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Park County, Montana 1921

The name of Park County, which is located in the south central portion of Montana, is taken from its proximity to the Yellowstone National Park, whose northern boundary is formed by the county's southern line, and access to which from the north is had through this county. The county is practically oblong in shape, being 100 miles in length, from north to south, and fifty miles in width, east to west, and has a land area of 2,671 miles. Gallatin County forms its western border, Meagher County bounds it on the north and Sweet Grass County on the east, with the exception of the extreme southeastern corner, where Carbon County forms its boundary line. Two large fertile agricultural valleys occupy the center of the county, one, the Shields valley, varying from fifteen to thirty miles in width, and the other, the Yellowstone, from two to twenty miles. Upwards of 100,000 acres are under irrigation and most of it has been highly developed. The Yellowstone and Shields rivers are, the chief streams and both have numerous tributaries flowing the year round.

Through the heart of Park County passes the transcontinental line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and a branch line from Livingston taps the Shields River Valley, while another from the same city goes to Gardiner, the official entrance to the Yellowstone Park. Many important highways cross the county, including the Yellowstone Trail and National Parks Highway from east to west, and the Yellowstone-Glacier Bee Line Highway and the Geysers-to-Glaciers Highway north and south. The county has many improved roads.

The soil in the valleys of Park County is a rich black loam with a clay subsoil. The Crazy Mountains appear in the northeastern part of the county and most of the southern part is also mountainous. Outside of the city of Livingston, the main industries of the county are agriculture, dairying and stock raising, including the raising of registered stock, and mining in the southern part of the county. The principal crops are hard winter and spring wheat, oats, barley, rye, seed peas, alfalfa, timothy and clover, and vegetables and sugar beets thrive. Much hay, chiefly timothy and alfalfa, is grown, and the county has been noted as a prize-winner in national as well as state competitions on practically all of its crops.

Park County stands high in mineral resources. Gold, silver, lead, zinc, chrome, black manganese, red and brown hematite iron, tungsten, sheltie, molybdenum and nickel are found in the southern half of the county, and there are also deposits of coking and bituminous coal, gypsum, limes and high grade polish granite. Much commercial timber is found in the county, and nearly 1,000,000 acres are included in national forests, there being 677,639 acres of Park County land in the Absarokee Forest, 75,512 acres in the Beartooth Forest and 188,960 acres in the Gallatin Forest. Improved irrigated land sells at $75 to $150 an acre, improved non-irrigated bench land at $25 to $50 an acre, and grazing land at $10 to $15 an acre.

Mining Days in Park County

As a country rich in mineral deposits, Park County has been prominent in the history of Montana since the early days. One of the first placer mining camps in the territory was at Yellowstone City, which was situated near the modern site of Emigrant, in the western part of the county. Although mining has lost the glamour of its early history, it is still carried on there by individuals and a few minor corporations. At various times, new mining districts have been developed, such as the New World, with Cooke City in the southwestern part of the county as its center; Crevasses, Sheep Eater, Independence, Natural Bridge, Jardine, Boerum, and the coal fields at Electric, Shields River Valley. The New World mining district contains some large ore deposits, the development of which has been retarded by lack of transportation. Gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, zinc and fire clay deposits are found in this district, which covers about two hundred square miles.

Capt. William Clark, of the famous expedition, saw the country of what is now Park County, in July, 1806, and Jim Bridger, the famous scout and guide, spent the winter of 1844-45 in what became known as Emigrant Gulch with a band of Crow Indians. Various government expeditions crossed the county, going both east and west, and in 1863 the prospectors and town builders commenced to filter in. Among the most famous of the latter incursions was the party led by James Stuart. In the same year, Thomas Curry found gold in Emigrant Gulch, but the richer prospects of Bannack and Virginia cities, diverted the settlers farther west, although after John Bozeman opened his new overland route, via Bozeman pass, many of them passed through Park County, by way of the present site of the city of Livingston.

Curry and his companions having found gold in Emigrant Gulch some twenty-five miles above the point where the Bozeman trail left the Yellowstone, and desiring to share their good fortune with the emigrants from the east, met some of the first parties at that point and induced some of the gold seekers to abandon the trip to Virginia City and try the new diggings up the Yellowstone. These found good prospects and at once went to work. A meeting was called and Curry mining district was formed about the middle of August. It was not long before there were two or three hundred people digging up the ground in Emigrant Gulch. When coarse gold was found in paying quantities preparations for founding a town at the mouth of the gulch were made. By March, 1865, seventy-five log houses had been built and the settlement had a population of about 200, and a few miles down the valley a saw mill was erected. In the fall of the year so many left Emigrant Gulch and Curry District for the more promising Shorthills district that Yellowstone City was almost abandoned. The years 1865-68 in Park County were troublous ones, on account of Indian depredations, and in the latter year the boundaries of the Crow Reservation were so changed as to throw open to settlement the portion of the county east of the Shields River. Dr. A. J. Hunter had developed the hot springs property which bears his name, various parties were traversing what is now Park County on their way to Yellowstone National Park, and by the treaty of 1880 all of the territory in the present county was taken out of the Crow Reservation.

Livingston Founded and County Created

In 1882, the agitation was begun for the creation of a new county from that part of Gallatin east of the Belt Range Mountains; in August of that year the first business house was opened at Clark City, the present site of Livingston. In November, the town site of Livingston was surveyed by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, which had previously selected the site upon which Clark City had commenced its life. The nucleus of Livingston was fixed a little to the north of Clark City nearer the railroad track (the National Park branch of the Northern Pacific) in August, 1883. Livingston then quickly absorbed Clark City, and that growing community led the movement of eastern Gallatin County for the formation of a new county. Finally, after much political maneuvering, Governor Preston H. Leslie approved the bill for the formation of Park County in February, 1887. Its provisions went into effect in May, and during the intervening period the territory of the new county was attached to Gallatin for judicial purposes. At that time the population of Park County was 4,500.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to move the county seat from Livingston and to take slices from the county. Livingston has had a rapid initial growth, as a division town of the Northern Pacific, and has since increased in a substantial way both in population and public improvements. Livingston and Park County played an important part in the great American Railway Union strike of 1894, which covered the period from June 26th to July 19th. Xo lives were lost, but bloodshed was narrowly averted upon several occasions.

Towns of the County

Livingston is a modern, growing community and one of the most important cities in the state. The trading center for a rich agricultural and stock growing territory, it is situated on the banks of the Yellowstone River, on a level plateau, 4,491 feet above sea level. Livingston is a railroad division point, being on the main line of the Northern Pacific and the junction of the main line with two branches. The city has large local railroad shops and general railway offices, flour mills, cigar factory, creamery, three granite cutting yards and brick yards, as well as four banks, and is tributary to the Shields and Paradise Valleys, which are rich in minerals and lumber. The city has three wards and is a well-governed and maintained community with paved streets and local improvements of modern character, among its principal buildings being a Court House, City Hall and Federal building. It likewise maintains a Carnegie Library, two newspapers and four banks, and has seven public schools and a high school, as well as two hospitals. Its Commercial Club is a live organization, and the city is also the home of a post of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the United Spanish American War Veterans. A rifle range is maintained on the outskirts of the city. Nestled close to the very heart of the Rockies, Livingston is surrounded by kaleidoscopic mountain scenery, and is connected by an attractive automobile drive up the beautiful Paradise Valley, one of the famed mountain canyons of the state, to the lava arch through which the tourist is admitted to the Yellowstone National Park. Livingston maintains a free automobile camping resort, with well-kept grounds, bordered on two sides by the Yellowstone River, shaded by large trees, and provided with electric lights, city water and wood and sanitary conveniences. These camping grounds are across the river from the business district of the city.

Gardiner, second to Livingston among the urban centers of Park County, is the gateway to the Yellowstone National Park. It contains the official entrance to the grand public grounds of the nation in the form of an impressive stone arch through which pass thousands of tourists annually. Naturally, the town derives considerable profit from this summer procession of pleasure seekers and finders; it is also the outfitting point for a considerable mining district. Gardiner came into existence in 1883 with the completion of the Park branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and takes its name from the Gardiner River which empties into the Yellowstone near the place.

In addition to Livingston and Gardiner there are a number of smaller towns in Park County which are progressive. Among these are Wilsall, which maintains a creamery and ten miles northwest of which there is a cheese factory; Pray, which has a large lime kiln; Emigrant, with a flourishing stone quarry; and Clyde Park, which is the trading center for a prosperous agricultural district.

In addition to a modern high school and four large grade schools at Livingston, there are high schools at Wilsall and Clyde Park and sixty-five common schools in the rural districts. As tourist attractions, Park County presents splendid big game hunting in season, and fine fishing, and naturally many tourists are attracted by this county being the gateway to the Yellowstone National Park. Hunters' Hot Springs is one of the best known resorts in the state, and Chico and Corwin Hot Springs are likewise well and favorably known to the traveling arranged among themselves, assigned the Civil Practice act to Chief public.

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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