Montana: Other Historic Sites Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Montana, one of the six Rocky Mountain states, lies directly south of the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. To its east are North and South Dakota. Wyoming lies south of it, and Idaho borders it to the south and west. It is 570 miles from east to west. From Canada in the north to Wyoming in the south is 315 miles.

Bannack Historic District

Location: Dillon, Beaverhead County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, political history

Statement of significance: This was the first territorial capital and the site of Montana’s first gold discovery in 1862. The remaining buildings are of frame and log construction, typical of a frontier boomtown.

Chief Joseph Battleground of Bear’s Paw

Location: Chinook, Blaine County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: This is the site of the battle in which Chief Joseph (c. 1840-1904) and more than four hundred Nez Perce Indians surrendered to the United States Army (1877). The Bear’s Paw surrender signaled the close of the Nez Perces’ existence as an “independent Indian people.” Henceforth, they lived as a group of displaced persons–in the white culture, but certainly not of it.

Chief Plenty Coups Home

Location: 0.5 mile west of Pryor, at the intersection of BIA roads #5 and #8 (Edgar Road), Big Horn County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: This was the homestead of Chief Plenty Coups (c. 1849-1932), also called Aleekchea’ahoosh, one of the last and most celebrated traditional chiefs of the Crow Indians. It includes the house of Chief Plenty Coups, an adjacent log store operated by the chief, and the Plenty Coups Spring, a site of historic and cultural significance to the Crow people. Chief Plenty Coups established the homestead in 1884 and lived there until his death in 1932, making his political career of more than a half a century one of the longest of any chief. One of the most important Native American leaders of the transitional period and an ambassador and negotiator for the Crow, Chief Plenty Coups advocated the adoption of those aspects of American culture necessary to succeed on the reservation while maintaining traditional Crow religious beliefs and cultural values.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Location: Glacier National Park, West Glacier, Flathead County

Relevant issues: Science and technology, western expansion

Statement of significance: An essential step in making large scenic reservations accessible to the motoring public without unduly marring landscape scenery or natural systems was the initiation of “landscape engineering.” When it was begun, Going-to-the-Sun Road was the most ambitious road construction project ever undertaken by the Bureau of Public Roads and the National Park Service (NPS). The extreme terrain and conditions, as well as the newness of the administrative agreement between the two federal bureaus, made the road a laboratory of innovative road engineering practices and policies. While building the road, the NPS and the Bureau of Public Roads developed the construction standards and the cooperative administration that characterized future road construction not only in National Parks but on other federal lands and, after 1933, in State Parks as well.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch

Location: Deer Lodge, Powell County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: John Grant, the original owner of the ranch, starting in 1853, is sometimes credited with founding the range-cattle industry in Montana. Conrad Kohrs, who bought the ranch about 1866, was among the foremost “cattle kings” of his era.

Great Falls Portage

Location: Great Falls, Cascade County

Relevant issues: Western expansion

Statement of significance: The Lewis and Clark Expedition undertook an eighteen-mile, thirty-one-day portage at Great Falls, one of the most difficult ordeals of their westward trip.

Pictograph Cave

Location: Billings, Yellowstone County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: This is one of the key archaeological sites used in determining the sequence of prehistoric occupation on the northwestern Plains. The deposits indicate occupation from 2600 b.c.e. to after 1800 c.e.

Pompey’s Pillar

Location: Pompey’s Pillar, Yellowstone County

Relevant issues: Western expansion

Statement of significance: This massive natural block of sandstone was a major landmark on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. William Clark’s signature, carved on its surface, is still visible.

Rankin Ranch

Location: Helena, Lewis and Clark County

Relevant issues: Political history, social reform, women’s history

Statement of significance: This was the residence, from 1923 to 1956, of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1916). She served two terms, 1917-1919 and 1941-1943. Best remembered for her pacifism, Rankin played an important role in the women’s rights and social reform movements. She was the only member of the House to oppose the declaration of war against Japan in 1941.

Russell House and Studio

Location: Great Falls, Yellowstone County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: Charles M. Russell (1865-1926), one of the best-known twentieth century painters of western subjects, occupied this house from 1900 to 1926.

Traveler’s Rest

Location: Lolo, Missoula County

Relevant issues: Western expansion

Statement of significance: This campsite is where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped before crossing the Bitterroot Mountains on their 1805 trip west and on their return the next year.

Virginia City Historic District

Location: Virginia City, Madison County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, political history

Web site: montana.avicom.net/virginiacity

Statement of significance: This was the territorial capital of Montana (1865-1875) and the site of one of the greatest gold strikes in the West (1863).

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