Montana History - the history of Montana
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Vacation 2 USA   >   Montana   >   History
Vacation 2 USA   >   History   >   Montana History


Montana History

The Montana region has long been inhabited by Native American people: pictographs in caves dating back 2,100 years have been found. The Native American peoples included the Crow in the South, the Cheyenne in the Southeast, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in central and northern areas, and the Kootenai and Salish in the West.

Most of present day Montana falls within the former French colony of New France. This region was acquired from France, by the United States in 1803, in the Louisiana Purchase.

The new territory acquired by the United States was largely unexplored. This was rectified by Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804 to 1806). Lewis and Clark surveyed the Indian tribes, botany, geology and wildlife of the area, as well as looking for signs of possible interference from British or French Canadian hunters.

Gold and copper were found in the area in 1850s, and in 1864, Montana became a United States Territory. In the late 1860s, US government established three forts in the territory: Fort Shaw, Camp Cooke and Fort C. F. Smith. Montana was the scene of the Native Americans' last effort to keep their land, and the last stand Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (at Little Big Horn in 1867). Sheer weight of numbers made the Native Americans' defeat inevitable, and in 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, formally surrendered.

Montana was admitted as the 41st state of the Union on November 8th 1889. The Homestead Act (1862), the Reclamation Act (1902), and the revised Homestead Act (1912) all brought European settlers to the region, greatly expanding the state's population.

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Montana: Then and Now

By Aaron Parrett

Bangtail Press
Paperback (200 pages)

Montana: Then and Now
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When Montana Territory was established in 1864, it was a land of tepees and ramshackle cabins, of lawless vigilantes and miners scraping out meager livings. One hundred and fifty years later, the dramatic changes to the Treasure State are overshadowed only by the startling similarities. On the occasion of Montana's 150th territorial anniversary, and with a perspective born from a lifetime's devotion to the history of his home state, author Aaron Parrett compares where we started with where we are today, and along the way shows us a Montana we never could have previously imagined.

"In the tradition of Joseph Kinsey Howard and K. Ross Toole, Aaron Parrett interrogates Montana as both place and idea, revealing that what has long distinguished the state-robust island communities surrounded by a sea of redemptive space-has largely survived."
Edwin Dobb
U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

"Aaron Parrett has told Montana's story entertainingly without shying from the darker bits. The result is a romp through our state's history that is at once lighthearted and intelligent."
Molly Holz
Editor, Montana The Magazine of Western History

"Aaron Parret's Montana: Then and Now stitches together the tapestry that is Montana's 150-year-long history with the perspective born of years of sincere appreciation and study. This account gives us pause and at the same time gives us hope, that Montana's next generation realizes its role in preserving the unique qualities inherent in the 'last best place.'"
Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs
Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off and Other Lessons of the Lewis and Clark Trail

Roadside History of Montana (Roadside History Series) (Roadside History (Paperback))

By Donald E. Spritzer

Brand: Mountain Press Publishing Company
Released: 1999-05-01
Paperback (432 pages)

Roadside History of Montana (Roadside History Series) (Roadside History (Paperback))
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Roadside History of Montana goes well beyond cowboy stories to tell of the struggles of dryland farmers, the rowdy antics of mining-town denizens, and the heroism of smoke jumpers and park rangers. Author Don Spritzer's love of Montana in all its diversity shines through in each vignette as he introduces readers to Montana's independent, adventurous, and often eccentric people. Readers will learn surprising facts about the Treasure State's past and meet its most fascinating people, from the copper kings of Butte to the Freemen of Garfield County. Dividing the state into six geographical-historical areas, Roadside History of Montana follows main highways to reveal the stories hidden within the vast Montana landscape, delighting readers with lively anecdotes along the way. Spritzer speaks of each little town and crossroad with the intimacy of someone who's been there--and indeed he has. Accentuating the text are 170 historical photographs and numerous maps.

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

By Timothy Egan

Mariner Books
Released: 2017-03-07
Paperback (384 pages)

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero
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"An old-fashioned tale of tall talk, high ideals,and irresistible appeal . . . You will not read a historical thriller like this all year . . . [Egan] is a master storyteller." —Boston Globe

“Egan has a gift for sweeping narrative . . . and he has a journalist’s eye for the telltale detail . . . This is masterly work.” — New York Times Book Review

In this exciting and illuminating work, National Book Award winner Timothy Egan delivers a story, both rollicking and haunting, of one of the most famous Irish Americans of all time. A dashing young orator during the Great Hunger of the 1840s, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony for life. But two years later he was “back from the dead” and in New York, instantly the most famous Irishman in America. Meagher’s rebirth included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War. Afterward, he tried to build a new Ireland in the wild west of Montana—a quixotic adventure that ended in the  great mystery of his disappearance, which Egan resolves convincingly at last.
“This is marvelous stuff. Thomas F. Meagher strides onto Egan's beautifully wrought pages just as he lived—powerfully larger than life. A fascinating account of an extraordinary life.” — Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat
“Thomas Meagher’s is an irresistible story, irresistibly retold by the virtuosic Timothy Egan . . . A gripping, novelistic page-turner.” — Wall Street Journal


Bold Women in Montana History

By Beth Judy

Mountain Press Publishing
Paperback (252 pages)

Bold Women in Montana History
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From the Blackfeet warrior Running Eagle to the stereotype-smashing librarian Alma Jacobs, the eleven women portrayed in this engaging book were indeed bold, breaking down barriers of sexism, racism, and political opposition to emerge as heroines of their time. The sixth in this Mountain Press s state-by-state series for teen readers, Bold Women in Montana History reveals the feminine side of the Tresure State s storied past.
Within these pages are stories of fearless femmes who dared to dream and resolved to take action. Among them we meet Annie Morgan, a Philipsburg homesteader whose mysterious life is only now coming to light; the bronc-riding Greenough sisters, Alice and Marge, who became rodeo stars during the sport s heyday; and Elouise Cobell, champion of Native American rights.
Perfect for school or home, this collection of short but informative biographies is both a valuable resource and an entertaining read. For readers young and old, Bold Women in Montana History proves what women can accomplish when they dare to be bold.

Montana: An Uncommon Land

By K. Ross Toole

Brand: University of Oklahoma Press
Paperback (288 pages)

Montana: An Uncommon Land
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Perhaps once in a generation it is possible for a historian to reinterpret the long sweep of an area and a period in our history. K. Ross Toole has chosen Montana for this purpose, and the brilliant success of his achievement must be apparent to all who read these pages.

He has consciously avoided a systematic presentation of the history of this "uncommon land," Instead, he has chosen to put the great and many of the smaller but significant episodes of a century and a half into new perspective. The record, in its colorful and romantic aspects, stretches from the days of Lewis and Clark; and in its more recent aspects, from the subjugation of the Indian to the predominance of big mining and timber enterprises. The resulting portrait is sharply drawn by a man who knows not only how to interpret the remote and recent past but how to write with great effect.

Montana is best remembered by most Americans as the state in which the Indian played his last dramatic role with the annihilation of General George Armstrong Custer. But it was also the area in which the fur trade had its roots; where the sheepherders and the cattlemen vied with each other for the right to graze the land; where the "honyockers" tried-and often failed to master the land and the seasons; where copper interests have played a powerful role in politics and in the lives of the people; and where, only recently, the oil industry has followed the boom-and-bust cycle so well known in the state.

This story of Montana points up particularly the position which is and has been occupied by the state in relation to the nation as a whole. 

Tribes and Trappers: A History of Montana, Volume One (Montana History Series) (Volume 1)

By Greg Strandberg

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (320 pages)

Tribes and Trappers: A History of Montana, Volume One (Montana History Series) (Volume 1)
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Montana's history is rich, colorful, and full of excitement in this fully-illustrated volume. See how Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger blazed trails and made their names under the Big Sky. 

Read  about the day John Colter ran naked for his life, Blackfeet Indians fast on his heels. Watch as Hugh Glass is mauled by a grizzly, then left to die alone by the friends that had been paid to stay by his side. 
Have a toast with rowdy Mike Fink before he shoots a tin cup of whiskey from your head. And meet James Beckwourth, a former slave who became at home in the mountains of Montana.
  • Discover how the Native American tribes were pushed from their lands by westward expansion, first by Europeans and then Americans. 
  • Find out how tribes shook off their settled ways of life to become nomads of the Great Plains, hunting buffalo, stealing horses, and encountering whites and each other for the first time. 
  •  Learn of the Blackfeet, and their warrior ways. Discover the peaceful Shoshone, and how they were pushed from their lands. 
  • And find out about other, lesser known tribes like the Kootenai, Pend d'Oreilles, Gros Ventre, and Assiniboine. 
Montana comes alive from the time of the dinosaurs to the mid-19th century in this exciting first volume of the state's history, Tribes and Trappers.

Montana Before History

By Douglas H. MacDonald

Mountain Press Publishing Company
Paperback (204 pages)

Montana Before History
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Dig into Montana s past with this guide to the state s best archaeological sites. A cache north of Livingston, the oldest known evidence of humans in Montana, was left by mammoth hunters more than 11,000 years ago. Their cultural descendents survived in Montana until modern times, hunting game and gathering roots and berries. Montana Before History, organized chronologically from the Paleoindian period to the Late Prehistoric period, details how Montana s early peoples adapted to the rugged environment and several dramatic changes in climate. Learn how they hunted bison and other game before the introduction of the horse, how archaeologists can identify a culture by its projectile point, and where Montana s original hard-rock miners worked their quarries.

Montana: A History of Two Centuries

By Richard B. Roeder

University of Washington Press
Paperback (480 pages)

Montana: A History of Two Centuries
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Montana: A History of Two Centuries first appeared in 1976 and immediately became the standard work in its field. In this thoroughgoing revision, William L. Lang has joined Michael P. Malone and Richard B. Roeder in carrying forward the narrative to the 1990s. Fully twenty percent of the text is new or revised, incorporating the results of new research and new interpretations dealing with pre-history, Native American studies, ethnic history, women’s studies, oral history, and recent political history. In addition, the bibliography has been updated and greatly expanded, new maps have been drawn, and new photographs have been selected.

Crow Killer, New Edition: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson

By Raymond W. Thorp Jr.

Indiana University Press
Paperback (208 pages)

Crow Killer, New Edition: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson
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The movie Jeremiah Johnson introduced millions to the legendary mountain man, John Johnson. The real Johnson was a far cry from the Redford version. Standing 6’2" in his stocking feet and weighing nearly 250 pounds, he was a mountain man among mountain men, one of the toughest customers on the western frontier. As the story goes, one morning in 1847 Johnson returned to his Rocky Mountain trapper’s cabin to find the remains of his murdered Indian wife and her unborn child. He vowed vengeance against an entire Indian tribe. Crow Killer tells of that one-man, decades-long war to avenge his beloved. Whether seen as a realistic glimpse of a long ago, fierce frontier world, or as a mythic retelling of the many tales spun around and by Johnson, Crow Killer is unforgettable. This new edition, redesigned for the first time, features an introduction by western frontier expert Nathan E. Bender and a glossary of Indian tribes.

Vigilante Days and Ways

By Nathaniel Pitt Langford

Independently published
Paperback (411 pages)

Vigilante Days and Ways
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The American West in the nineteenth century was a violent place.

Fear of punishment exercised no restraining influence on the conduct of men who had turned crime into a profession.

They hesitated at no atrocity necessary to accomplish their guilty designs.

In the lands of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, murder and robbery often went hand in hand.

The country, filled with canyons, gulches, and mountain passes, was especially adapted to conducting murder, and the unopulated distances between mining camps afforded ample opportunity for carrying them into execution.

Pack trains and companies, stage coaches and express messengers, were as much exposed as the solitary traveller, and often selected as objects of attack.

Miners, who had spent months of hard labor in the accumulation of a few hundred dollars, were never heard of again after they left the mines to return to their distant homes.

There was no limit to this system of organized brigandage.

When not murdering and stealing, these villains spent their ill-gotten gains through gambling, licentiousness and further terrorizing the local populations.

But the people of these regions did not bow down to the bandits forever, instead they rose up against their oppressors and formed vigilance committees, took the “law unto themselves” and condemned the outlaws to death.

What else could they do? How else were their own lives and property to be preserved? What other protection was there for a country entirely destitute of law?

Nathaniel Pitt Langford’s fascinating Vigilante Days and Ways uncovers the ways of life of early pioneers to the American West, how they survived in the face of lawlessness and eventually killed those who were persecuting them. By presenting the details of people lived during this time he allows the reader to come to their own conclusion as to whether the vigilantes were justified in their actions or not.

“Vigilante Days And Ways brings to life dramatic scenes of Montana in the 1860s when it was attractive to most of its newest residents only for the gold that lay waiting to be scooped from its streams.” Midwest Book Review

Nathaniel Pitt Langford was an explorer, businessman, bureaucrat, vigilante and historian from Saint Paul, Minnesota who played an important role in the early years of the Montana gold fields, territorial government and the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Vigilante Days and Ways was first published in 1890 and Langford died in 1911.

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