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The Montana Almanac 1957

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Montana Almanac 1957 - Place Names

The information below is compiled from “The Montana Almanac”
1957 Version published by Montana State University

This Montana Almanac list of Montana place names is not the final authority on the exact history of many of these names - it is up to you as the researcher to decide which story seems most credible in some cases.

Anaconda - county seat of Deer Lodge County; named for the Anaconda Mine at Butte. Michael Hickey, who chose this rather odd name from a remark attributed to Horace Greeley to the effect that McClellan’s army would surround Lee’s like a giant anaconda, owned the mine

Arlee - town in Lake County named for Arlee, a Flathead Indian chief

Assiniboine - old fort and military reservation in Hill County, and the name of a tribe of Indians. One version of the origin is that the name means "stone boilers" and was given to the Indians because of their method of boiling meat by dropping heated stones into the water. Another version is that the name refers to the stony nature of the land in which the Indians lived

Baker - county seat of Fallon County; named for A.G. Baker, an engineer with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway. The original name of the station was Lorraine.

Banna[o]ck - town in Beaverhead County; named for a tribe of Indians who inhabited the area. Some authorities believe that the term meant "southern people", others say "root-diggers"

Bear Paw Mountains - in Hill, Blaine and Chouteau Counties; so named because the various ridges resemble a bear's paw

Beaverhead - county and river; the river was named for a rock i the vicinity of Twin Bridges similar in the shape of a beaver's head. Beaverhead, which was the name passed on by the Indians to Lewis and Clark, eventually became the name of county

Belgrade - town in Gallatin County; named in honor of a capitalist from Belgrade, Serbia, who traveled through the town on a Northern Pacific Railway special train en route to the driving of the golden spike completing the road. 

Belltower - town in Carter County; named for a butte in the vicinity resembling a belfry in shape

Big Horn - county and river; named for the Rocky Mountain sheep, frequently called "big horn".

Big Timber - county seat of Sweetgrass County; named after the creek of the same name along which larger cottonwoods grew.

Billings - county seat of Yellowstone County; confusion exists as for just whom Billings was named. Some say for Fredrick Billings, one of the early presidents of the Northern Pacific Railway; others say for his son, Parmley. All agree it was a member of the Billings family.

Bitterroot - mountains and valley; named after the bitterroot plant. The Indians called the northern end of the valley "Place of the Bitterroot," but Lewis & Clark applied the name to the whole valley

Blackfoot - town in Glacier County; named for the Blackfoot [Blackfeet] Indians. According to legend, the name originated this way: a nameless chief was so unsuccessful in the chase that his father blackened his feet with charcoal and named him "Satsiaqua," "blackfeet." 

Blaine County - named for James G. Blaine, United States Senator from Maine

Bonner - town in Missoula County, named for E.L. Bonner, an early settler in Missoula and the first president of the Missoula and Bitterroot Valley Railroad

Boulder - county seat of Jefferson County; named for nearby stream along which there are numerous boulders

Bozeman  - county seat of Gallatin County; named for John M. Bozeman, pioneer, who led the first settlers into the Gallatin Valley in 1864. Indians killed him in 1867.

Bridger - town in Carbon County; named for Jim Bridger, scout, fur trader and guide. Its original name was Stringtown

Broadus - county seat of Powder River County; named for the Broaddus family, early settlers on the Powder River. One of the D's was left out by mistake in Washington D.C. 

Broadwater County - named for Colonel Charles A. Broadwater, a pioneer

Browning - town in Glacier County; named for Commissioner Browning of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Butte - county seat of Silver Bow County; named for a prominent butte overlooking the city

Camas - town in Sanders County; named for the Indian term for a small onion which grows wild in the state

Carbon County - so named because of the presence of coal deposits in the county

Carter County - named for former U.S. Senator Thomas H. Carter

Cascade County - so named because it contains the Great Falls of the Missouri River

Charlo - town in Lake County; named for Charlot, a chief of the Flathead Indians

Chester - county seat of Liberty County; named by a railroad telegrapher after his home town, Chester, Pennsylvania

Chinook - county seat of Blaine County; named for the chinook winds which blow over the area. Its original was named Dawes

Chouteau - county and town spelled [Chouteau]; named for the Chouteau family. Pierre Chouteau Sr., was the founder of the Missouri River Fur Company and his son, Pierre, Jr. was for many years associated with the American Fur Company

Circle - county seat of McCone County; named for a brand used by an early cattle outfit

Clark Fork - rivers - Clark Fork of the Columbia and Clark Fork of the Yellowstone. Both were named in honor of Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition

Clyde Park - town in Park County. One version of the origin of the name stems from the raising of Clydesdale horses in the Shields River Valley in the early days. The post office was named after the horses and the park-like appearance of the valley. Another version is that the town was named for Clyde DuRand, an early rancher

Colstrip - town in Rosebud County. the name is a contraction of "coal - strip' derived from the strip-mining of coal in the area

Columbus - county seat of Stillwater County; some believe that the town was named for Christopher Columbus, others for Columbus, Minnesota

Comanche - town and river in Yellowstone County; named after the horse, the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn

Conrad - county seat of Pondera County; named for W.G. Conrad, a local resident

Culbertson - town in Roosevelt County; named for Alexander Culbertson, chief factor of the American Fur Company at Fort Union, whom established a number of trading posts on the Upper Missouri and Marias Rivers. Another version is that the town was named for Joseph Culbertson, an army scout, who fell with Custer

Custer County - named for General George A. Custer, who was killed by Indians in 1876 at Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Cut Bank - county seat of Glacier County; named for a deep gorge made by Cut Bank Creek near the city

Daniels County - named for Mansfield A. Daniels, a pioneer rancher and storekeeper

Dawson County  - named for Major Andrew Dawson, an official of the American Fur Company

Deborgia - town in Mineral County; named for St. Francis de Borgia, a member of the order Jesuits to which Father DeSmet belonged

Deer Lodge - county and city in Powell County, in the Deer Lodge Valley. the valley was called by the Indians "Lodge of the White-Tailed Deer" The name also is said to be derived from a salt lick where deer came in droves. Earlier names were Spanish Fork, LeBarge city and Cottonwood

Dillon - county seat of Beaverhead County; named for Sidney Dillon, president of the Union Pacific Railway, who directed completion of  a branch of the railroad [ the Utah and Northern] from the main line in Utah to Butte

Drummond - town in Granite County; named by a trapper by that name who operated a line of traps in the vicinity

Dupuyer  -town in Pondera County; named after a term used by the Indians for "hump [ or fat back] of the buffalo." The term was probably derived from the French "depoille." The area at one time was a favorite hunting ground of the Blackfeet Indians

Ekalaka - county seat of carter County; named after a Sioux Indian woman [Ijkalaka], wife of David H. Russell, scout, hunter and frontiersman

Evaro - town in Missoula County; named after a French nobleman who traveled through the area in the early days

Fallon  - county and town; named for Benjamin O'Fallon, United States Indian Agent

Fergus County  - named for the father of one of the first settlers, Andrew Fergus

Flathead - county, river and lake named for the Indian tribe

Forsyth - county seat of Rosebud County; named for General James W. Forsyth, the first United States Army officer to land by steamer at the site of the present town

Fort Benton - county seat of Chouteau County. The town and old fort were named for United States Senator Thomas H. Benton

Fort Keo[u]gh  - at one time an army reservation, now a bird refuge; named for Captain Keogh, who fell with Custer

Fort Shaw - town in Cascade County. Established in 1867 as Camp Reynolds, the name was later changed to Fort Shaw in memory of Colonel Robert G. Shaw, who was killed at Fort Wagner

Fort Union  - town in Roosevelt County; formerly called Mondak. The name was changed to Fort Union in 1925 to commemorate the post of the American Fur Company, which occupied the site a century ago

Frenchtown - town in Missoula County. The early inhabitants were largely French-Canadians

Gallatin  - county and river named by Captain Lewis in 1805 in honor of Albert Gallatin, then Secretary of the Treasury

Garfield County  - probably named for President James A, Garfield

Garneill - town in Fergus County; named for Garnet Neill, the wife of a local resident

Garrison - town in Powell County; named for William Lloyd Garrison, the anti-slavery advocate

Garryowen - town in Big Horn County; named for a regimental tune by the same name of Custer's Seventh Cavalry

Geraldine - town in Chouteau County; named after Geraldine Rockefeller, wife of William Rockefeller, a director of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway

Glacier County - named for Glacier Park, which adjoins it

Glasgow - county seat of Valley County; evidently named for the city in Scotland by the Great Northern Railway

Glendive - county seat of Dawson County. Glendive Creek was so named by Sir George Gore, an Irish sportsman who visited the vicinity on a hunting trip in 1856, because it reminded him of a stream by that name in Ireland. The name of the city was taken from the stream.

Golden Valley County  - probably so named to advertise the area to settlers

Granite County  - named for the mountain containing the silver mine by that name

Great Falls - county seat of Cascade County; so called because it is near the Great Falls of the Missouri

Hamilton  - county seat of Ravalli County. Some say that the town was named for J.W. Hamilton, from whom the right-of-way for the Northern Pacific Railway was acquired. Others say that the town was J.T. Hamilton, who surveyed the townsite.

Hardin - county seat of Big Horn County; named for S.H. Hardin, a Texas cattleman and a friend of the president of the company which platted the town

Harlem - town in Blaine County; evidently named for Haarlem in the Netherlands by the Great Northern Railway officials

Harlowton - county seat of Wheatland County; named for Richard A. Harlow, builder of the Montana Railroad. The town was originally called Merino

Helena  - capital of Montana; named in 1864 after Helena, Scott County, Minnesota, by John Somerville, a former resident of that place

Hill County - named after James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway

Hysham - county seat of Treasure County; named for Charles Hysham, an early cattleman

Ismay - town in Custer County; named for Isabelle and Mary Peck, daughters of George W. Peck, an official of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway

Jordan - county seat of Garfield County; named either for the Jordan family of Glendive, W.B. Jordan of Miles City, A.A. Jordan, first postmaster

Judith Basin County - from Judith River, named by Captain Clark in 1805 in honor of Miss Judith [Julie] Hancock of Fair [Fin] castle, Virginia

Kalispell - county seat of Flathead County; named for the Kalispell Indians

Lake County - so named because of the presence of Flathead Lake

Landusky -  town in Phillips County; named for Powell "Pike" Landusky, reputed to be one of the toughest rough-and-tumble fighters of the West, who met a violent death in 1894

Lewis & Clark County - named after the explorers; formerly Edgerton County

Lewistown - city in Fergus County. Lewistown is said by some to have been named for Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis  & Clark expedition. According to others, the name was taken from Camp Lewis, located there in 1874 and named for Major William H. Lewis of the 7th Infantry

Libby - town in Lincoln County; according to some, named for the daughter of George Davis, early settler

Liberty County - doubtless so named from the sentiment of the inhabitants. This was the first county to be named after WWI

Lincoln County  - probably named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln

Lindbergh Lake - in Missoula County; named for Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh in 1927

Livingston  - county seat of Park county; named for either Charles or Johnston Livingston, both directors of the Northern Pacific Railway

Lodge Grass - town and creek in Big Horn County. The Crow Indians originally called stream "Greasy Grass" but through misinterpretation it has been called "Lodge Grass"

Lolo  - town and stream in Missoula County. One version is that the word is an Indian rendition of "Lawrence," the name of an old trapper; another is that it is a corruption of "Le Louis," the name given the creek by early French trapper 

Madison - county and river; named for President James Madison. the river was named by Lewis & Clark in 1805 when Madison was Secretary of State

Malta - county seat of Phillips County; probably named for the island in the Mediterranean Sea by the Great Northern Railway

Manhattan - a town in Gallatin County; named after the Manhattan Company, organized by a group from New York, who operated large land-holdings in the vicinity. The original name was Moreland

Marias - river and pass; the river was named by Captain Meriwether Lewis, on June 8, 1805, for his cousin Maria Wood

McCone County - named in honor of State Senator George McCone of Dawson County for his work in having the county created

McDonald Pass - across the Continental Divide, through which U.S. Highway 10N [I-90] is routed; named for Alexander McDonald who maintained a toll road through the pass until 1885

Meagher County - named for General Thomas Francis Meagher, governor of Montana Territory during the period 1865-76

Melstone  - town in Musselshell County named for Melvin E. Stone, at one time an official of the Associated Press

Miles City - county seat of Custer County; named for General Nelson A. Miles of Civil and Indian War fame

Milk River - so named by Lewis & Clark because of its whitish appearance

Mineral County - so named because of the many mines and mining prospects within the county

Missoula - county and county seat. The name is said to be a contraction of the Flathead Indian word, "im-i-sul-e-etiku, meaning "by or near the place of fear or ambush." The place referred to is Hell Gate Canyon, just east of the city of Missoula, in which Flathead Indians were sometimes waylaid by Blackfeet Indians. Other interpretations refer variously to the river passing through the city [ called locally the Missoula River, but more properly the Clark Fork]. They include "river of awe' and "sparkling water."

Missouri River - an Indian name said to mean, "muddy water."

Moiese - town in Lake County, named for a Flathead Indian sub-chief

Monida  - town and pass at the Montana- Idaho border; combining the first syllables of the two states formed the name

Musselshell - river and county; named by Lewis & Clark in 1805, presumably because they found mussel shells along the banks of the stream

Neihart - town in Cascade County; named for J.L. Neihart, one of the group of prospectors and first discoverers of minerals in the area

Outlook - town in Sheridan County; probably so named because of the view from the townsite and brought future, which the wheat farmers of the region anticipated

Paradise  - town in Sanders County. It is said that the name is a modification of "Pair o' Dise", after roadhouse on the old trail

Park County - so named because of its proximity to Yellowstone National Park

Petroleum County - so named because of the production of petroleum at Cat Creek in the county

Philipsburg - county seat of Granite County; named for Philip Deidesheimer, first superintendent of the St. Louis- Montana Gold and Silver Mining Company

Phillips County - formed out of part of Valley county in 1916. It was named for B.D. Phillips, a leading sheep man and pioneer, whose ranch was located on the new county

Plains - town in Sanders County formerly called Horse Plains. it was originally a wintering place for Indians and their horses. Later, stockmen from as far away as Walla Walla, Washington drove their horses there for the winter. Wild horses also congregated in great numbers. From this arose the Horse Plains, and when the town was incorporated, it was under that name. For convenience, the word "Horse" was dropped many years ago

Plentywood - county seat of Sheridan County. In early days a considerable growth of small timer existed along the banks of the creek where the town now stands 

Plevna - town in Fallon County; named after Plevna, Bulgaria

Polson - town in lake County; named for David Polson, a stockman who lived in the Mission Valley south of Polson

Pompey's Pillar - town in Yellowstone County; named after a nearby isolated rock 200 feet high, a landmark which had been named by Captain William Clark in 1806 for Pomp, Sacajawea's son

Pondera County - originally Pend d'Oreille [ear pendant]; the name was changed to a form resembling the phonetic spelling to avoid confusion with the town and lake by the same name in Idaho

Poplar - town in Roosevelt County; named after the nearby Poplar River, which had been so named because of the nature of the timber along its banks

Powder River - county and river; so named because of the gunpowder-colored sand on its banks. The Indians and Lewis & Clark called the river "Red Stone" because of the color of rocks along its course

Powell County - named after Mount Powell, which had been named for Major John W. Powell, early geologist and explorer

Prairie County - named after the physical environment of the region

Rapelje - town in Stillwater County; named for J.M. Rapelje, General Manager and Vice President of the Northern Pacific Railway

Ravalli County - named for a Jesuit missionary, Father Anthony Ravalli, who came to the Bitterroot Valley in 1845

Red Lodge - county seat of Carbon County. One version is that the first white settlers called the locality by this name because the Crow Indian tribe has inhabited the area. Another version is that the town was named for an Indian medicine man

Richland County - so named in order to advertise the county to prospective settlers

Ringling - town in Meagher County; named for John Ringling of circus fame, who at one time was president of the White Sulpher Springs and Yellowstone Railway

Robare - town in Pondera County; named for Henry Robert, an employee of the American Fur Company. The name of the town is spelled, as the name of the man was pronounced.

Rocker - town in Silver Bow County. A former placer mining camp, it was named after the "rocker," a cradle-like machine used by early miners for washing gold gravel

Ronan - town in Lake County; named for Major Peter Ronan, United States Indian Agent, who wrote a history of the Flathead Indians

Roosevelt County - named for President Theodore Roosevelt

Rosebud - county, town and river; so named because of the profusion of wild roses along the banks of the river

Roundup - county seat of Musselshell; so named because it was located in a cattle round-up area

Ruby - mountains, valley and river in Madison County; so named because the early settlers found red minerals in the area which were believed to be rubies. Actually they were garnets

Ryegate - county seat of Golden valley County; one version is that the town was so named because of the rich profusion of rye grass in the stream bottoms of the area. Another is that the surveyors of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railway, who made a camp near a rye field, named it

Saco - town in Phillips County. The name is presumably a contraction of Sacajawea, the Indian guide of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

Saltese - town in Mineral County; named for Saltese [Seltisse], and Indian chief who resided there

Sanders County - named for the United States Senator [Colonel] Wilbur F. Sanders, pioneer, vigilante and statesman

Scobey - county seat of Daniels County; named for Major C.R.A. Scobey, agent of the Fort Peck

Shelby - county seat of Toole County; named for Peter R. Shelby, a vice-president of the Great Northern Railway

Sheridan County - named for General Philip S. Sheridan, commander of the military department in which Montana was included

Shields River - a tributary of the Yellowstone River; named by Captain William Clark in 1806 for a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition

Sidney - county seat of Richland County; named for Sidney Walters, the son of a pioneer family

Silver Bow - county and creek; one version is that the creek, from which the county derived its name, was named in 1864 when three prospectors saw the sun shining on it through a rift in the clouds. Another version is that the county was so named because of its shape and the existence of silver within its boundaries

Smith River - named by Lewis & Clark in honor of Robert Smith, then Secretary of the Navy

Stanford -  county seat of Judith Basin County; named after either Stanfordville, New York, the home town of J.E. Bower, an early sheep man, or for Major James T. Stanford of Great Falls

Stevensville - town in Ravalli County; named for Isaac I. Stevens, the first governor of Washington Territory, of which western Montana was originally a part

Stillwater - county and river; some say that the river, from which the county derived its name, was so named by travelers, including J.M. Bozeman, who crossed it as a ford where the water was relatively still. Others say that Captain William Clark named the stream at an earlier date, in 1806  

Sunburst - town in Toole County; so named because the sun on rising would burst over the Sweet Grass Hills and shine down into the valley where the town lies

Superior - county seat of Mineral County; named after a settlement formerly at the mouth of Cedar Creek, which had been named by a man from Superior, Wisconsin

Sweet Grass County - from Sweet Grass Hills, so named because of the abundance of sweet grass growing in the vicinity

Targhee Pass - across the Continental Divide, through which U.S. Highway 191 is routed; named for a Bannock Indian chief

Terry - county seat of Prairie County; named for General Alfred H. Terry, who commanded the expedition of 1876, commonly known as the "Custer Campaign."

Teton - county and river; named after the Teton Mountains, which had been named for the Teton Indians

Thompson Falls -  county seat of sanders County; named for David Thompson, Northwest Company trader and explorer

Three Forks - town in Gallatin County; so named because it is located near the junction of the three forks of the Missouri - the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison Rivers

Tobacco Range - mountains in Madison County. A species of mullein grew in these mountains which old-timers, when tobacco was scarce, dry-cured and mixed with the leaf of the larb, making a substitute for tobacco

Toole County - named for Joseph K. Toole, first governor of the State of Montana

Townsend - county seat of Broadwater County; named for an official of the Northern Pacific Railway

Treasure County - named for the purpose of attracting settlers

Twodot - town in Wheatland County; named after the ranch of H.J. Wilson. His ranch was so named because of the brand he used, and he was locally known as "Two Dot" Wilson

Twin Bridges - town in Madison County; so named because of the two bridges that span the Jefferson River at that point when the railroad was built through

Valier - town in Pondera County; named after Peter Valier, who surveyed the Montana Western Railway

Valley County - so named because of the topography of the region; a large part of the county lies in the valley of the Milk River

Victor - town in Ravalli county; named for Chief Victor of the Flathead  Indians

Virginia City - county seat of Madison County. First named "Varnia" in honor of the wife of Jefferson Davis, it was soon changed to "Virginia". Dr. [Judge] G.G. Bissell, strongly pro-Union was first to write it "Virginia" asked to head a legal document "Varnia", he bluntly refused. He wrote "Virginia" and so it remained 

Westby - town in Sheridan County. It received its name as follows: "by" in Danish means town, and Westby at one time was the most western town in North Dakota. However, it was moved to the Montana side of the border when the railroad was built through

Wheatland County - so named because of its extensive wheat fields

Whitefish - city in Flathead County; so named because of its location on Whitefish Lake. The lake got its name from the large number of whitefish caught there at certain times of the year

Whitehall - town in Jefferson County; so named after a large white ranch home belonging to major brooks. it was used as stopping place for stages which ran from Helena to Virginia City

White Sulphur Springs - town in Meagher County; so named for the medicinal springs located there

Wibaux - county and county seat; named for Pierre Wibaux, pioneer and cattleman. Originally, the city was called Mingville, reputedly after Minnie and Gus, a couple who were early residents there

Wisall - town in park County; named after the son [Will} and daughter-in-law [Sally] of Walter B. Jordan, who platted the townsite 

Wisdom - town and river in Beaverhead County. Lewis & Clark named the river in honor of Thomas Jefferson for the wisdom he possessed

Winnett - county seat of Petroleum County; named after Walter J. Winnet, a well-known rancher and owner of the townsite

Wolf Point - county seat of Roosevelt County; one version is that the town was so named because of the resemblance of a nearby hill to the shape of a wolf; second is that trappers used to stack wolf pelts along the bank awaiting shipment by steamboat to St. Louis

Yellowstone - county and river; named for the yellow rocks along the banks of the stream. it originally was called "roche jaune" by French trappers _____________________________________________________________________________________________

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