McCone County, Montana 1921

McCone County, situated in Northwestern Montana, with the Missouri River for its northern boundary, is emphatically a land of present opportunity, due, paradoxical as it may seem, to the lack of that convenience considered nowadays as most indispensable to progress, rail communication. There is at present not a mile of railroad within the county, though it contains several good towns and a number of promising villages; yet so rich is the land and so suitable for farming and grazing that many settlers have been already attracted and in 1920 the population was 4,747. Its boundaries had been defined and county government established April, 1919. Its land area is 2,740 square miles.

The surface of McCone County is for the most part rolling and is interspersed with many attractive and fertile valleys. The soil is a chocolate loam richly clothed with native grasses. Though there are no commercial stands of timber, cottonwood and ash are found along the streams. The water supply is adequate and for the most part reliable. The eastern part of the county is drained by the Redwater River, while a number of smaller streams empty into the Missouri on the north and Dry Creek on the west. Lignite coal has been discovered in various places and the discovery of oil and gas is a possibility of the future.

The natural advantages of the region, modified by the lack of rail communication, caused the first settlers to take up stock raising as the most convenient and remunerative occupation, and it has since continued to hold first place, though of late, with the favorable soil and a growing season of in to 125 days, general farming has made good progress and is likely to become the leading occupation in the future. All that is necessary to stimulate the latter industry is the construction of a railroad through the county giving access to profitable markets, and this improvement will doubtless eventuate at no distant date, as the Great Northern has surveyed a main line through the county, which has been completed save for a gap of about 150 miles, the temporary suspension of work being due to the prevailing tightness of the money market. With improved financial conditions the closing of the gap is a practical certainty and will mark the beginning of a new era in this region. The long hauls necessary to reach a railroad cause land to be cheaper in McCone County than in most other parts of the state, and have at the same time delayed heavy settlement, less than half of the tillable area of the county being now under cultivation.

The average annual precipitation is greater in McCone than in most of the Eastern Montana counties, and therefore non-irrigated farming is the general rule, though there is a small quantity of irrigated land. Corn of excellent quality is easily raised and the acreage devoted to it has been for some time steadily expanding. Other profitable crops are wheat, oats, barley, rye, alfalfa and garden produce. The county possesses good local roads, and two highways, one running north and south and the other east and west, have been projected through it.

Towns of McCone County

The county seat and largest town in McCone County is Circle, which in 1920 had a population of 452. Its chief establishments include a large flour mill, two banks, two newspapers, six stores, a hotel and theatre, two livery barns, two garages, two restaurants, rooming houses, blacksmiths' shops and other lines of business. It has three churches and a high school, the latter accredited for a one year term. The location of the town on the proposed line of the Great Northern Railway gives it a good prospect of becoming a division point.

The next largest town in McCone County is Brockway, which is also a business center, having good general stores, a bank, flour mill, newspaper, garages, amusement hall and a creamery, the last mentioned being the only enterprise of its kind in the county. Brockway has also a high school accredited for the two year term. Other towns in the county are Vida, Nickwall, Sand Creek, Terrace, Riverside, Weldon, Prairie Elk, Hamblin, Redwater, Paris, Watkins, Pattonhill, Nina, Bonin and Horse Creek. The coming of the railroad is sure to open up opportunities in some of these towns for successful business enterprises.

McCone County has about fifty school districts and seventy schools, including the two high schools already mentioned. Its citizens as a class are enterprising and law-abiding, with good neighborly characteristics, hospitable to new arrivals and willing to pull together in all things calculated to promote local interests and the general prosperity of the county.

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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