Montana is one of the most beautiful states in the USA, and it’s not surprising that more and more people are flocking to live there. In 2012, the state saw a population of over 1 million residents for the very first time in its history.
Whether you’re just planning to visit or you’re considering moving to Big Sky Country, it’s important to know more about the history of this unique state.
Read on for a brief history of Montana so you can learn all about this vast, rugged part of the United States.
The history of Montana begins with its first inhabitants, which were tribes of Native Americans including the Crows and Cheyenne. Many Native Americans resided here, including areas around Flathead Lake and the western mountains.
The famous Lewis and Clark Expedition took place from 1804-1806. This marked the first group of white explorers to set foot in the state. Soon after the discovery, fur trappers and traders arrived and brought everything from alcohol and diseases to a new economic system to the Native Americans who lived there.
By the 1840s, the fur trade had ended due to the fast-dwindling population of beavers. Roman Catholic missionaries followed the trappers into Montana and established Saint Mary’s Mission in the Bitterroot Valley. This is believed to be the very first permanent settlement in Montana which also brought agriculture to the area.
In the 1860s, the discovery of gold brought prospectors into the region. Montana officially became a territory in 1864 and boomtowns began to pop up all over, but the population shrank once the gold started to run out.
As more white people came to the state of Montana, they took over many traditional Indian hunting grounds. Conflicts eventually led to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1876, the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes were the victors of the now-infamous battle.
While Native American tribes saw some victories, they simply couldn’t maintain resistance against the United States Army for good. Soon, cattle ranchers started to inhabit the western valleys of Montana in the 1860s. As demand for beef rose, new mining towns also started to appear.
By the 1880s, railroads were crossing Montana. The territory eventually became a state in 1889.
Butte, Montana earned its place on the map when silver and copper were discovered there. As a result, the Anaconda Copper Company became one of the world’s biggest copper mining companies.
Other industries also started to grow, including cattle and sheep ranches. Thanks to Montana’s abundant grasslands and vast spaces, tens of thousands of ranchers and farmers began to settle there. The passage of the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 added a boon to the population.
Despite the influx of farmers and ranchers, an extended drought eventually caused a mass exodus. A drop in market prices after World War I was also a contributing factor.
Like much of America, the state of Montana suffered during the post-World War I depression through the 1920s. The struggle extended into the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Present Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the “New Deal,” which helped to bring Montana some relief via a variety of new agencies and projects. Some milestones include the construction of the Fort Peck Dam and an array of other projects completed by the Works Project Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and others.
World War II helped to resolve some of the tough times Americans dealt with during the Great Depression. Montana received federal funds from the US government, but the war also moved many young people into service to fight. This resulted in the state’s young adult population relocating to work for wartime industries along the West Coast.
From around 1945 to 2000, post-war Montana experienced a very slow rate of economic growth. A state that once relied on natural resources and services began to struggle with fluctuating prices of commodities like copper, coal, petroleum, and timber.
Many of these industries also depend on weather conditions, particularly farming, ranching, and agriculture. A state that once depended on railroads for transportation soon saw a shift toward dependence on cars and trucks thanks to a new highway system.
Part of Montana has seen massive growth in tourism, retirees, and wealthy part-time residents since the 1970s. Many people flock to the state to soak in its glorious mountain scenery and a variety of outdoor activities. Hunting, hiking, and fishing are popular pastimes.
While housing prices boomed before 2008, they saw a sharp decline after the Great Recession of 2008. However, the medicine and energy industries in Billings and higher education in Missoula continued to attract new residents.
Smaller areas like the old mining communities of Butte and Anaconda saw a decline in population. When the Anaconda mining operation shut down in 1980, it became the EPA’s second-largest Superfund cleanup site.
Yet Montana is currently seeing a massive explosion in new homes and new residents. Today, the state is quickly becoming a popular place to relocate for young professionals and their families. Billings is now a financial and technical center for industries like coal, oil, ranching, and farming.
The hit TV show Yellowstone has created a new interest in Montana. Booming industries and excellent educational institutions are also drawing more people to the state.
With plenty of wide, open spaces and clean, mountain air, it’s easy to see why so many people are longing to live here. Those who appreciate nature and outdoor recreation will find that Montana is an exceptional place to live.
The history of Montana is one of many exciting adventures, conflicts, and new discoveries. Learning more about this beautiful state is just one way you can decide whether or not it’s the right place for you.
If you’re ready to make your move, contact us today to find out more about our community of beautiful, new homes.