Lewis and Clarke County, Montana 1870-1888

Lewis and Clarke County, occupying a central position, although comparatively small in extent, having only 2,900 square miles, was the second in population, its inhabitants numbering about 13,000, and its assessed valuation being in 1884 over $8,000,000. Its mines have already been spoken of. From 135 farms in Prickly Pear Valley was harvested, in 1878, 25,000 bushels of wheat, 40,000 bushels of oats, 15,000 bushels of barley, or an average of over 500 bushels of grain to every farm. Besides the grain crop, 7,000 tons of hay were harvested, over 300 tons of turnips and cabbages, 40,000 bushels of potatoes, and 15,000 bushels of pease. The county grazes 30,000 cattle and 25,000 sheep, the wool clip from 18,000 head being 83,000 pounds. The livestock in 1884 was valued at $1,000,000.

Helena, the county seat, made a port of entry in 1867, and also the capital of Montana, was in all respects a progressive modern town. With a population of 7,000 in 1883, which had increased from 4,000 in 1879, its four national banks had on deposit $3,000,000, and sold a large amount of exchange annually, besides purchasing gold-dust and silver bullion to the amount of amount $2,000,000. The first, or Montana National Bank, was instituted June 24, 1872. James King president, Charles E Deer cashier, D. S. Wade, W. E. Gillette, William Chumasero, James Fergus, and George Steele directors.

There was a board of trade organized in 1877, a U. S. assay office erected in 1875, and a fire department organized in 1869. The occasion of this early creation of a fire department was the occurrence of a fire in Feb. 1869, which destroyed $75,000 worth of property. Helena Fire Company No. 1 organized in April, and elected E. H. Wilson president, A. O’Connell vice-president, J. J. Lyon secretary, Lee Watson treasurer, R. S. Price foreman, Henry Klein 1st assistant, and W. F. 8tein 2d assistant. Helena Montana Post April 16, 1869. On the 28th of the same month, and before the department had provided itself with fire-extinguishing apparatus, another greater fire occurred, destroying over $500,000 worth of the business portion of the town. Id., April 30, 1869. In Oct. 1871 a third conflagration destroyed $150,000 worth of property. Helena Gazette, Oct. 3, 1871. In Sept. 1872 another fire consumed $175,000 worth of property. In March 1873 a fifth fire was started, it was supposed by incendiaries, which destroyed a large and old mercantile house. Helena Herald March 20, 1873. A sixth conflagration in Jan. 1874, also the work of an incendiary, consumed $850,000 worth of property. Deer Lodge New Northwest, Jan. 17, 1874. In this fire was consumed the archives and library of the Historical Society of Montana, which had been instituted 8 years previous. An appeal was immediately made by the officers to the people to repair as far as possible the loss, which was done. Helena Herald, Dec. 30, 1875, and Jan. 27, 1876.

A historical society was founded in 1864. There were Masonic orders and a temple whose corner-stone was laid in 1872, with appropriate ceremonies; Odd Fellows’ societies, with a temple founded in July 1879, on the 60th anniversary of Odd fellowship in America; and a library association founded in 1868, by subscriptions, the proceeds of lectures, and other means. The first officers were James King president, C. Hedges vice-president, J. L. Douglas recorder and secretary, Charles W. Fowler corresponding secretary, S. H. Bohen treasurer, J. W. Whitlatch, Wilbur F. Sanders, J. H. King, T. E. Tutt, and William Rumsey board of trustees. The contribution of books in the first few weeks of its existence was 744, besides a large number of manuscripts and unbound books. Helena Montana Post, Dec. 11 and 25, 1868.

There was a hospital and asylum sustained by the Catholic Church, a society of the Knights of Pythias, a Hebrew Benevolent Association, excellent graded public schools, a Catholic academy for young ladies, opened in Sept. 1872, a classical school, a Rocky Mountain club; one Catholic and five Protestant Churches, German turn-vereins, and musical societies, extensive water-works supplied by pure mountain springs, electric lights and fire-alarms; iron-foundries, wagon-factories, saw, grist, and planing mills, telephonic communication with mining cities 50 miles distant, two excellent daily newspapers, and a general style of comfortable and even elegant living vividly in contrast with the cabins of its founders twenty years ago. Near Helena are some celebrated hot springs, with ample accommodations for visitors. All the lines of travel center at Helena. 300 buildings were erected in 1884, at a cost of over $l,000,000.

The first towns of Lewis and Clarke County were Belmont, Bird Tad, Canon Creek, Carpenter Mine, Oro Fino gulch, Cartersville. Clark Station. Clarkston, Crown Butte, Dearborn, Eagle Rock, Fergus’ Station, Flat Creek, Florence, Florence Springs, Fort Shaw, Georgetown, Gloster, Keller’s Rauch, Kennedy’s Station, Marysville, Millersville, Mount Pleasant, Mullan, Nelson gulch, Park City, Piegan, Peagan-Powcr, Rock Creek, Rocky Gap, Silver City, Shafer’s Mill, Silver Creek, South Fork, Spring Creek, Square Butte, St Louis gulch, St Peter’s Mission, Sun River, Three-Mile Creek, Trinity, Unionville, Virginia Creek, Voight’s Mines, Dry gulch, Warner’s Ranch, Whippoorwill, Willow Creek, and Wolf Creek.


Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

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