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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Virglle Mercantile in Chouteau County, Montana — The American West (Mountains)
 

Virgelle Mercantile

 
 
Virgelle Mercantile Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 23, 2020
1. Virgelle Mercantile Marker
Inscription.  Virgil F. Blankenbaker was among the first to homestead this areas when former Indian Reservation lands along the Missouri River opened to settlement in 1889. He accumulated miles of land across the plains and along the riverfront. Blankenbaker's extensive sheep ranch prompted the Great Northern Railroad to build a loading spur here near his home in 1900. The railroad siding was named Virgelle by combining Blankenbaker's first name with the name of his wive Ella, and the Virgelle Post Office was designated in 1902. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 brought more settlers, and in 1912 Blankenbaker built a large, well designed mercantile with upstairs lodgings for railroad crews. The fine building, clad in stone block-patterned pressed tin, echoes the permanence Blankenbaker envisioned for his town. In 1913, he established a ferry across the river and Virgelle became a railroad flagstop. Locals eagerly awaited Blankenbaker's annual "Dakota Picnic," a political rally and social gathering. At the end of the decade a bank, lumber yard and two grain elevators served a peak population of about 30. Hard times in the 1920s reversed Virgelle's good fortune.
Virgelle Mercantile and Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 23, 2020
2. Virgelle Mercantile and Marker
The marker is beside the old gas pump on the left.
Blankenbaker, serving a second term in the legislature, died in an auto accident in 1936; Ella died in 1940. But the mercantile, run by Ella's brother John Chancellor, among others, continued to serve the local population until the 1960s. The abandoned building became part of another enterprise under owner/outfitter Don Sorensen in 1975. Historic cabins move to the townsite and the beautifully refurbished mercantile with its store and sleeping rooms invite the modern visitor to experience the Montana homestead era.
 
Erected by Montana Historical Society.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Montana National Register Sign Program series list.
 
Location. 48° 0.926′ N, 110° 14.958′ W. Marker is in Virglle Mercantile, Montana, in Chouteau County. Marker is on Virgelle Ferry Road North, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7433 Vigelle Ferry Road North, Loma MT 59460, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 7 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Virgelle State Bank (within shouting distance of this marker); Coal Banks Landing (approx. 1.3 miles away); An Island on the Plains (approx. 13 miles away);
Virgelle Ferry image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 23, 2020
3. Virgelle Ferry
Cow Island Trail (approx. 13 miles away); Judith Landing (approx. 13 miles away); Fort Walsh Trail (approx. 13 miles away); Big Sandy (approx. 13 miles away).
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 4, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 35 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on December 4, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.
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Mar. 7, 2021