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The New International Encyclopædia/Montana

MONTANA, mōn-tä′nȧ (Lat., mountainous). Northwestern State of the American Union, lying between 44° 6′ and 49° (the international boundary) north latitude, and between 104° and 116° west longitude. It is bounded on the north by the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Assiniboia; on the east by the Dakotas; on the south by Wyoming and Idaho, and on the west by Idaho. Montana ranks third in size among the States of the Union. Its greatest length from east to west is along the 48th parallel, 540 miles; and its average width from north to south, 275 miles. Its area is 146,080 square miles, of which 770 square miles is water.

Topography. The eastern three-fifths of the State consist of rolling plains, lying at an elevation of from 1800 feet in the northeast to about 4000 feet among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. These mountains take up the western portion. The Main Divide runs from Yellowstone Park for some distance along the southwestern boundary, after which it turns eastward, and then crosses the State obliquely in a northwest direction. The general elevation of its crest is about 6500 feet, and the peaks rise from 8000 to 11,300 feet. Mount Douglas represents the highest elevation of the State. Thus the range is considerably lower here and also less rugged than farther south in Wyoming and Colorado. great longitudinal basin separates the Main Divide from the Bitter Root Mountains, which form the western boundary, and whose crest lies throughout between 7000 and 8000 feet above the sea. The mountain region is diversified by numerous spurs, valleys, and outlying ranges.

NIE 1905 Wyoming - Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Beaverhead C 3  Dillon 4,494 4,655 5,615
Broadwater D 2  Townsend 1,247 ..... 2,641
Carbon E 3  Red Lodge 2,472 ..... 7,533
Cascade D 2  Greatfalls 2,764 8,755 25,777 
Choteau D 1  Fort Benton 16,049  4,741 10,966 
Custer G 3  Miles City 20,490  5,308 7,891
Dawson F 2  Glendive 13,227  2,056 2,443
Deerlodge C 2  Anaconda 4,252 15,155  17,393 
Fergus E 2  Lewistown 8,928 3,514 6,937
Flathead B 1  Kalispell 8,419 ..... 9,375
Gallatin D 3  Bozeman 2,583 6,246 9,553
Granite C 2  Philipsburg 1,543 ..... 4,328
Jefferson C 2  Boulder 1,585 6,026 5,330
Lewis and Clark C 2  Helena 2,572 19,145  19,171 
Madison C 3  Virginia City 4,443 4,692 7,695
Meagher D 2  White Sulphur Springs  4,253 4,749 2,526
Missoula B 2  Missoula 6,385 14,427  13,964 
Park D 3  Livingston 2,788 6,881 7,341
[1]Powell C 2 .... ..... .....
Ravalli C 2  Hamilton 2,771 ..... 7,822
[1]Rosebud F 3 .... ..... .....
Silverbow C 3  Butte 1,017  23,744    47,635  
Sweet Grass E 3  Bigtimber 2,887 ..... 3,086
Teton C 1  Choteau 7,588 ..... 5,080
Valley F 1  Glasgow 13,368  ..... 4,355
Yellowstone E 3  Billings 3,710 2,065 6,212
Crow Indian Reservation  E 3 5,475 ..... 2,660

Hydrography. The Main Divide separates the Missouri system from the Columbia River system, these two receiving the drainage of the State. The Missouri River springs from three main headstreams in the extreme southwestern portion and in Yellowstone Park. It flows first northward along the eastern base of the mountains, then eastward through the great plains to the eastern boundary, just beyond which it receives its first large tributary, the Yellowstone, which drains the southeastern quarter of the State. The Clark Fork of the Columbia River, with its two main branches, the Missoula and the Flathead, drains the great western basin, the latter branch flowing through Flathead Lake, the only lake of considerable size in the State. Both the Missouri and the Yellowstone are navigable for small boats more than 300 miles from the boundary, and the Clark Fork is also navigable for some distance into Montana. The railroads, however, have supplanted the rivers as means of communication.

Climate. The climate is in general very dry, healthful, and exhilarating. There is a great annual range of temperature, in general from 30° and 40° below zero to over 100° above. At some stations the temperature has been more than 60° below zero, while the same locality may have an annual range of over 150°. The average mean temperature for the State is 70° for the warmest and 11° for the coldest month. The extreme cold of winter is often tempered by the warm and dry chinooks (q.v.), which blow in a northeasterly direction from the mountain ranges and absorb a large amount of moisture from the snow they melt. Blizzards occur only in the eastern plains, and tornadoes are unknown. The rainfall is generally insufficient to support agriculture without irrigation, amounting to only about 12 inches per annum.

Soil and Vegetation. The principal valleys are characterized by fine level meadows with a rich loamy soil, and are occupied by extensive cattle ranges. The eastern plains are almost treeless prairies, the river courses alone being fringed with willow, cottonwood, and similar trees. There are extensive forests of conifers in the mountain region of the western half of the State, amounting in 1900 to about 42,000 square miles, or 29 per cent. of the State's area. A considerable portion of this, however, has been burned over. The National Government has reserved forest areas within the State amounting to 7875 square miles. The product in 1900 was valued at $2,949,992. Yellow pine, red fir, and tamarack are the principal varieties.

For Fauna, see paragraphs under Rocky Mountains and United States.

Geology and Minerals. The eastern and western halves of the State differ widely in their geological structure. The eastern plains consist mainly of undisturbed strata of Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks, the latter forming the extreme eastern portion. Narrow belts of Jurassic and Carboniferous rocks skirt the Cretaceous formations on the west along the base of the mountains. The mountainous half has a complex structure, with much folding and faulting. In the south the Archæan granite cores and outpourings of Tertiary lava predominate on the surface, while north of the Missouri the main range is synclinal, the peaks being of Paleozoic formation.

Building materials such as limestone, slate, granite, sands, and clay are abundant, and there are large deposits of marble of various hues. Bituminous coal is found along the eastern base of the mountains, and extensive beds of lignite exist in the east along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, while petroleum is also found. Copper is very abundant, and lead, iron, and silver ores also exist, the silver generally in conjunction with the copper: gold has been found in great quantities in many parts of the State. Around the headwaters of the Missouri and Yellowstone there are numerous hot springs and geysers.

Mining. The prosperity of Montana has been due largely to the development of its mineral resources. Within a radius of two miles of Butte City, $55,000,000 worth of copper, silver, and gold was mined in 1899. The copper output of the State for 1900 was 113,000 long tons, as against 268,000 for the whole United States, this being about 23 per cent. of the product of the world. The State stands second and is a close rival to Colorado in the production of silver. Since 1897 the output has had an annual commercial value of about $10,000,000. Silver, as also gold, is obtained from the same mines as copper. Montana ranks fifth as a gold-mining State, and its output has had an annual value of about $5,000,000 since 1897. Coal is being mined in increasing quantities, and almost reached $3,000,000 in value in 1900. The annual production of lead has stood at about 10,000 short tons since 1894. The mining of sapphires has begun recently; the stones found are of a superior quality, and are the most valuable of any of the precious stones mined in the United States.

Agriculture. In that part of the State lying west of the main range of the Rocky Mountains, the rainfall is generally sufficient for agricultural purposes. East of this range, however, the rainfall is, as a rule, inadequate, and purely agricultural pursuits can be carried on with profit only in those sections where irrigation is possible. The numerous streams supply an abundance of water which may be utilized for irrigation, and it is estimated that it will be possible to reclaim one-fifth of the total area of the State. Already considerable land has been brought under irrigation by the construction of numerous small temporary ditches; and large canals of a more permanent nature, and affecting more extensive areas, are being constructed. Of the 1,697,424 acres of improved land in 1900, exclusive of Indian reservations, 951,154 acres were irrigated, the latter area representing an increase during the last census decade of 171 per cent. The irrigated region is mainly in the southwest quarter of the State, the supply being obtained from the tributary headwaters of the Missouri and from the Yellowstone River. Farther east the depth of the channels, or the unfavorable conformation of the surface, as in the Bad Lands, greatly limits the irrigable area. The average cost per acre for the construction of ditches was the remarkably low figure of $4.92, which is due to the fact that the majority of the ditches are of private ownership, and without expensive dams and headgates. Large grazing areas are included in the farms of the State, and the average size of farms is therefore exceptionally large—885.9 acres for the entire State—but varying from 174 acres in Carbon County to 3093 in Yellowstone County.

The great development of the mining industry has created an excellent home market, and this has afforded the principal impetus to the growth of mixed agriculture, and has determined in part the region of its development. Hay is the principal crop, its acreage being more than twice that of all other crops. Native grasses constitute the greater part of the acreage, but alfalfa, clover, and other varieties are also grown. Oats, wheat, and barley yield abundant crops. Corn is but little grown, owing to the short summer season and cool nights. Potatoes are a favorite crop, and other vegetables are successfully raised. The apple and other temperate zone fruits flourish and are largely cultivated. On the whole a greater variety of products can be raised than can be on the plains to the east.

Stock-Raising. Until recently stock-raising had largely monopolized the interest of the agriculturists. This industry is still advancing, though it is of less relative importance than formerly. The State greatly exceeds any other in the number of sheep and in the production of wool. Formerly, the males were shipped to Eastern States to be fed for the market, but with the increased production of alfalfa it is being found possible to fatten them within the State, The number of cattle has also shown a considerable increase, and the breed has greatly improved. The herds are not so large as formerly, but are more numerous. Much attention is also given to the raising of horses for the Eastern market. Although the State is far north, no great inconvenience is ordinarily experienced on account of the weather. In sheltered valleys cattle and horses roam all winter, and the percentage of loss, except in unusual seasons, is small. The tendency of the snow to drift leaves large areas of grass exposed, enabling the stock to feed without assistance. Sheep often require hay and some protection from storms.

In the following comparative tables will be seen the relative importance of the principal farm products (in acres) and varieties of domestic animals, and the changes which occurred in the last census decade:

1900 1890

Hay  875,712   300,033 
Wheat 92,132  18,696 
Oats 133,938  52,768 
Barley 22,848  4,652 
Corn 3,301  1,019 
Potatoes  9,613  4,204 

1900 1890

Dairy cows 45,036  24,143 
Other cattle 923,351  667,755 
Horses 329,972  142,959 
Mules and asses  2,857  959 
Sheep  4,215,214   1,859,016 
Swine 49,496  17,132 

Manufactures. The State is too recently settled for manufacturing to have become normally developed, being as yet limited largely to purely domestic industries. In connection with its valuable mineral resources, however, it has a very important smelting and refining industry, the copper product in 1900 being estimated at $36,387,000, and the lead product at $5,264,000. One of the largest copper smelters in the world is at Anaconda, and the abundant water power, afforded chiefly by the Missouri, has also served to develop this industry at Butte, Great Falls, and other points. Coke is manufactured for use in the reducing works. The superior quality of the barley grown has stimulated the production of malt liquors. Slaughtering and the manufacturing of flour and grist mill products are also rapidly developing.

Transportation. Colorado alone of the Rocky Mountain States excels Montana in railroad facilities. Two lines, the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern, completely traverse the State from east to west. Each of these has a number of branch lines or feeders. There are also other lines, principally in the western part of the State. Butte is exceptionally well provided, being the centre for four different lines. The total mileage for the State (1902) is 3234, one-third of this having been constructed during the last decade. There are 2.21 miles of railroad for every 100 square miles of territory, and 132 miles for every 10,000 inhabitants. In many sections stages are the only means of conveyance, and in mountain regions saddle horses and pack mules are largely used. At places on the Yellowstone, flat-bottomed ferry-boats are used, attached by ropes and pulleys to elevated cables stretched across the river.

Banks. Montana has a stringent banking law, which provides for the organization of State banks, trust companies, and savings banks under the strict supervision of the State Auditor. The national bank system existed before Montana was admitted as a State. The first national bank was organized in 1867, and there were 23 in 1902. State (or rather Territorial) banks were first organized between 1880 and 1890.

The condition of the various banks is shown in the following table:


Number of banks  23 21

Capital  $2,480,000   $1,335,000 
Surplus 520,000  350,000 
Cash, etc. 1,444,000  1,256,000 
Loans 11,705,000  8,722,000 
Deposits 15,848,000  11,891,000 

Government. The present Constitution is the only one the State has had, and was adopted in 1889. An amendment may be secured if approved by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each House and by a majority vote of the people. By the same methods a constitutional convention may be called, and the new Constitution drawn up must be submitted to the people and be approved by a majority of those voting. Voters must be citizens of the United States who have resided in the State one year, and in the local districts as required by law. The suffrage is denied unpardoned felons and idiots or insane persons. Women vote at school district elections and are eligible to the office of school superintendent. Women who pay taxes may vote upon such questions as are specifically submitted to a vote of the taxpayers.

The Senate consists of 26 members elected for a term of four years, and the House of Representatives is composed of 72 members elected for a term of two years. The Legislature meets every two years and its sessions are limited to sixty days.

Revenue bills originate with the House of Representatives.

Executive. A Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney-General, Treasurer, Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction are elected for a term of four years each. The Governor's veto is overridden by a two-thirds vote of each House. He grants pardons, etc., subject to the approval of a Board of Pardons. The Lieutenant-Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House are respectively in the line of succession to the Governorship, in case of the vacancy of that office.

Judiciary. There is a Supreme Court of three members, elected for a term of six years. There are district courts in districts created by the Legislature, in each district, one or more judges being elected for a period of four years. Each township elects two justices of the peace, who serve two years. Each county elects a county attorney.

Local. In each county three commissioners are elected for six years. Other county officers are elected for two years, as follows: clerk, sheriff, treasurer, school superintendent, surveyor, assessor, coroner, and public administrator.

The State has a local option law; the legal rate of interest is 10 per cent.; any rate is allowed by contract, and there is no penalty for usury. The capital is Helena. The State has one Representative in the National Congress.

Militia. The population of militia age in 1900 was 83,574. The number of the militia in 1901 was 340.

Finances. The budget of Montana before admission to Statehood was a very limited one, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. Montana has no funded debt. The unpaid registered warrants are, however, interest-bearing and, for a few weeks before the annual taxes become delinquent, they sometimes amount to several hundred thousand dollars. Several State institutions issue bonds secured by the several land grants, but the State is not responsible for the interest or principal of these bonds, and they therefore do not constitute a State debt. The receipts have grown rapidly, and in 1902 amounted to $1,454,932, which was divided into more than thirty different funds, twelve of which are for schools and universities. The income is derived from a general property tax (50 per cent.), sale of lands (20 per cent.), licenses (10 per cent.), etc. The expenditures were $1,412,894. The balance on hand was $596,724, of which sum almost 75 per cent. belonged to various school funds.

Population. The following shows the population by decades: 1870, 20,595; 1880, 39,159; 1890, 132,159; 1900, 243,329. Most of the people live in the western or mining section of the State. Montana is predominantly a mining State, and there is a large excess of the male sex, the number in 1900 being 149,842. The total foreign-born numbered 67,067, no one nationality being particularly strong. In 1900 Butte had a population of 30,470; Great Falls, 14,930; Helena, 10,770; Anaconda, 9453.

Indians. The tribal Indians, chiefly Crows, Blackfeet, Yankton Sioux, Assiniboins, Gros Ventres, and Pend d'Oreilles, are located on six reservations, embracing an area of 14,845 square miles of fine agricultural and grazing land, of which only a small portion is cultivated. They are making some progress, but their first efforts have been attended with a great deal of waste and of misdirected energy. They are reckless in the use of farm machinery, and their attempts at irrigation are often unwisely executed. They own large herds of cattle and ponies.

Religion. The majority of the Church population belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and a number of other denominations also have a following.

Education. In 1900, 6.1 per cent. of the population above ten years of age was illiterate. The educational system of the State has the advantage of a liberal financial support. By act of Congress, two sections out of every township, besides certain other public lands and public land revenues, are set apart for educational purposes. The revenue from this source now exceeds an annual value of $200,000. The average length of 140 days for the school term is a creditable showing, but it is representative only of the towns and more thickly populated centres, there being large numbers of schools in the sparsely settled rural districts having a school term of less than half that length, and there are a number of inhabitants who are not within reach of public school advantages. A law passed in 1903 made education compulsory between the ages of eight and fourteen for the full schooling period. High schools are established when the electors of the county demand them, and twelve counties have thus provided themselves. In 1900 the census registered 57,210 children, 39,430 of whom were enrolled in the public schools and 1898 in private schools. The State maintains the following higher institutions of learning: State University, at Missoula; Agricultural College, at Bozeman; School of Mines, at Butte City; and a Normal College, at Dillon.

Charitable and Penal Institutions. There is a State Orphans' Home at Twin Bridges, a State Soldiers' Home at Columbia Falls, and a school for the deaf and the blind at Boulder (attendance of deaf and blind children is compulsory). The State as yet does not maintain an insane hospital, but cares for its insane by contract with a private company, allowing 65 cents per diem per capita. The number thus cared for increased from 195 in 1892 to 477 in 1900. There is a State reformatory at Miles City. The State penitentiary is situated at Deer Lodge, where the convicts are employed according to the public accounts system, the State paying 45 cents per diem per capita for their care.

History. The Sieur de la Verendrye is said to have traversed the region now included in the State of Montana in 1742. In 1804 the Lewis and Clark expedition crossed Montana from the northeast to the extreme southwest, and the following year, on their return journey from the Pacific Coast, descended the Missouri and the Yellowstone in two parties, meeting at the junction of the rivers near the present eastern boundary of Montana. Trading posts were erected on the Yellowstone River by Manuel Lisa in 1809, William H. Ashley in 1822, and the American Fur Company in 1829. In 1840 Father Peter John de Smet of the Society of Jesus began mission work among the Flathead Indians, and this was followed by the establishment of a permanent mission among the Indians of Bitter Root Valley in September, 1841. Fort Benton was founded by the American Fur Company in 1846. Gold was discovered as early as 1852 by François Finlay, a half-breed, near the Hellgate River, but the discovery aroused little attention till 1857, when John Silverthorn appeared at Fort Benton with a large quantity of gold dust which he had obtained in the mountains. In the winter of 1860 James and Granville Stuart settled on Gold Creek in the Deer Lodge Valley, attracted by the rumors of gold in that region, and in the following year they commenced mining on a small scale, having been joined in the meanwhile by three other pioneers. Rich placers were soon discovered at various points in the mountains and an active immigration set in, mining settlements springing up at Bannack City on Grasshopper Creek, on the Bighole River, and on North Boulder Creek. In May, 1863, gold was discovered at Fairweather Gulch, near Alder Creek. The town of Virginia City sprang up near the spot, and within a year it had a population of 4000. In 1863 the Territory of Idaho, including the present Montana, was set off from Washington and Dakota, and on May 22, 1864, the Territory of Montana was erected from land taken from Idaho. The early settlers were naturally of a reckless and lawless character and, as a result, for a considerable length of time life and property were in jeopardy. The existing state of affairs was, however, remedied by the stern administration introduced by the establishment of vigilance committees. The Montana Post, the first newspaper in the Territory, was published at Virginia City in 1865. In 1874 the seat of government was removed from Virginia City to Helena. On June 25, 1876, occurred the disastrous fight between General Custer and the Sioux Indians under Sitting Bull on the Little Big Horn River.

The prosperity of the Territory was increased by the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, surveys for the route having been made as early as 1853 by Isaac I. Stevens under authority of Congress. About 1880 began the development of silver and copper mining, which soon surpassed in importance the gold-mining industry, the value of the output of the two metals rising from $1,000,000 for both in 1880 to more than $18,000,000 for silver and nearly $37,000,000 for copper in 1901. In January and February, 1884, a constitutional convention framed a Constitution which was ratified by the people in November, and application was made to Congress for admission into the Union. No action was taken, however, until February, 1889, when an enabling act was passed by Congress. On November 8, 1889, Montana was admitted into the Union by proclamation of the President after a State Constitution had been framed and State officers elected. From the first politics in Montana were marked by a spirit of bitter partisanship, which led to frequent delays in legislation. In January, 1891, the dispute between two rival legislatures was settled only by a conscienceless bargain between the Democrats and the Republicans. The influence of the great mining corporations has also proved a source of political evil. In national elections Montana was Republican in 1892; and in 1896 and in 1900 it was carried by a fusion of the Democrats and Populists. The Governors of the Territory and State of Montana have been as follows:

Sidney Edgerton 1864-65
Thomas K. Meagher (acting) 1865-66
Green Clay Smith 1866-69
James M. Ashley 1869-70
Benjamin F. Potts 1870-83
John S. Crosby 1883-84
B. Platt Carpenter 1884-85
Samuel T. Hauser 1885-86
H. P. Leslie 1886-89
Benjamin F. White 1889
Joseph K. Toole Democrat 1889-93
John E. Rickards  Republican 1893-97
Robert B. Smith  Democrat and Populist  1897-1901
Joseph K. Toole 1901 —

Bibliography. United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Territories (Washington, 1872-74); Mineral Resources of the United States (Washington, 1892); Montana Agriculture, Labor, and Industry Bureau Annual Report (Helena, 1893 et seq.); Montana Historical Society Contributions (ib., 1877 et seq.); Bancroft, The Northwest Coast (San Francisco, 1884); id., Washington, Idaho, Montana (ib., 1890).

  1. 1.0 1.1 Established since the last census was taken.