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Chouteau County Montana Historical Markers

 
An Island on the Plains Marker image, Touch for more information
By Barry Swackhamer, August 14, 2019
An Island on the Plains Marker
Montana (Chouteau County), Big Sandy — An Island on the Plains ó The Bears Paw Mountains
Fifty-five to thirty-four million years ago, volcanoes erupted in several areas of central Montana. The upwelling of magma which fed these volcanoes was largely responsible for the Bears Paw Uplift and for several other isolated mountain ranges in . . . — Map (db m142530) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Big Sandy — Big Sandy
According to legend, the town and the creek got their name from the muleskinner "Big Sandy" Lane. The creek was flooded during one of his long treks from Cow Island to Fort Benton. When "Big Sandy" fluently bewailed his bad luck in superlatives . . . — Map (db m142531) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Big Sandy — Cow Island Trail
Freight was unloaded at Cow Island when water dropped so low that steamboats could not travers the upper river to Fort Benton. For 130 miles the Cow Island Trail wound along the southern foothills of the Bear's Paw to the junction at Big Sandy then . . . — Map (db m142562) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Big Sandy — Fort Walsh Trail
Another wagon road headed northeast from Fort Bento to the Cypress Hills and Medicine Hat, Alberta. It passed through Big Sandy, on north near Havre and into the Cypress Hills. In 1873 Fort Benton whiskey traders massacred Indians in the Cypress . . . — Map (db m142558) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Big Sandy — Judith Landing
The road to the southeast leads to the mouth of the Judith River. An early fur post, Fort Chardon was built there in 1844. In 1866 Camp Cooke, the first miliary (sic) post in Montana, was constructed of cottonwood logs, and endured four years of . . . — Map (db m142559) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — "George Montgomery: Rider of the Purple Sage"
by Actor/Artist George Montgomery (1916-2000) and Artist Gary Schildt (1938- ) (dedication information omitted) George Montgomery, youngest of 15 siblings, was for on a homestead near Brady, Montana. Following graduation . . . — Map (db m142336) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — 1806 Lewis' Return
On July 16, 1806, Captain Lewis gave instructions to Sgt. Ordway to finish the portage at the Great Falls and wait for him at the month of Maria's River. After their wild encounter with the Blackfoot on the Two Medicine and a twenty-hour ride, . . . — Map (db m142214) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Bank of Northern Montana
The bank was established June 1, 1880, by T. E. Collins, Charles Duer and L. H. Hershfield and Brother. It was first located in the Benton Record Building, then moved to this location in October 1881. The bank remained here until the large two-story . . . — Map (db m142100) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Bloodiest Block in the West
"It's a tough town. Walk in the center of the street and keep your mouth shut," Gunslingers walked this street; few earned a reputation but more earned eternity here than in other fabled western towns. Indians were fair game. Their corpses dumped . . . — Map (db m142304) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Buffalo Robe Fur Press
This is a replica of the buffalo robe press that was used at Old Fort Benton. It was big and awkward, but robes were so bulky and heavy that it took equipment like this to handle them. Robes were pressed hair-side out after the four sides were . . . — Map (db m142212) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Choteau House
I.G. Baker and T. C. Power built the original Thwing House in 1868. Under the watchful eye of Mrs. Thwing, this “downtown” hotel competed with the Overland. The hotel closed in 1870 and was rented as military officersí quarters. It . . . — Map (db m142134) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Chouteau County
When Lewis and Clark found this land of mountains, river valley and plains, it was so full of buffalo and other grazing animals that it seemed like Paradise. In the1880's the area became vast open cattle ranges, and today Montana's greatest wheat . . . — Map (db m142014) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Chouteau County Courthouse
Chouteau County was one of the nine original counties created February 2. 1865. At that time there was a sporting disregard for assessors, taxes and the law. For example, in 1872 when the jail burned, all the peace officers were in Canada trading . . . — Map (db m142450) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Chouteau County Courthouse
Minneapolis architects Kees and Fisk drew the plans for this magnificent Queen Anne style courthouse which opened in 1884. As the seat of one of Montana's nine original counties, its grand appearance represents the early affluence of this "Chicago . . . — Map (db m142451) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Church of the Immaculate Conception
The Roman Catholic faith came to Fort Benton even before the walls of the fort were erected. Father Jean Pierre de Smet and Nicholas Point celebrated the first mass on Sept. 27, 1846. "Black Robes" continued to serve the area irregularly until Fr. . . . — Map (db m142452) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Church of the Immaculate Conception
When fire destroyed the original Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1905, this beautiful Tudor style structure of rough cut stone and ornamental half-timbered gables replaced it in 1907. Salvaged from the blaze was a bell christened in 1880 for . . . — Map (db m142454) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Culbertson House
Solomon's Medicine Lodge Saloon was remodeled in 1875 and became the Centennial Hotel. This frame building was moved to the back of the lot by Robert S. and Lydian Smith Culbertson for living quarters, while a new two-story brick hotel was built in . . . — Map (db m142303) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Davidson and Moffitt Harness Shop
Fort Bentonís building boom of 1887-1884 saw the construction of many commercial buildings made of locally produced soft brick. This fine example was built in 1881 as a saddlery by Davidson and Moffitt of Helena. The River Press Company, publisher . . . — Map (db m142064) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Drowning of the Governor
Thomas Francis Meagher was born in Ireland in 1823. An Irish Revolutionary, he was caught and sentenced to death. Meagher's sentence was commuted to exile in Tasmania but he escaped to the United States. As a Brigadier General, Meagher commanded the . . . — Map (db m142253) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — First Fire Engine House
"Fire" was a cry dreaded by any Westerner, and early Fort Benton was no exception. Flimsy wooden buildings, haystacks, kerosene lamps and primitive stoves created major fire hazards. When city government was organized in 1883, the first steps in . . . — Map (db m142424) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton
Founded in 1846 as a fur post, Fort Benton is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Montana. From its palisaded walls grew the most important transportation center in the Northwest. Trails led to all points of the compass, carrying goods . . . — Map (db m141987) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton
Alexander Culbertson established Fort Benton in 1846 as an American Fur Company trading post. The remote settlement prospered in the 1850s, but it wasn't until the following decade that it really boomed. The arrival of the steamboat Chippewa at the . . . — Map (db m142483) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton – Fort MacLeod Trail
The Fort Benton to Fort MacLeod or "Whoop-up" Trail into Canada was the main artery of commerce in the 1869-1883 era. Twenty yoke of oxen was a team and each team hauled three of the heavy freight wagons loaded with trade goods, calico and whiskey. . . . — Map (db m142216) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton and the Indian Wars
This three-inch ordinance rifle came to Fort Benton sometime after the Civil War, probably during the time it was a military port, 1869-1881. It has remained here since its arrival, and was here during the Indian Wars of 1876-1877. It has seen no . . . — Map (db m142172) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton and the Mullan Road
Fort Benton was the eastern terminus of the Mullan Military Road. Construction of the road began in the summer of 1859 at Fort Walla Walla, the head of navigation on the Columbia River. Lieutenant John Mullan of the U.S. Topographical Engineers . . . — Map (db m142484) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton Bridge
When railroads replaced steamboats, Fort Benton's importance as a trade center declined. In response, Fort Benton businessmen formed the Benton Bridge Company to construct a bridge across the Missouri River to capture the trade of the rapidly . . . — Map (db m142414) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton Engine House
The Fort Benton Engine House, built in 1883, and the Grand Union Hotel are two of only a few structures remaining to remind us of the rapid expansion here during the flourishing steamboat days. When Fort Benton incorporated in 1883, a volunteer fire . . . — Map (db m142417) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton Historic District
Founded in 1846 as the fur trade transitioned fro furs to buffalo robes, Fort Benton was both a trading post and a center for distribution of Indian annuities. In the early 1860s, Montana's gold rush and the initiation of steamboat traffic made the . . . — Map (db m142173) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fort Benton Levee
On June 14, 1869 nine sternwheelers moored along this bank, unloading whiskey, gold pans, salt, bacon, boot and miners. Ox teams hauled the freight to faraway points. Wells Fargo coaches took miners to Helena for $25, fights with the Blackfoot were . . . — Map (db m142060) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Fur Trade Posts
As you look across the Missouri, on the third bottom were two fur posts within several hundred yards of one another. Fort Cotton, built in 8142 by the Union Fur Company, existed only two years before it was abandoned. Fort Lewis was built by . . . — Map (db m142017) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Grand Union Hotel
Opened to the public Nov. 1, 1882 the Grand Union Hotel was Fort Benton's pride, a haven of relaxation in a boisterous frontier town at the head of navigation on the Missouri. Total cost of the finest hostelry between Seattle and the Twin Cities was . . . — Map (db m142061) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Grand Union Hotel
This grandiose, three-story Italianate style hotel welcomed weary river travelers to the Gateway of the Northwest, offering guests a luxurious refuge before setting out for less civilized destinations. Its opening in 1882 came at the end of the . . . — Map (db m142062) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — H.J. Wackerlin Hardware Company
This structure opened in 1882 during Fort Bentonís “glory days” as Montanaís largest hardware store. T. C. Power and Hans Wackerlin operated the business. Wackerlin, a tinsmith, had come to Fort Benton in 1867 aboard the steam boat . . . — Map (db m142136) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — I.G. Baker Company
Stores, warehouses and homes belonging to Montana's greatest trading company were along this side street. Founded in 1866, I.G. Baker Co.'s freight wagons cut deep trails into western history. From northern Canada along routes in all directions, the . . . — Map (db m142292) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — I.G. Baker Home
From the 1850s to 1887, Fort Benton was the trade center for this region of the American and Canadian West. Like others who chose to stay when the fur trade declined, I.G. Baker (last American Fur Company factor at the fort) turned to new endeavors. . . . — Map (db m142133) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — I.G. Baker Home
The original portion of this house, one of the oldest in Montana, was built for I.G. Baker in 1867. Early-day Fort Benton merchant Baker wanted a home, rather than the old fort for the birth of his expected child. Constructed of rough-sawn lumber . . . — Map (db m142290) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — June 6, 1908
On this day water from the Missouri River rose to this level at this location due to heavy rainfall over Western Montana. For more information contact National Weather Service Great Falls, MT www.weather.gov/greatfalls Missouri . . . — Map (db m142408) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Keelboat Mandan
Keelboats antedated steamboats and used every kind of power–chiefly man–except steam. Propelling them was no idle pastime. The usual method was to set long ash poles on the river bottom, toe the cleated walk and push hard, bow to stern. . . . — Map (db m142245) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Lewis and Clark Trail
The river below was the first trail west. On their way to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark used the Missouri as their route to the Rocky Mountains. Maria's River enters the Missouri fifteen miles down stream. In June 1805 the Captains spent ten days . . . — Map (db m142016) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Masonic Building
Members of Masonic Lodge #25 built this brick structure in 1882, housing their temple on the second floor. Grocer W. H. Burgess rented first floor space. Economic decline in the late 1880s caused the Masons to lose title, and Burgess, too, went . . . — Map (db m142103) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — McGraw's Saloon
Originally built to house the Stockmenís National Bank, this solid structure represents typical pre-1900s commercial architecture. Its 1890 construction is significant as one of the few buildings erected after Fort Bentonís heyday and before . . . — Map (db m142102) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Mullan Road
Within a few steps of this sign the Mullan Road came up Helena Hill from Fort Benton. It wound its way over 600 miles to the head of navigation on the Columbia River at Fort Walla Walla. It was the first federal highway in the Northwest. Covered . . . — Map (db m141986) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Mullan Wagon Road
Captain John Mullan started surveying the Mullen Road in 1853 and began construction in 1859 of the 624-mile wagon road that linked Fort Benton to the head of navigation on the Columbia. Indian wars slowed him somewhat, but Mullan opened his route . . . — Map (db m142246) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Nez Perce War
In September 1877 the Nez Perce traveled across the Judith Basin headed for Canada. In anticipation of trouble, Major Ilges (commandant at Fort Benton) organized a party of fifty volunteers, mostly Fort Benton's Irish Fenians. They loaded the . . . — Map (db m142215) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Old Fort Benton ó 1846-1865
Logs were floated downstream from Fort Lewis in May of 1847 and erected on foundations built the year before. The fort was called Fort Lewis or Fort Clay before officially named for Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri upon completion of the . . . — Map (db m142210) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Old Fort Benton Bridge
The bridge at this site was completed in 1888 and remained in use until 1963. The Benton Bridge Company constructed it as a toll bridge–no federal subsidy, county or state money was involved–to encourage the city's Judith Basin trade. . . . — Map (db m142333) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Open Range Cattle
In the late 1870's after the gold rush, stockmen began to move cattle from the mountains to the northern plains of Montana and utilize the free grass on the open ranges. Montana's short grass prairies had the best grass of the entire Great Plains. . . . — Map (db m142339) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Pacific Hotel
In 1864, Mills and Douglas operated a restaurant and hotel on this corner. Mills and Robert S. Culbertson went into partnership in 1877, opening a new establishment called the Centennial Hotel in celebration of the United States' 100th birthday. . . . — Map (db m142104) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Shep's Vigil
In August 1936 a casket containing a sheepherder's body was loaded on a baggage car headed East for burial. A dog, of collie strain, watched with anxious eyes. He was to be there to meet every train year after year. Conductor Ed Shields by 1939 . . . — Map (db m142059) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — St. Paul's Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church came to Montana Territory with Bishop D.S. Tuttle in 1867, who rode horseback to mining camps and frontier posts. An abandoned saloon housed the first Fort Benton services, then a hotel and school. When Rev. S.C. Blackiston . . . — Map (db m142328) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Paulís Episcopal Church, Fort Bentonís oldest church, is the oldest Episcopal Church in Montana. In continuous service since August 11, 1881, it appears today almost as it did upon opening. Architecturally, this Gothic style building is a fine . . . — Map (db m142329) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Steamboat Navigation
Just over the brow of this hill, nestled against the banks of the Missouri, is Fort Benton. It was the head of steamboat navigation on the Missouri, the world's innermost port. Below this point is a shelf in the river that prevented further passage. . . . — Map (db m142011) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Steamboat Relics
Part of the remains of Fort Benton's last steam boats. Baby Rose & City of Fort Benton were both lost on the Missouri after 1900. — Map (db m142170) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Stockmen's National Bank
Originally built to house the Stockmenís National Bank, this solid structure represents typical pre-1900s commercial architecture. Its 1890 construction is significant as one of the few buildings erected after Fort Bentonís heyday and before . . . — Map (db m142101) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Stream Flow Monitoring
This stream flow monitoring station is part of a nationwide system of approximately 7,000 streamflow stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS has principal responsibility for evaluation of the Nation's water resources by . . . — Map (db m142410) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — T.C. Power & Bro.
Across the street stood the first two stores of the T.C. Power Company, the third became the Pioneer Lodge. T.C. Power stepped off the Yorktown about this spot on June 14, 1867 with a tiny stock of merchandise bought "on jawbone," but with . . . — Map (db m142248) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — T.C. Power Building
In 1867, merchant T. C. Power, destined to become one of the stateís wealthiest and most influential men, brought his first wagonload of goods to Fort Benton, where he set up shop in a borrowed tent. Still in business in 1916, Power constructed a . . . — Map (db m142137) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — T.C. Power Dry Goods Store
T. C. Power and Bro. was founded in 1868 at approximately this location. Initially housed in a wooden building, the store was moved in 1879 to a large brick structure across the street. When the firm expanded, a hardware store was built next door . . . — Map (db m142135) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — The Choteau House
Originally a pretentious two-story frame hotel familiar to all rivermen, the Choteau House was built in the spring of 1868. T.C. Power and I.G. Baker constructed the building between their businesses to rival Overland up the street. At first . . . — Map (db m142289) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — The Engage's Quarters
In 1850 this building housed families of the engages in the two large second-story rooms accessed by two exterior stairways. It was communal living, but it was warmer and better living than a tepee. Downstairs were shops for the skilled craftsmen. A . . . — Map (db m142449) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — The Montana Memorial
The Lewis and Clark Memorial was Fort Benton's contribution to the Nation's Bicentennial in 1976 and is the State of Montana's official memorial to the Expedition. Total cost was $175,000. The statue is heroic-sized (1/6 larger than actual). It . . . — Map (db m142244) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Thomas Francis Meager
Ceannaire mor Eireanach aoibhinn agus onorach Thomas Francis Meager 1823 Ireland - 1867 Montana Irish Patriot American Civil War Hero Acting Governor, Montana Territory A few yards from here Meagher met his mysterious Fate on . . . — Map (db m142255) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — War Dogs Memorial
In Memory of over 4000 U.S. Military working dogs that served in the Vietnam War when the war was over these dogs were left behind in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia (back) In Memory of over 4000 U.S. . . . — Map (db m142169) WM
Montana (Chouteau County), Fort Benton — Whoop-up Trail
North from Fort Benton ran another wagon road to Canada, the famous Whoop-up Trail. Whiskey traders carried supplies north and brought buffalo robes south to Fort Benton for transport down river by steamboat. Later the Whoop-up Trail supplied the . . . — Map (db m142018) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — A Montana Crossroads
The Missouri River once flowed northeasterly through this valley to Hudson Bay. During the Bull Lake Ice Age, an ice dam near Loma diverted the river into its current channel. This channel began filling with glacial sediment, preventing the river . . . — Map (db m142526) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — Decision at the Marias ó Lewis in Blackfoot Country
On the evening of June 2, 1805 the Corps of Discovery arrived at the mouth of an unknown river flowing from the north. The river had not been mentioned by the Hidatsa nor was it noted on their maps. The two rivers were equal is size. Which was the . . . — Map (db m142527) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — Exploring the North Fork ó Lewis in Blackfoot Country
Meriwether Lewis climbed up the drainage for their camp at the mouth of the Marias, where he reached a "commanding eminence" (where you are standing) and described the North Mountains (Bears Paw Mountains) and "the Barn Mountain (Square Butte). He . . . — Map (db m142528) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — Marias River
The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped at the mouth of the river just east of here June 3, 1805. The Piegan people called it "The River that Scolds at all Others," but Lewis named it Maria's River in honor of his cousin, Miss Maria Wood (over time . . . — Map (db m142488) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — The Manitoba Railroad
The railroad grade you see before you was the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad, the precursor of the Great Northern Railway. In 1887, nearly 9,000 men constructed 550 miles of track across Montana's northern Great Plains between Minot and . . . — Map (db m142486) HM
Montana (Chouteau County), Loma — Victims of Blood Indians Massacre
Erected by J.H. Friend's Family Descendants of Franklin Friend for the Victims of Blood Indians Massacre May 25, 1865 Franklin Friend - George W. Friend Abraham Lotts - John Alley John Andrews - N.W. Burris Frank Angeline - Henry . . . — Map (db m142490) HM

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