Sanders County, Montana 1921

For diversity of industries and for attractions offered to those who have an inclination for an outdoor life, few counties in Montana excel Sanders. Its varied topography serves to make the county a broad panorama of beautiful scenery, in which are towering mountain ranges, broad prairie basins, picturesque gorges and long stretches of timberland. Owing to its conformation, the county favors the pursuits of agriculture, dairying, horticulture, mining and lumbering. Its great natural resources as to fish and game make it a favorite camping-ground of sportsmen from all over the country. Some of its industries have not been developed to a great extent, having been but recently recognized as opportunities, but advancement is being made in various directions.

Sanders County was organized March i, 1906, being formed from a part of Missoula County. It was named after the grand pioneer, first president of the State Historical Society, United States Senator and strong public character, Wilbur F. Sanders. Although the Assembly passed the bill for the creation of the county on the 7th of February, 1905. Colonel Sanders did not live to see it fairly organized, his death occurring at his home in Helena, on July 7th, of the year named.

The County of Sanders lies in the northwestern part of Montana, the Idaho state line marking its western boundary, and is on the western slope of the Rockies, being skirted by the Coeur d'Alene Mountains on the south and the Cabinet range on the north in a general way. Between these two ranges the Clark's Fork of the Columbia River flows westerly the length of the county. In places, the valley along the river widens out into broad prairie basins and in other places, becomes of a gorge-like narrowness. The Clark's Fork of the Columbia carries a larger volume of water than does the Missouri River in Montana, and is fed by numerous tributaries rising in both the Coeur d'Alene and Cabinet mountains.

While agriculture, dairying and mining are making much progress, lumbering is the chief industry. There are over a million acres of Sanders County included within national forests, 37,815 acres in the Lolo Forest and 965,963 acres in the Cabinet National Forest. Along the Thompson River is one of the most valuable stands of white pine to be found in the United States, and the mountains have valuable tracts of yellow pine, fir, cedar and larch. Lumbering operations are carried on in various localities throughout the county and numerous large lumber camps are to be found throughout the timbered districts. Sawmills are found in most of the bigger towns and the industry is one which has a firm hold upon the county, being made additionally profitable by the excellent transportation facilities available. In the latter connection it may be mentioned that the main line of the Northern Pacific Railway follows the Clark's Fork of the Columbia through the county. The National Parks Highway and the Yellowstone Trail parallel the railway.

In the Lumber Country

Agricultural pursuits are confined to the valley of the Clark's Fork and along the tributary streams that flow into it, such as Thompson River and Prospect and Vermilion creeks. The bottom lands are of a deep sandy loam, while a gravelly loam predominates on the bench lands. In the western half of the county the land is either cut-over land or natural meadow, and almost all of it is irrigable by private projects. Near Thompson Falls, 3,000 acres in one tract are irrigated from the Thompson River. This section of the county is admirably adapted to dairying, clover and other forage crops growing in abundance, while the vast area of national forest reserve furnishes cheap pasturage. Wheat, clover, timothy, oats, potatoes, peas and barley are the principal crops, although many experimenters have had success with fruit-growing, especially in the main valley, where apples, plums, cherries, pears, strawberries and some peaches have been raised in marketable quantities. While the development of mining as an industry in Sanders County has not been carried much beyond the prospecting stage, it is known that there are quantities of silver, lead, zinc, copper and gold, particularly in the mineral districts of the Coeur d'Alenes.

The land area of Sanders County is 2,837 acres, which brings it under the general average of the fifty-four Montana counties, and it is about tenth smallest in population, which, according to United States Census report of 1920, is 3,949 souls. The mean temperature of the county is in the neighborhood of 45.2, and the growing season is from n to 132 days. Lands in the cutover region sell at from $10 to $15 an acre, and in the prairie sections the price ranges from $20 to $100 an acre.

The educational system of Sanders is well organized and of a high order, and in addition to the rural and graded schools of the county, there are three high schools, those at Thompson Falls and Plains being accredited to the four-year term and that at Paradise for a two-year term. Sanders County, as before noted, can compete with any section of the country as an outdoor land. Numerous well-stocked trout streams, wide areas of virgin forests inhabited by deer, elk, cougar, bear, wildcats, mountain lions, bighorn and mountain goats offer the best of hunting and fishing, and camp sites at beautiful mountain lakes are easily accessible by national forest trails. Hot springs, twenty miles from Perma, on the Northern Pacific, and located on the former Flathead Indian reservation, is noted for its medicinal waters and mud baths. The springs, located midway between the towns of Camas and Hot Springs, have been leased by the Department of the Interior to a company which is developing them as a health and pleasure resort, the lease including more than ioo acres. Plans made by the leasing company included the building of an electric line connecting the springs with the railroad and extending beyond the springs about forty miles. The mud baths have gained something more than a local reputation as a cure for rheumatism, and unlike the great majority of baths of this kind throw out hot mud which runs away with the water. The waters of Hot Springs, which are available throughout the year, have been found beneficial in the treatment of venereal diseases and intestinal troubles.

Thompson Falls

Thompson Falls, the county seat of Sanders County, is a town of 508 people, according to the 1920 United. States Census report, and is advantageously located on the Northern Pacific and Clark's Fork, 102 miles northwest of Missoula, and in the geographical center of the county. It is a thriving little community, with a good waterworks system, and is in the heart of the mining and lumbering districts. It maintains two banking institutions, two weekly newspapers, a good hotel and a number of retail establishments, in addition to having a graded and a high school and several churches.

Four miles east of the Thompson River, on which Thompson Falls is situated, is located an irrigation project. The Montana Power Company has made a big hydroelectric installation at Thompson Falls, the power being used to supply the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Plains, in the productive Plains Valley, is the outlet for a large portion of the former Flathead reservation region, and the center of a big livestock country, in addition to which some of the finest farms of the county are adjacent to this town. Plains is also noted as having the longest' bridge in the state of Montana, crossing the Clark's Fork. Paradise, situated southeast of Plains, is a division point of the Northern Pacific. Perma and Dixon are agricultural centers in the eastern end of the county, and Heron, Noxon, Trout Creek, Whitepine, Alger and Belknap in the western end.

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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