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State of Montana Genealogy

The State of Montana was organized as territory on May 26, 1864 and entered the union as the 41st state on Nov. 8, 1889. It has 56 Counties.

The State of Montana is bordered by Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, British Columbia, Canada and Alberta, Canada. It has a land area of 147,046 square miles making it the 4th largest state, only three states—Alaska, Texas, and California have an area larger than Montana’s. The capital is Helena and the official state website is

The 2010 population was 989,415 and the largest cities (2010) are Billings, 104,170; Missoula, 95,802; Great Falls, 58,505; Bozeman, 37,280; Butte-Silver Bow,1 34,200; Helena (Capital), 28,190; Kalispell, 19,927; Havre, 9,310; Anaconda–Deer Lodge County, 9,298; Miles City, 8,410.

The State of Montana's name comes from the Spanish word meaning “mountainous” and was first used when the area was designated a territory in 1864. The State nickname is "Big Sky Country" and "Treasure State". The State Motto is "Oro y plata" which is spanish for Gold and Silver.

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Montana History

In terms of area, Montana is the fourth largest U.S. state, behind only California, Texas, and Alaska. Montana also has the third lowest population density of all of the U.S. states, behind only Wyoming and Alaska. The Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia all share the northern border of Montana. Its eastern border is shared by the U.S. states of South Dakota and North Dakota. To the west, it is bordered by Idaho. To the south, it shares a border with Wyoming.

The capital of Montana is Helena. The name "Montana" comes from the Spanish word for mountain, which is "monta?a." However, of all of the mountain states, Montana's average elevation is the lowest, at only 3,400 feet, or 1,040 meters. The Rocky Mountains run through Montana from northwest to southeast. They also run through British Columbia, Wyoming, and Idaho. However, Montana's eastern area is mainly grazing land for sheep and cattle. Montana is considered part of the Great Plains, along with North Dakota, South Dakota, the northeastern part of Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

There are not many manufacturing industries or markets for goods in Montana. The state is primarily known for its fishing, hunting, and sports. Montana residents often travel great distances for entertainment or to socialize with others, since they tend to be fairly isolated.

Although located in the north, Montana is part of the stereotypical "Western States." The city of Helena was originally called "Last Chance Gulch," which is still the name of the city's main street. That name pays tribute to the 1860s gold miners who searched for gold in the hills outside Helena.

Montana became the 41st state in 1889. By then, there were cattle drives in the area on a regular basis. The state had also become known as a leader in the copper mining industry. In fact, the area is so rich in minerals that it is known as the "Treasure State." As of 2012, it had an estimated population of 1,005,141 people and it has a 147,039 square mile area (380,829 square km).

In 1862, gold was found in Bannack, which triggered the first major influx of people to the area. The next year, gold was also discovered in Alder Gulch, which was just south of Butte, Montana. Eventually, there were several distinct groups of people in Montana, including: Settlers from Oregon and California, Settlers from the East, Foreign-Born Immigrants, Civil War Veterans from the South.

In 1864, Montana became a territory. The portion on the Continental Divide's west side was originally part of Washington Territory, while the portion on the east side was part of Nebraska Territory. In 1889, Montana gained its statehood.

From 1865 onward, steamboats brought both people and goods to the gold camps via the Missouri River. It took quite a while for them to do that. They typically departed in March or April from either Sioux City or St. Louis, but they didn't get to Fort Benton, Montana until at least May. Sometimes it took them until as late as July to arrive. Fort Mullan Road, which ran for about 100 to 200 miles from the mines to Fort Benton, was a major route for those entering and leaving the state. In fact, in 1867, there were about 5,000 people who either entered or left the state via the Mullan Road or the Missouri River.

The officials in Montana Territory started to advertise to try to bring in settlers in 1869. They hired a New York agent to make leaflets about Montana Territory and then send those leaflets to Scandinavian countries and to Germany. The 1870 federal census showed that there were 183 African Americans, 1,949 Chinese people, and 18,306 white people living in Montana. There were also an estimated 19,300 Native Americans in Montana at that time. The Montana Immigration Society was started in Helena in 1872. Three years later, a Bozeman immigration society began meeting on a fairly regular basis. The Bozeman agent was responsible for getting immigrants to settle in Yellowstone County and Big Horn County.

The North Pacific Railroad was established in Montana in 1883. The railroad advertised land for sale in the area in 2.5 million advertisements between 1882 and 1883. It was believed that those from norther Europe would have an easier time adapting to Montana's climate and conditions. However, not many northern Europeans came to the area at the time.

In 1882, English colonies were established in Yellowstone Valley and in Helena. Some Dutch families took up residence in Gallatin Valley and some French people settled in Missoula County, both in 1893. The year before that, a group of Finnish people, who were mainly lumbermen, settled near Missoula. Park County and Fergus County became home to groups of Germans and Italians around that time, many of them migrating from Canada and North Dakota. Many of the Germans owned cattle in Montana, but the actual cattlemen who drove the cattle were generally Scottish and English. Some sheepmen also moved to the area, originally coming from the British Isles.

Members of 115 families, amounting to 506 people, migrated from Ripon, Wisconsin to Montana in 1882. They made their home in the Billings area. Some settlers also came from Oregon for cattle drives. Another large group were the southerners, who came and eventually made their homes in Bitterroot Valley.

Many Irish and Scandinavian people wound up working for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which had mills and smelters in Montana. People from Balkan countries came to the area in large groups in the early 1900s. Italian, Irish, and Polish people were the primary workers in the Musselshell, Carbon, and Cascade County mines.

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