern Pacific Railway runs about half way across Dawson County, and the Sidney branch of the same road covers about twenty-five miles of the county northwesterly from Glendive. While at present the Great Northern terminates at Richey, entering the county from the extreme northern portion, when extended westward this road may become a main line of the system. Dawson County is traversed by the National Parks Highway or Red Trail, the Black Trail, the Green Trail and the Blue Trail, all of which pass through Glendive.


Among the thriving communities of Dawson County are Richey, Stipek, Intake, Bloomfield, Union and Lindsay. In all of these communities there are good educational facilities, and in Dawson County there are more than 100 public grade schools. The largest city in the county, and in the extreme eastern portion of the state, is Glendive, the county seat, an important distributing point and the center of 500 miles of railroad. It is the headquarters of the Yellowstone division of the Northern Pacific, and 500 men are employed here in the various departments of the company, the annual payroll being about $800,000. The company has erected a new railroad depot, costing approximately $100,000, and the Northern Pacific Railway Hospital, which cost $125,000, is located at this point. Glendive, which was incorporated in 1903, has enjoyed a steady growth in population, and is a modern, hustling city. Situated on the Yellowstone, it has a large river traffic, and water from that river is pumped into settling tanks on the side of a high hill known locally as "Hungry Joe." The city maintains a prosperous wool and grain market, and has four sound financial institutions, a good hotel and three newspapers. Its chamber of commerce is an energetic organization which has contributed much to the city's welfare.

Five churches are located at Glendive, and three public schools which furnish not only the usual grade education but manual training as well. Glendive is the scene of the annual Dawson County Fair. It has substantial business blocks, beautiful homes and paved and graveled streets and is lighted by electricity and natural gas, the latter being piped to the city from wells situated about twelve miles distant in the vicinity of Cedar Creek. It also owns and operates an excellent municipal water system and has two hospitals, four grain elevators, a modern flour mill, a creamery and four department stores, in addition to dry goods, men's furnishing and clothing stores, a number of jobbing and distributing houses and mercantile establishments of various kinds.

Montana Counties 1921

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Source: Montana its Story and Biography, by Tom Strout, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, 1921

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