Ravalli County, Montana 1921

Ravalli County, created by separation from Missoula County April 1, 1893, has a land area of 2,391 square miles. It lies in Western Montana and comprises the greater portion of the Bitter Root Valley. It is bounded on the west by the Idaho line, which follows along the jagged range of the Bitter Root, on the east by the Granite County line, marked out by a spur of the Rockies, and on the south by the Continental divide. With a length north and south of approximately seventy miles. It has a width of about eighteen miles, and is hemmed in by mountain ranges on all sides save the north. The Bitter Root River, a large clear mountain stream, is fed by numerous tributaries coming down from the mountains on both sides of the valley, and the tourist may here find beautiful scenery with splendid hunting and fishing.

Historic Associations

Bitter Root Valley has its historic associations. In 1805 Lewis and Clark, crossing over from the Big Hole, passed down the valley on their route westward. Here also, in 1841, the Jesuit fathers established the first church in Montana, St. Mary's Mission, which still stands in what is the town of Stevensville. They also plowed, seeded and harvested the first acre of land in Montana. The Nez Perces in their outbreak of 1877 swept through the valley, and the Flathead Indians made it their home until they were removed to the Flathead reservation in 1 89 1. It was here that Marcus Daly established his racing stud and bred some of the most famous winners on the American turf.

Resources of Ravalli County

Up to the present time Ravalli County has developed no mineral resources. Its pioneers were mostly lumbermen, who established what was for a time the dominant industry, but which now holds a secondary position. Though they cut over thousands of acres of land in the county, large commercial stands of timber still remain. There are 1,129,567 acres included within the Bitter Root National Forest and 7,900 acres within the Lolo National Forest.

Many of the early settlers who came here to cultivate the land engaged extensively in fruit growing, which industry for a time put on the aspect of a "boom." But too little regard was paid to location and the character of the soil, and as a result some met with failure. Better judgment, guided by experience, has served to stabilize the industry and make it profitable, and there are now about 35,000 acres in the county laid out in orchards. Many former orchard tracts have been planted to hay and grain, for dairy herds and swine. General farming, dairying and flour milling are also carried on successfully. Most of the farming is done under irrigation. The greater part of the land surface is rolling, with considerable slope near the foothills. Here and there the slope is broken by bench lands some of which have been placed under the ditch. The soil varies from a gravelly light soil to a deep loam. The farm crops in general consist of hay, both wild and tame, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and other vegetables, apples and cherries. The price of irrigated land is from $100 to $200 an acre; non-irrigated land about $30 an acre, and grazing land from $7 to $15 an acre. The transportation facilities are adequate to present needs. A branch line of the Northern Pacific from Missoula runs practically the entire length of the valley, which is also traversed by the Park-to-Park road link.

Ravalli County has made ample provision for education. Besides the rural and graded schools there are high schools at Hamilton, Stevensville, Corvallis and Victor, each accredited for the four year course.

The Hamilton High School also maintains a teachers' training department. Though having an elevation on over 3,000 feet on the Pacific side of the divide, the climate of Ravalli County is in general mild, extremes of temperature being comparatively infrequent. In the development of the tourist trade, dairying, horticulture and the raising of blooded livestock, new settlers may find abundant opportunities for industry with the prospect of an adequate reward.

Hamilton and Vicinity

The largest city in Ravalli County is Hamilton, the county seat, which is a town of modern conveniences, substantial business blocks and handsome residences. It has also good educational and religious facilities. It is situated near the center of Bitter Root Valley in the midst of a fine apple country, and with pine forests in the vicinity. Among its industries are a large sawmill, a sash, door and box factory and a lath mill. Adjoining the town is Bitter Root Stock Farm, founded by the late Marcus Daly, now owned and managed by Mrs. Marcus Daly. This estate contains 22,000 acres and is one of the finest, if not the finest, in Montana. A picturesque locality near town is known as Forest Hill. The City of Hamilton contains eight churches, among which the most notable are the Methodist Episcopal and the Presbyterian. The former was erected in 1893. Three substantial banks provide adequate financial accommodations and three newspapers are here published. There are two good hotels and an active Chamber of Commerce, with J. E. Shoudy as secretary, is going good work in inaugurating local improvements and keeping the citizens imbued with progressive ideas. Another important local institution is the Hamilton Public Library. Three and a half miles from the city the County Poor Farm is located.

The other community centers of Ravalli County are Stevensville, Corvallis, Victor and Darby. Stevensville, with a population of 1,250, is the second city in point of size, and has the distinction of being not only the oldest town in the county but also in the state. It is situated on the Bitter Root branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad, twenty-eight miles south of Missoula and is the center of a fine fruit country. Among its local institutions are two banks, two newspapers, a co-operative creamery, flour mill and seven churches. The creamery is the only cooperative institution of the kind in the state and is one of the most successful enterprises of that character in the United States. It markets all kinds of dairy products, including poultry.

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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