Missoula County, Montana 1921

Missoula, the name both of the county and its seat of government, is one of the most musical words of the Salish tongue connected with the Indian nomenclature of Montana. It is derived from the native In-missou-let-ka, the English translation of which is "The River of Awe." The phrase especially refers to the River Missoula, the waters of which gathered from five great valleys pour and dash through the beautiful city of Missoula and might well strike awe into the sensibilities of the modern human, to say nothing of the primitive Indian who had greater leisure than the man of today to consider its grand and ever shifting movements.

County of the Five Valleys

Not all of the counties of Montana are so favored as is Missoula, nor have all of them the natural resources of this county, which allow its people a choice of various occupations. Located midway between the north and south boundaries of Western Montana, it has been known as "the County of the Five Valleys," and of these five all are productive. The Bitter Root Valley long has been known because of the fine quality of its apples ; the Blackfoot Valley is noted for its livestock and wheat; the Flathead Valley is one of the best farming districts in the state for diversified agriculture; the Missoula Valley raises thousands of tons of hay and grains annually, and the Flint Creek Valley is a producer of agricultural crops of all kinds.

Missoula County is practically square in size, being fifty-five miles long from north to south and fifty miles wide from east to west, and all of the county is in a mountainous region, with the Flathead Valley in the northwest section, comprising about 210,000 acres of agricultural land, mostly irrigated and rolling country. The Missoula and Grass valleys, situated in the central part of the county, are irrigated and agricultural comprising 70,000 acres. The Bitter Root Valley, in the south central part, and the Blackfoot Valley in the east central district are narrow and fertile, that part of the former in Missoula County containing about 20,000 acres, and of the latter 25,000 acres.


Naturally Missoula County is largely agricultural and hay and grain are among some of the principal crops, while much fruit is raised. Timothy and clover are raised all over the county and in some parts of the Flathead Valley alfalfa is a principal crop. But while agriculture has a leading place among the industries, another of perhaps equal importance is lumbering, the total amount cut annually for the county being approximately 150,000,000 feet. The timber lands of the county are very extensive, and the eastern half and southwest portion of the county are almost solid timber land. Pine, fir and tamarack are the chief species. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company has one of the largest and most up-to-date mills in the Northwest, at Bonner, seven miles east of Missoula, the annual capacity being 100,000,000 feet. The Western Lumber Company also has a large mill at Milltown, with a capacity of 25,000,000 feet, and Polleys Lumber Company has a plant at Missoula with a capacity of 20,000,000 feet. There are several other plants which have a combined capacity of 5,000,000 feet, and logging camps are located in all parts of the county. Blooded stock raising is a growing industry, and other enterprises which are thriving are several woodworking plants, and a manufacturing plant at Missoula City the output of which consists of culverts and flumes.

Drainage and Water Supply Missoula County is splendidly provided for, as to drainage and water supply. The sources of water supply for all irrigation purposes are from the many mountain streams fed by snow and glaciers. The principal stream is the Missoula (or Hell Gate) River, from which the county derives its name, which enters the county at the extreme southeastern corner and follows a northwesterly course for its entire width. The Missoula River is fed by the Blackfoot River east and the Bitter Root River which runs north and south, four miles west of Missoula. The Jocko River, which runs westerly through the central part of the county, supplies the United States reclamation projects for the lower part of the Mat head. The Clearwater River runs from the extreme north end of the county in a southerly direction for about forty miles, where it empties into the Blackfoot and both the Blackfoot and Clearwater are noted as fishing streams. The Rattlesnake Creek is the source of water supply for Missoula City and is one of the finest streams in the Northwest for domestic purposes. Government tests and analyses have shown the water of this stream to be chemically pure. In rural districts the domestic water supply is from wells and from natural springs developed into gravity systems for community use.

Evolution of Missoula County

Missoula County antedated the territory several years. In December, 1860, the Legislature of Washington Territory divided the County of Spokane and created the County of Missoula, with the county seat at or near the trading post of Worden & Company, at Hell Gate Ronde It then embraced all those portions of the present counties of Missoula and Deer Lodge lying west of the main range of the Rocky Mountains. Missoula County remained a portion of Washington Territory until Idaho Territory was organized on the 3rd day of March, 1863, when it became a portion of the latter. On the 26th of May, 1864, Congress created Montana Territory and the first Assembly, which met at Bannack, in February, 1865, located the county seat at Hell Gate. To attain its present form, parts were taken from Missoula County, in 1893, to form Flathead and Ravalli counties and to add to Sanders, in 1906, and Mineral, in 1914; while a part of Powell County was annexed to Eastern Missoula County in 1915.

Missoula County is well settled, being the fifth in population of the Montana counties. The census of 1920 gives it 24,041, as compared with 23,596 in 1910. Of the county total, the city itself has 12,668. The average value of improved irrigated land ranges from $65 to $125 per acre, and improved non-irrigated land is valued at from $45 to $65 per acre. Small improved tracts adjacent to towns sell at from $350 to $700 per acre. Non-improved cultivable lands, grazing lands, sell for approximately $25 per acre. There are three National Forests in the county, Lolo, Lewis and Clark and Missoula.

Missoula County enjoys the benefits of a modern, up-to-date school system. There are sixty-three public schools, three parochial and one Americanization night school, and in the city of Missoula City alone there are ten grammar schools and one county high school. Many of the rural schools have been consolidated and numerous motor busses are used to transport the children to and from the school buildings. In addition to the University of Montana, Missoula City has a first class business College.

Highways, Scenery and Tourists' Trips

Two transcontinental railroad lines, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, electrified, and the Northern Pacific, traverse the county, the latter having a divisional terminal here. Local daily trains are made up at Missoula and operated to the Bitter Root Valley, to Hell Gate Valley, Grass Valley, the Coeur d'Alene and the Flathead. There are also, in summer, many automobile stages to each of these valleys. One electric line runs from Missoula to Bonner, seven miles distant, and the principal state highways are the Yellowstone Trail and the National Parks Highway. Hunting and fishing are to be enjoyed all along the main traveled highways, and ideal natural camping grounds along good streams are available in all sections. The Mission range of mountains, in the Flathead Valley, with its glaciers and lakes, is unsurpassed for scenery. The Bitter Root, Blackfoot and Flathead Valleys also possess wonderful scenery, and visitors in this vicinity are generally directed to visit Lolo Hot Springs, and Salmon and Seely lakes. Automobile tourists who pass through the county will find ideal camping grounds provided for them by the Missoula Chamber of Commerce in the City of Missoula. A trip that finds much favor among the tourists in this region is that of the Western Montana Park-to-Park Highway Route. Leaving the western gateway of the Yellowstone, the trail enters a scenic wilderness where arise the extreme headwaters of the Missouri River. Deer and elk are found in the hills, and the fisherman finds his labors well rewarded. The road follows the Centennial Valley along the Bitter Root Mountains into Monida, where the Oregon Short Line and the principal road to Salt Lake City are met. The line of the railroad is kept to Armstead, where the beautiful memorial to Sacajawea, in honor of the squaw who piloted Lewis and Clark, has been erected by Montana women. From Armstead the way leads to Dillon, where is situated the State Normal College. Bannack, the first capital of Montana and the scene of early gold discoveries and of many of the most important events in the state's history, lies just beyond. Hangman's Gulch, where the Vigilantes rid the state of several bandits, is near Bannack and on the trail. Here begins the fertile Big Hole Valley, rich in soil and possessed of natural charms. Near Wisdom, farther on, is the Gibbon battlefield, the scene of the defeat and downfall of Chief Joseph and his hardy band of Nez Perces. From Wisdom across the Continental Divide into the Bitter Root Valley, the local governments and the United States Forest Service together built a scenic road. It follows an easy grade through the mountains and leads at last into the Bitter Root at Medicine Hot Springs. Thence the highway runs straight down the valley to Missoula. From Missoula the road runs across the former Flathead Indian Reservation, skirts the bison reserve where buffalo still range,1 and penetrates the land of the Salish, peace-loving Indians who still live in their native picturesqueness. The Flathead's wide prairies have been thrown open to settlement and white farmers have made the land blossom beside the tepee villages of the red man. The highway then runs along the banks of Flathead Lake to Kalispell and thence through an attractive country to the gateway of Glacier Park.

The City of the Five Valleys

Missoula, the county seat of Missoula County, is known both as "Montana's Garden City," and as "The Fine Little City in a Fine Big Country," likewise as "The City of the Five Valleys." It had its inception in 1865, when two traders, Frank L. Worden and Christopher P. Higgins, who had built a post at "Old Hell Gate," five miles west of the present city of Missoula, reached the conclusion that their business could be transacted to better advantage at the meeting point of Rattlesnake Creek and Hell Gate River, and accordingly laid the cornerstone for the present city of more than 12,000 people. The city was incorporated in 1883, reincorporated in 1887 under the general laws, and in 19 17 adopted the commission form of government of three men, a mayor and two commissioners.

Missoula lies at an altitude of 3,223 feet above the sea level, which, while not too high, insures a cool, dry, health-giving climate. During the summer the nights are cool, with breezes descending upon the valley from the snow-capped mountain peaks. The winters, while seldom severe, afford enjoyment to the cold-weather sportsman, permitting sleighing and skating during a considerable season. The average annual rainfall is 15.5 inches.

By reason of its location and natural advantages, Missoula is one of the important mercantile and manufacturing centers of the Northwest and is a leading financial, industrial, wholesale, commercial and railroad distributing point for Western Montana. One of the factories of the Great Western Sugar Company has made its home at Missoula, constructing a plant there which cost $1,500,000. From 400 to 600 employees work in the plant, which forms an incentive to the best sugar growers of this region. The creamery at Missoula has a daily output of 2,000 pounds of butter, and other important industries include a flour mill, a sash and door factory, a potato chip factory, vinegar and cider factories, two brick and tile plants, book binding and book making plants, and a lithographing establishment doing work for firms throughout the Northwest. There are three live and progressive newspapers.

Missoula is a well-governed and well-conducted modern city and its conveniences and utilities compare favorably with large cities throughout the country. For the most part, the residence streets are either boulevarded or parked and there are several miles of paved streets, more than 100 miles of cement walk and more than twenty miles of street railway service track. Electricity for lighting and power is obtained from a power plant seven miles east of the city, where approximately 25,000 horse-power can be produced. Practically all the buildings in the business section of the city are heated by steam from a central plant, and a gas plant furnishes that commodity to those who prefer its use. The water supply has been chemically proven among the purest in Montana, and is handled by a gravity system. The city maintains a strict sanitary inspection, extending to all food-stuffs which are sold, and rigid dairy inspection.

Architecturally, Missoula is one of the handsomest cities of the state. The Montana Building was erected at a cost of $120,000, the Federal Building $175,000, and the courthouse, one of the finest in Montana, $250,000. Among the fraternal orders the Elks' Temple, Masonic Temple and the homes of the Knights of Pythias and the Odd Fellows are handsome edifices. The Missoula Chamber of Commerce, a well-organized and energetic body of which D. D. Richards is secretary, owns its own home, a structure valued at $30,000. The city likewise has four strong banking institutions.

Greenough Park, lying in the northwestern part of the city, is a natural playground in which Rattlesnake Creek takes its tumbling, crystal course through the midst of virgin woodland which has been cultivated only in so far as to remove the underbrush. Sacajawea Park, in the southwestern part of the city, has become a pleasing reality through the efforts of the Missoula Women's Club, and another park in Hammond Division, presented to the city by the South Missoula Land Company, has been developed and adds its attractions. The Milwaukee Railroad has reclaimed the south bank of the river in the vicinity of its station, making it a beautiful little park, approached by rustic bridges, and the Northern Pacific Railroad, by parking and installing an artistic fountain and statue of Capt. John Mullan, has made the vicinity of the station extremely attractive. Missoula's theater-goers enjoy some of the best productions staged.

Missoula offers to its residents the benefits of a Free Public Library, which was founded in 1894 by the Library Association, and endowed in 1902 by Andrew Carnegie. In 1917 there was added the county library department, available to all residents of Missoula County, the second of its kind to begin operations in Montana and the first to be operated in connection with an old establishment. There are five branches, two located in the public schools at Ronan and St. Ignatius, two in the stores at Frenchtown and Potomac, and one in a private home at Carlton. In addition to this branch system, the library serves its out-of-town patrons through the parcel post, the sending charges for which the library pays. The collection now contains 20,116 volumes, and Mrs. Grace M. Stoddard is librarian. The institution is under the supervision of a governing board of trustees, appointed by the city council.

Missoula has three hospitals, the Northern Pacific and St. Patrick's, and the hospital at the County Poor Farm, which is located three miles northeast of the city. In the city is located a well-organized Young Women's Christian Association, of which Mrs. E. E. Kinsman is secretary; the executive office of the Missoula, Ravalli and Sanders Counties Medical Society, of which Dr. J. J. Tobinski is secretary-treasurer ; and the Western Montana Fair Association, of which F. P. Keith is president. The office of the state orchard inspector is located at Missoula, and from this office there is a rigid prohibition maintained against the importation of infected fruit. This is necessary, as the region is an excellent fruit country for the growing of pears, plums, cherries, crabapples and strawberries, particularly in the Rattlesnake Valley, which begins to the northeast of Missoula, twenty-five miles distant, and which was thrown open to settlement in 1909. The winter in this region is moderated by the Chinook, or warm Pacific coast wind, which has a salutary effect upon the growing fruit.

In the thirteen churches of Missoula, nearly every denomination is represented. The credit for building the first church in the city is given to Dr. Thomas Corwin Iliff, who located at Missoula in 1871, and September 15, 1872, dedicated the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was attended by people of all denominations. Prior to this, as early as 1863, Father Grassi had built a log church about six miles below Missoula, three-quarters of a mile beyond the old Town of Hell Gate, which later became the Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier, and a little later he and Father Menetry erected another at Frenchtown. These two churches were erected many years before a church was built at Missoula, but it was not until December 11, 1881, that the first Catholic Church was opened for service within the city limits, Rev. Joseph Menetry being the pastor. St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church is now housed in an edifice which was dedicated on October 9, 1892. A Presbyterian Church was organized in 1877, and the Christian and Baptist (Immanuel) churches followed in 1884. The first Methodist Episcopal was formed at an early day, the Swedish Congregational and the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran (Immanuel) were founded in the '90s, and the Protestant Episcopal, Church of Christ (Scientist), Trinity Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal and others were established at a still later date. In 1916 the Presbyterian and the Congregational churches at Missoula united.

Educational System

Missoula has reason to be proud of its educational system which provides ten grammar schools and the Missoula County High School, while the city is likewise the home of the State University, of Montana's College of Arts and Sciences, and Schools of Business Administration, Forestry, Journalism, Law, Music and Pharmacy. The Roman Catholic denomination provides for St. Joseph's School, the Sacred Heart Academy and Loyola High School. The grammar schools are distributed in various parts of the city so that every child is within easy walking distance of his place of educational training, Hawthorne, Franklin, Willard and Roosevelt schools are situated on the south side of the city, while Central, Prescott, Lincoln and the City Manual Training buildings are in the eastern part, and Whittier and Lowell on the north side. The manual training building also provides for the city's domestic science department and is well equipped for both subjects. Every one of the ten schools has a commodious playground, and the schools are presided over by the city superintendent. They also have a supervisor of music and one of drawing, and a large corps of competent teachers is employed. Within the county borders there are thirty-nine school districts and most of the districts maintain standard schools.

The Catholic school system is an excellent one, in which St. Joseph's School, for boys under the high school age, and Sacred Heart Academy, for girls, are presided over by the Catholic Sisters. Some of the students of these institutions are from Wyoming and Idaho, but 50 per cent are residents of Missoula. The two schools have an excellent playground. Loyola High School, the Catholic school for boys, is conducted by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. The Missoula County High School is the best equipped secondary school in Western Montana, and the present buildings represent an outlay of $150,000. For nearly ten years the high school has maintained a manual training department in which the boys are taught mechanical drawing, drafting, architecture, topographical drawing, etc.; and a domestic science department, in which the girls are taught costume designing, dressmaking, cooking, dietetics, household management and household decoration. The commercial department is well organized and has been a regular part of the school curriculum for eight or nine years.

State University

While the first years in the life of the University of Montana, which was created by an act of the State Legislature in 1893, were ones of hardship, the institution today holds place among the best of the western universities. For the four years of its infancy the institution held its classes in the rooms of one of the city public schools, under Oscar J. Craig, the first president, and his four associates, but in 1897 the Legislature issued bonds to the amount of $100,000 for two buildings, and two Missoula residents donated the present campus site which includes forty acres at the foot of the mountains which enclose the eastern end of the valley, and 520 acres on the slopes of Mount Sentinel. This mountain rises abruptly 2,000 feet above the plain. Today the university has five large and well-equipped buildings, as well as other structures of a temporary character which will be replaced in the future with larger and more substantial buildings. University Hall is the administration building in which are also located the assembly hall of the university and classrooms, lecture rooms and laboratories. Science Hall is occupied by the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Chemistry. Natural Science Hall, which was completed in January, 1919, is a modern, three-story laboratory building, containing the classrooms and laboratories of the departments of biology, botany, home economics and physics, as well as a large lecture room, equipped with stereopticon and motion picture apparatus. Craig Hall is the women's dormitory, entirely used as a domicile for the women students of the institution. The gymnasium is equipped for the physical education of all students, and adjoining it is Dornblaser field, the athletic ground, with its stands and tracks. Library Hall contains the university library, the law library, the classrooms of the School of Law and other lecture and classrooms. The Forestry and Music buildings are frame structures, affording temporary quarters for these schools. The hospital is designed for the isolation and treatment of students who may be suffering from contagious or infectious diseases. Simpkins Hall and Cook Hall are the buildings erected for barracks. They were remodeled so that the former serves as a men's dormitory and the latter is the armory of the R. O. T. C. and temporary quarters of the School of Journalism.

State University, Montana

President Craig remained at the head of the university until 1908, when failing health compelled his resignation. He was succeeded by Clyde A. Duniway, who came to Montana from Stanford University. During the administration of President Duniway, the summer session was inaugurated and the School of Law established. In 1912, Edwin Boone Craighead, of Tulane University, succeeded President Duniway. He continued in office until 1915, and under his presidency the schools of Journalism and Forestry were established, the School of Pharmacy reorganized, and the departments of Business Administration and of Domestic Science were added to the College of Arts and Sciences. In 191 5, Prof. Frederick G. Scheuch was appointed acting president and continued in that capacity until the summer of 1917. Edward O. Sisson was appointed president of the university in 1917, coming to Montana from Idaho, where he had held the office of state commissioner of education. In July, 1921, Doctor Sisson was succeeded by Dr. Charles H. Clapp, former president of the Montana State School of Mines.

Missionary Work of the Railways

Missoula is situated in the midst of a rich tributary country, being located in the one logical spot for a city where the five valleys came together. In the '80s, during the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway, the directors of that line sent out prospecting parties to examine all the passes through the mountain ranges of Western Montana. It was natural that they should wish as direct a route as possible from Butte to the Pacific coast, but the preliminary surveyors were left no choice in the matter. They found that there was but one way open to the railroad, that being to follow the lead, of the Indian tribes, of the Lewis and Clark expedition and of the Mullan Military Highway, and swing north down the Hell Gate River and through Hell Gate Canyon, at the mouth of which the little town of Missoula had been already established. Later, several railroads endeavored to pierce the mountains in some other place, but failed, and in 1907 the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul found its only course to pursue, that of paralleling the Northern Pacific, Missoula thus securing its second transcontinental railway.

In traversing this region, the railways have found that they go through a rich region. The Hell Gate River formed two valleys from which they could draw upon the Hell Gate Valley above Missoula and the broad Frenchtown plains below the city. A few miles to the east of Missoula, the Blackfoot River joins the Hell Gate, making its immense drainage basin tributary to the city and south from the city itself for ninety miles lies the rich valley of the Bitter Root River. A few miles to the west of Missoula, on the other side of a low pass which the Northern Pacific crosses, the broad expanse of the Flathead Valley stretches northward forty miles from the railway to Flathead Lake. The Bitter Root and Frenchtown valleys were sparsely settled when the Northern Pacific first came through Missoula, but it was not until the advent of railway transportation that the development of this part of the state really had its beginning. In those days, when Montana had just been granted statehood, nearly all of Western Montana was included in the one County of Missoula. The rapid growth 'of this region can be demonstrated in no better way than to make note of the fact that instead of one county, this territory now includes five counties within its borders. As the valleys increased in wealth and population, they dropped away from the mother county and set up governments of their own, but Missoula still remains the richest and most populous of them all, for it contains the central point from which they all radiate.

Development of the Valleys

Included in the Hell Gate Valley is the district along the Hell Gate River from Garrison to Missoula, a distance of seventy miles. The valley varies from a narrow canyon with hardly room for the railway tracks to a width of six or eight miles. At Drummond, forty miles from Missoula, the Flint Creek Valley branches off to the south, and in it are the rich farm lands and mines of Granite County. Agriculture, lumbering and mining form the principal industries of Hell Gate Valley, and primitive mountain scenery greets the eye on either side, a scenery made more inviting by the fishing and big game hunting which are included with it. The valley is provided well with railways and highways, both the Northern Pacific and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railways traversing its entire length, while at the present time automobile traffic is prolific, coming over the National Parks Highway and the Yellowstone Trail. Chief among the numerous small towns that dot the valley are Garrison, Drummond, Bearmouth, Gold Creek, Bonita and Clinton.

The Blackfoot Valley, the development of which is a matter of comparatively recent date, comes into Missoula from the northeast. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company built the first railway up the valley in 1911 as a logging road to keep its Bonner sawmills supplied, and later the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul took over the road and completed it to Potomac. This has now been graded to Ovando, a distance of sixty miles from Missoula, although the valley extends some thirty miles beyond that point. While there had been some ranches in the valley prior to the coming of the railway, that innovation held out a greater inducement and was the means of attracting numerous homesteaders. Grain ranches, stock farms and large grazing lands are the principal assets of the country included in the valley, where there are also magnificent forests. The beautiful lake regions and the fishing of the Blackfoot Valley attract many summer visitors, an increasing number of whom have established regular camps, a regulation of the forest service providing that five-acre tracts may be taken over by an individual for this purpose. In the autumn months hunters flock to this region. The larger of the towns include Bonner, McNamara's Landing, Lincoln, Sunset, Potomac, Clearwater, Ovando and Helmville. Bonner is a lumbering center, seven miles east of Missoula.

Extending for thirty miles along the Hell Gate River, west of Missoula, is the Frenchtown Valley, an old and established community which dates its settlement from 1860, when Jesuit priests set up a mission at Frenchtown. The valley is naturally almost free from timber, the land is gently rolling, and geologists explain the openness and flatness of the whole region by stating that it was once the bottom of a huge lake. As is the case with other valleys around Missoula, the Frenchtown district is well supplied with transportation facilities, both of Missoula's transcontinental railways extending through it, the main branch of the Milwaukee, and the Coeur d'Alene branch of the Northern Pacific. Numerous automobile roads extending through the valley are kept in the best of condition. The name "Grass Valley" formerly applied to the Frenchtown district indicates the product it is especially adapted to, which makes it an excellent livestock country. Hereford cattle from the Deschamps ranch of this county have frequently topped the Chicago market. Grain raising is also becoming an important industry, and most of the crops in the valley proper are under irrigation, although dry land farmers are getting good results from their methods of cultivating the more gentle rolling foothills. Frenchtown, from which the valley takes its name, is the chief town.

There has been in existence for some years the idea that the Bitter Root Valley was settled by General Price's left wing, such an impression having been founded on the remark of a veteran of the Civil war. In fact, the date of its settlement goes even back of the war between the states many years, for it was in 184 1 that Father DeSmet invaded the valley and founded St. Mary's Mission, near the present community of Stevensville, and since then the sunny climate of the Bitter Root and the fertility of its soil have led to its becoming one of the most populous valleys of the state. The richness of the Bitter Root was early recognized by the Northern Pacific Railway, and one of the branch "feeders" of that system was built sixty miles up the valley to Darby, although some of the best lands lie beyond the railway terminal, the valley extending thirty miles farther south to the Ross' Hole country. An excellent highway goes the length of the Bitter Root, and the beauty of the high, rugged ridge of the Bitter Root range, with its occasional Lolo or St. Mary's reaching above the other peaks, brings much travel to both the highways and railway. The hundred and one streams which pour down from the mountain snow fields furnish the tourist with all the trout fishing that he can desire. The valley extends directly south from Missoula. The gently-rolling lowlands are practically all under cultivation, and great irrigation projects, such as the big ditch of the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Company and that of the Marcus Daly Estate, in addition to numerous smaller systems, furnish the water necessary for the crops. But, as in the Frenchtown district, the dry land farmers have shown that the cultivation of the foothills can be made to pay even without irrigation ditches. Horticulture is an important industry of the valley and the McIntosh red apple and the Bing cherry have made the name of the Bitter Root known throughout the country. Other fruits of the temperate zone also thrive in the valley. The dairying business is another important pursuit of the ranchers and grain and stock raising also come in for their share of attention. While the lumber industry is not as important as at one time, it still adds much to the wealth of the district. The people of the Bitter Root have given much attention to the subject of education, and in addition to an excellent graded school system, high schools are maintained at Hamilton, Victor and Stevensville. The first named is the county seat of Ravalli County and a thriving city of 3,000 population, situated fifty miles south of Missoula. Other leading communities are Corvallis, Darby, Lolo and Carlton.

The Flathead Valley, lying northwest from Missoula, was one of the last of the five valleys to develop, but when development was commenced it was carried on with a rush that has continued right up to the present. Formerly the valley was held as a reservation for the Flathead tribe of Indians, but in 1910 it was thrown open for settlement to the homesteaders, and its rolling prairies have been transformed into broad fields of wheat and oats. This valley includes the Jocko Valley and that of the Flathead River from Poison, on Flathead Lake, down to Perma, in addition to which there are the smaller side valleys of the Little Bitter Root, the Moeise and Camas Prairie. In the lofty Mission Mountains and in Flathead Lake, the valley has its scenery, which as is almost invariably the case in Montana, is accompanied by good hunting and fishing. Formerly the valley was not well equipped with transportation, but of recent years the Northern Pacific has built a branch up from Dixon to Poison, on Flathead Lake, which traverses the valley and thereby connects up with the Great Northern at Kalispell, through Flathead Lake.

The main line of the Northern Pacific runs through the Jocko Valley. During the earlier days of settlement in the valley, the lack of suitable transportation facilities, as to railways, had a beneficial effect upon the highways, as good roads were a necessity and the movement thus started has been continued uninterruptedly, the slogan of "good roads" having been a popular one in the valley for a number of years. Several automobile stage lines, inaugurated before the advent of the railway, continue in operation, and the entire region is covered with a network of highways. Grain and stock are the chief source of prosperity on the Flathead, and both irrigated and dry farming are followed with success. The United States reclamation service has placed much of the valley under water from its lateral ditches. The leading town of the Flathead Valley is St. Ignatius, the home of the original mission for the Indians established by the Jesuit Fathers, a community in which farming is the leading industry. Arlee and Ravalli are other more or less important points, while Dixon and Perma are points on the railroad in the valley proper. Ronan is devoted largely to lumbering and farming, and is a community of about 600 population, located on the automobile roads in about the center of the valley.

Opportunities for Dairying

While Missoula County is one of the well-developed and fairly thickly settled counties of the state, there are still numerous opportunities for men of ambition and energy to be found in this region. Its resources are so numerous and its advantages of such a superior nature that it attracts permanent settlers in quest of a field of activity that has not been worked out by over-development. One of the industries in which opportunities are presented here is the dairying line. Forage for cattle is of the best to be found in the western part of the state, and the yield of milk from the cows fed on alfalfa, clover and timothy hay is of excellent quality. In the Bitter Root Valley there are several creameries, particularly at Hamilton and Stevensville, as well as the large industry of this kind located at Missoula, which has done a splendid business in the sale of butter, ice cream and milk. The poultry business is another one which pays, this being especially true in the Bitter Root Valley. The former Flathead Indian Reservation is likewise developing into a dairying community. Irrigation in various sections of Missoula County has progressed wonderfully during recent years, greatly enlarging the area of productive land and thus providing a wonderful field for agriculture, and the quality of the products raised in this region has been proven by the number of prizes which Missoula County vegetables, grains and fruits have taken at state, sectional and national fairs and expositions. Reliable and thorough transportation and climatological and power resources have opened opportunities in a manufacturing way, as well as for mining development and agricultural industry, and, all in all, the county would seem to be one in which the man of ambition and industry should find the opportunity for the accomplishment of his desires.

Montana Counties 1921

Return to Montana AHGP

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

Please come back Soon!


Back to AHGP

This page was last updated Thursday, 11-Jun-2015 21:54:16 EDT

Copyright August @2011 - 2024 AHGP - Judy White
For the exclusive use and benefit of The American History and Genealogy Project. All rights reserved.