Stillwater County, Montana 1921

Among the political divisions of the State of Montana, Stillwater County occupies a south central position. It was created March 24, 1913, and in 1920 had a population of 7,630. Its maximum length north and south is sixty-six miles, being almost double its maximum width of thirty-six miles. It contains much picturesque scenery and is a county of varied natural resources, which are but partially developed. From east to west the county is traversed by the Yellowstone River, the valley of which is characterized by a good soil of chocolate brown loam. The Stillwater and West Rosebud rivers are found in the southern portion of the county, and also Fishtail Creek. In the northern part, where there are several small streams, lies what is known as the Lake Basin country, regarded as one of the best non-irrigated farming districts in Montana. The southern part of Stillwater County is a region of high mountains, sometimes of magnificent aspect, which taper off into rolling hills near the Yellowstone Valley. The southern valleys are also favored with a good soil, the fertility of which is increased by irrigation, while the bench lands are devoted to non-irrigated farming and stock raising.

Agriculture, stock raising and dairying are at present the chief industries of the county. The usual farm crops are wheat, oats, barley, corn, peas, alfalfa, potatoes, melons and garden truck. Some fruit is also raised, strawberries doing particularly well. Large quantities of honey are also produced, in which respect Stillwater takes a leading place among the counties of the state. In the southern part of the county there are 92,096 acres of timber included in the Beartooth National Forest. Improved irrigated lands sell from $75 to $200 an acre, improved non-irrigated lands from $40 to $100, and unimproved non-irrigated lands from $15 an acre up.

Coal and other minerals have been found in the southern part of Stillwater County, but these mineral resources and the water power have not yet been developed on a commercial scale. North of the Yellowstone River much land has been leased for oil, and drilling has been undertaken. These several lines of industry, together with those now carried on, are susceptible of future development and make Stillwater County a region of favorable opportunity. The mountains also may be made an attractive resort for tourists when the locality is better known and after suitable accommodations have been provided. The scenery near the headwaters of the Stillwater and Rosebud rivers is as fine as can be found on the continent, and the streams in that region are noted for the fine trout fishing in spring and summer, while birds and game abound in the fall. The lakes in the Lake Basin region offer splendid opportunities for waterfowl shooting.

The railroad facilities of Stillwater County are furnished by the Northern Pacific Railway, the main line of which follows the Yellowstone River through the county. The Lake Basin region in the northern part is traversed by a branch of the same road from Mossmain. The Yellowstone Trail highway also passes through the county, and various local roads, kept in good condition, connect the smaller valleys with the railroad.

The only incorporated town in Stillwater County is Columbus, the county seat, which is also the chief trading center. It is situated at the junction of the Yellowstone and Stillwater rivers, and has an altitude of 3,698 feet. In 1820 its population was 897. It has a high school accredited for the four-year term. On the main line of the Northern Pacific are Park City and Reed Point, both good trading centers. The towns along the Lake Basin branch are Molt, Rapelje and Wheat Basin. In the southern part of the county the most important community is Absarokee, an inland town in the Stillwater basin. There are high schools at Park City and Reed Point, the former accredited for three years and the latter for two years. The county is well provided with rural schools. At East Rosebud Lake, in the heart of the mountains, there is a private summer school for teachers. Credit for work done there is given by the state department of education and also by the University of Montana.

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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