Pacific Coast Business Directory

Montana Territory Area and Resources

Montana occupies nearly the geographical center of the North American Continent, being situated between 45° and 49° of north latitude and, 104° and 49° longitude, comprising within its limits an area of about 144,000 square miles and was organized as a Territory in 1864.

It is bounded on the north by the British Possessions, east by Dakota, south by Wyoming and Idaho, and west by Idaho. The Territory is divided into the following named counties, viz: Beaver Head, Big Horn, Choteau, Dawson, Deer Lodge, Gallatin, Jefferson, Lewis and Clarke, Madison, Meagher and Missoula. Capital, Helena. Principal towns: Bannack, Blackfoot, Bozeman, Deer Lodge, Diamond, Fort Benton, Missoula, Trapper and Virginia City. Population, estimated at 20,500. Assessed valuation of property in 1874 was $10,099,817, and the amount paid into the Territorial Treasurer in the same year was $58,000; the valuation showing an increase of $1,734,670 over that of 1869. The treasure product in 1874 was $4,103,204; of which, $3,666,438 was in gold. $493,766 in silver, and $6,000 in copper. Smelting furnaces have recently been constructed in various districts for the reduction of the argentiferous-galena ores and rich lead will in future be added to the metallic product While Montana is a great gold and silver producing region its currency is the paper money of the east, in which all estimates are made and business transacted, and thus differing from the States of California, Oregon, and Nevada, which maintain a metallic currency. Among other products of Montana, are large quantities of furs and peltries, including 65,500 buffalo robes. These animals are in countless numbers on the plains of the Missouri and Yellowstone, and are slaughtered for their hides and tongues, as well as for sport, and in many instances by herdsmen in defense of the grazing grounds whore range domestic cattle.

The Indians, though now partly subdued, have been among the most savage and unrelentingly hostile of any of that singularly bloodthirsty race. The number is estimated at 18,000, the principal tribes being the Crow, Blackfeet, Snake, Teton Sioux, Gros Ventre, Piegan, Blood, Flatheads, Brule, Ogalalla, and Assiniboine.

As its name implies, the general aspect of the country is mountainous, the Territory extending over both slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and embracing within its limits the sources of the Missouri, flowing eastward, and of the Columbia, flowing to the Pacific, thus occupying, as it were, the backbone of the continent. The Rocky Mountains, however, do not rise in such high and precipitous ridges and peaks as is the character of the range both south and north, but presents many irregularities, offering numerous passes and throwing out lateral ranges that fall away into the plateau of the great plains of the Missouri and the basin of the Columbia. Branching westward are the Bitter Root and Coeur d'Alene ranges; on the east the Tobacco, Belt, Judith, Bear's Paw, Big Horn, and Little Rocky ranges, and others, dispersed in various sections throughout the interior. In almost every range, minerals of a valuable character are found, the principal being gold, though silver, copper, lead, and coal are extensively mined. But the mountains possess resources aside from their minerals, some sections being covered with grand forests, others furnishing excellent pasturage, and enclosed within the ranges are many fine valleys of excellent agricultural land. According to the opinion of the Surveyor-General, given in his report for 1867, about one-third of the total area, amounting to about $50,000,000 acres, is susceptible of cultivation. The valleys lying between the mountain ranges possess an exceedingly fertile soil of great cereal producing capacity. Extensive tracts of the Bitter Root, the earliest settled portion of the Territory, the Prickly Pear, Madison, and Gallatin Valleys, are now in a high state of cultivation, and producing annually large crops of wheat, barley, oats, rye, potatoes, and other vegetables. About 80,000 acres are cultivated in the Gallatin alley alone for the production of cereals, more than one-half of that area being under wheat, and yielding an average of thirty bushels to the acre. Several grist mills are employed in converting the grain produced in this valley into flour, and a number of others are in course of erection. Among the unsettled sections most prominent for the extent and fertility of the agricultural land contained within them are the Judith, Muscleshell, and Yellowstone Valleys, which are now the resort of numerous herds of elk, deer, antelope and buffalo, and the favorite hunting grounds of savage hordes of Indians, whose determined hostility to the whites effectually prevents them from settling and bringing these hinds under cultivation at once. The few men who have succeeded in travelling safely through the Judith Valley, pronounce it to be one of the most beautiful and fertile regions in the Territory, possessing a rich, deep soil, and well-timbered and watered throughout. The Missouri Valley, which river rises in the Rocky Mountains in the southwestern portion of the Territory and flows through the interior, winding in a semi-circle around the Belt Mountains, contains a vast extent of unsurpassed agricultural land, with every facility for irrigation where such is required.

As a rule, the soil of Montana Territory is a dark, vegetable mould of great richness, having the in-valuable quality of being porous without being spongy, being thereby easily worked and very productive. The sub-soil is composed of a light clay, or clay mixed with sand. In addition to that portion of the Territory unsuited for agricultural purposes on account of its mountainous character, are a number of high plateau, or barren clay table lands, called by the early French settlers "Les Mauvais Terres" or Bad Land, which name they still retain. It is an extensive barren region, unbroken, excepting those parts intersected by the Little Rocky and Bear Paw ranges. This section is drained by the Milk and Marias Rivers, whose banks are thinly skirted with Cottonwood, producing a striking contrast to the surrounding region, which is composed of a sedimentary deposit, abounding in fossils and petrifactions, with occasional outcroppings of sandstone, but utterly destitute of vegetation.

Montana, however, agriculturally, is pre-eminently a grazing country. Everywhere on the mountain slopes and in the fertile valleys, where not otherwise covered with forests of timber, an unlimited and luxuriant growth of bunch grass, the most nutritious of grasses known, is obtained. The statement made by the Territorial Treasurer in his report for 1873, shows that the total area of land then under cultivation within the territorial limits, amounted to 318.039 acres, and the aggregate number of stock, such as horses, mules, horned cattle, etc., exceeded over 100,000 head.

Although destined eventually to become a great farming and stock-raising State, its principal resources at present consist of its mineral deposits. Gold was first discovered in paying quantities on Willard or Grasshopper Creek, in 1802. The rich and extensive mining district, of which Helena, the largest city in the Territory, is the center, was discovered in 1864, and has continued to yield largely ever since. The alluvial deposits are spread over a great area of the country, and from an estimate made of the creeks and gulches known to contain gold in supposed paying quantities, it contains mining land of an aggregate length of about five hundred lineal miles. From the annual returns of the products of gold since the time of the discovery of the mines, the yield has been satisfactory, and as they give no signs of exhaustion, their promise of continuing to do so in future is equally as favorable. Up to 1807, the attention of the mining population was devoted entirely to placer mining. Since that time, however, it has been much divided with the development of its more permanent quartz ledges, a great number, rich and well defined, having been discovered, many of which are now successfully worked. Over thirty silver-bearing ledges and twenty copper veins are also in a high state of development. Rich mines of gold, silver and copper are known to exist on the head waters of the Judith, but on account of the hostility of the tribes making it their headquarters, it remains almost unexplored. Coal beds have been found on the Missouri, Yellowstone and Gallatin Rivers. The deposits on the former are situated at a point a short distance above Fort Benton, the present head of steamboat navigation, and supply the river steamboats with the necessary fuel. The vein on the Yellowstone is of a fine bituminous quality, twenty-two feet in thickness, and is very profitably worked. Helena is supplied with coal for gas, fuel, foundry, and other purposes, from a vein worked on the Dearborn, about forty miles distant. Numerous beds of lignite have also been found on the Blackfoot, Marias and Teton Rivers, and various other localities in the Territory. About one-fourth of the Territory is covered with dense forests of white and yellow pine, hemlock, fir and cedar, the pines equaling in size and quality the famous pines of Oregon and Washington Territory.

The climate is remarkable for its equability and salubrity, being generally open and mild during the winter, with summers pleasant and healthful in the extreme. The season of 1875 was exceptional in its severity, the temperature in some localities falling as low as 50° below zero, but not with standing this, stock passed the winter without shelter or care, and suffered but little loss. The large quantities of stock and game, and the vast herds of buffalo which range and thrive throughout the year, give proof of the mildness of the climate and the capability of the country for grazing. Although far to the north and of high altitude, it bears a clime corresponding to that of seven or eight degrees further south on the Atlantic coast.

The rivers, like the mountains, are on a grand scale. The Missouri, one of the largest rivers in the world, has its sources in Montana, being formed by the junction of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers, each large streams, and receives in its course a great number of other streams, the principal of which are the Teton, Sun River, Marias, and Milk River on the north, and the Arrow, Judith, Mussel, Shoal, and Yellowstone on the south, the latter having the Big Horn for one of its branches. The Missouri and Yellowstone are navigable, the former to the Falls, a few miles above Fort Benton, 2,000 miles from its junction with the Mississippi, and steamboats ascend the Yellowstone to the mouth of the Big Horn. Above the Falls of the Missouri the river is large, and with slight improvement could be rendered navigable for two or three hundred miles, making it the longest line of navigable inland water on the globe. This constitutes a grand channel of commerce during the' summer, but is closed in winter. Steam-boats ply upon it from St. Louis and Omaha, and smaller boats, constructed to float with the current, descend loaded with merchandise and passengers, a cheap and pleasant way of making a long journey. The Missouri of Montana is a rapid and beautiful stream of pure, clear water, and is not entitled to its sobriquet of "Big Muddy" until it receives the turbid waters of the Yellowstone.

West of the Rocky Mountains in the great basin enclosed by that range and the Bitter Root and Coeur d'Alene ranges are the Pen d'Oreille, or Clark's Fork, Flathead, Hellgate, Blackfoot, Bitter Root and Kootenai rivers, all being tributaries of the Columbia. Clark's Fork is navigable but is obstructed by Thompson's Falls, at which point navigation ceases. These navigable streams, reaching out both east and west, will, when the resources of the country are developed, and its rich mines and fertile plains become peopled, become of incalculable value as aids to commerce. The railroad, however, is the great desideratum. The Northern Pacific is the hope of the country. This is needed to bring this isolated region into easy and cheap communication with the world, to bring population, machinery and merchandise, and to boar away the products. The country that has been the favorite home of the Indians and fed the countless herds of buffalo, is surely an attractive one to the skilled labor, industry and enterprise of the white race.

Montana contains many grand and attractive features of natural scenery, and for its health-giving atmosphere, mysterious wilds, abundant game, rich mines and grand objects in nature will become a resort of tourists from every section of the world. The Valley of the Yellowstone presents scenes most weird, and awe-inspiring of any section known to man. A region of one hundred miles square has been devoted by Congress to the purposes of a National Park, and forever open to visitors in search of the wonderful and curious. Here are waterfalls of great magnitude, deep cañons, sulphur springs, boiling springs and geysers, one of which throws a stream of boiling water and steam from 300 to 600 feet into the air. The grand scenery of the National Park of the Yellowstone is already attracting tourists from all parts of the world, and as railroads open the country it will become the resort and pleasure grounds of multitudes of people, as nothing so sublime and peculiar exists elsewhere.

Such are the features of Montana. A country of lofty mountains, great rivers and broad plains; with resources of gold and silver, copper, lead and coal beneath the surface, towering forests, grass-covered hills and plains and fertile valleys to invite the agriculturist and manufacturer, game without limit for the sportsman, and grand scenery for the curious and scientific, and thus promises to become one of the noblest of the sisterhood of States.

Pacific Coast Business Directory | Montana Territory Index

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875.


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