Phillips County, Montana 1921

Among the counties of Montana which contribute of their soil to both the agricultural and mineral wealth of the state, Phillips County has its established place. With the exception of the Little Rocky Mountains in the southwestern part, the county is nearly all prairie in character and is practically all cultivable, and this fact serves to make agriculture the chief industry, but the mountainous region referred to has produced a large amount of gold and various parts of the county have produced lignite coal, so that the mineral resources, while secondary, are by no means unimportant. Like various other parts of the state, Phillips County bears the tinge of romance. In the fastnesses of the Little Rockies the notorious Kid Curry and his gang of outlaws lived and defied the forces of law and order in the early days, and, surrounded by the beautiful scenery to be found in the same region, are to be found the headquarters of some of the old-time western cattle outfits, for Phillips was originally a cattle county prior to the coming of the agriculturists. Phillips County was created February 5, 191 5, and was named in honor of Wendell Phillips, the American orator and abolitionist. It lies in the north central part of Montana, extending from the Canadian boundary on the north to the Missouri River on the south. The broad and fertile Milk River Valley cuts through the center of the county, east and west. With a land area of 5,266 square miles, Phillips is one of the larger counties of the state, and is 101 miles north and south and sixty-five miles east and west.

The soil of the county is mostly clay loam, although some gumbo is found, and there are nearly 100,000 acres of irrigated land, chiefly in the Milk River Valley, under the Government reclamation project. The chief crops are wheat, oats, flax, alfalfa, corn and beans, and these are being raised in goodly quantities, although agriculture along the Milk River is still capable of much development. In fact, the region may be said to be new. Settlers are only practically laying the foundations at this time, and diversified farming and dairying are just beginning. Stock raising is an industry which is growing, and this, likewise, is capable of further development. Improved irrigated lands sell for around $75 per acre, improved non-irrigated for $25, non-improved lands for $15 and grazing lands for $10.

Thus far, as noted, the chief mineral resources seem to be the gold that is found in the Little Rockies, and the lignite coal in various parts of the county. However, there are several structures thought to be favorable for the finding of oil, and if such proves to be the case, a new industry will be opened up for operators and investors. In the southwestern part of the county is the Jefferson National Forest, in which is found timber of commercial value, and cottonwood is reasonably plentiful along the Missouri and Milk rivers.

The Milk River is the principal stream of Phillips County, and Beaver Creek and other tributaries rising in the Little Rockies flow into it from the south, while a number of streams that rise near the international boundary line flow into it from the north, notably Whitewater and Frenchman creeks. Water for domestic purposes is found in wells ranging from 12 to 300 feet, depending upon the locality. The main line of the Great Northern Railway passes through the county east and west, following the Milk River for the greater part of the way, and this is the only railway system to connect with the county at this time However, the Canadian Trail, which extends across Montana in a southwesterly direction, passes through the county and the mining districts of the Little Rockies. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Highway parallels the Great Northern Railway straight across the county. For the tourist, there is much to be found of an attractive nature in this section of the country. Lake Bowdein, which is situated a few miles east of Malta, is one of the best duck hunting localities in the west. Large numbers of native wild fowl nest there, and it is one of the stopping places for the northern ducks when the flight is on in the fall. Visitors invariably are drawn to the Little Rockies and to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, located just to the west of the county line.

Phillips County has 112 graded schools and three accredited high schools, and a total of 146 instructors are employed. Malta, the county seat, is an up-to-date community and the chief trading center. Other good towns tributary to large farming districts are Bowdoin, Dodson and Saco.

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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