Mountains

Meagher County, Montana 1921

Meagher County, situated close to the central part of Montana, is one of the oldest counties in the state, having been created November 16, 1867. Its early settlement was due to the discovery of gold in Madison County in 1863, an event which attracted miners and prospectors to the state and resulted in the discovery of other various sources of mineral wealth throughout the mountainous regions, including Meagher County. The county has a land area of 2,369 square miles and a general elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level, more than half its surface being mountainous. The principal ranges of mountains are found on the northern and southern boundaries, the northern boundary being marked by the crest of the Little belt range and the southern by that of the Big Belt range.

The drainage and water supply of Meagher County are exceptionally good. The principal stream is the Smith River, which, rising in the Castle mountains, flows through the county in a northwesterly direction and is fed by numerous smaller streams having their sources in the mountain ranges to north and south. Its valley, some fifty miles long by twelve to fifteen wide, is the chief farming district and is practically all irrigated, the land being chiefly in the possession of stockmen operating on a large scale and here raising their forage for winter feed. The valley soil is alluvial, while on the benches it is a chocolate loam. In the eastern part of the county some non-irrigated farming is practiced. Another important stream is Sixteen Mile Creek, which, like Smith River, rises in the Castle Mountains and flows west through a magnificent canyon, finally joining the Missouri at Lombard.

The extensive stock industry includes the raising both of cattle and sheep. Though hay is the chief crop raised, the soil produces heavy yields of grain, samples of which have proved prize winners in state exhibitions. Garden vegetables also thrive well.

As already intimated, mining was taken up at an early day, silver, lead, copper and gold being the chief minerals found. For some years the industry flourished, but after the surface deposits had been secured interest declined and has been revived only recently. The application of modern methods and improved machinery will doubtless result in additional profit. In the northern end of the county are some undeveloped coal deposits.

Meagher County's wealth in timber is chiefly contained in the national forests included within its borders, and aggregates 624,910 acres. Of this amount 77.722 acres are contained in the Absaroka Forest, 1,005 in the Gallatin Forest, 133,489 in the Helena, and 413,634 in the Jefferson Forest. Some lumbering is carried on, but the industry has not yet realized its full possibilities. Like most mountainous regions, Meagher County can boast of attractive scenery and there is excellent fishing in many of the streams.

Meagher County is tapped by the main line of the Milwaukee Railroad, which crosses the southern part of the county east and west, a branch line running from Ringling to White Sulphur Springs eighteen miles north. The Y-G-Bee Line Trail between the Yellowstone and Glacier parks also runs through the county, while the maintenance of good roads and state highways has received careful attention.

White Sulphur Springs

White Sulphur Springs, the county seat, is the chief distributing point in the county and the only town of importance. In 1920 it had a population of 574. Though small in size it is one of the oldest towns in the state and one of the richest per capita. It is well built and provided with good modern improvements. Here are found thermal springs, owned by John Ringling, the well-known circus proprietor, which are said by physicians to have high curative properties. The town also has a good high school accredited for the four years course. Education is provided for in Meagher County by an adequate number of rural and graded schools, in addition to the high school above mentioned, and all are kept in a state of satisfactory efficiency.

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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