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Montana History: 8 Events That Shaped the State

Image: Montana History: 8 Events That Shaped the State
The Battle of the Little Bighorn. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Friday, 27 Feb 2015 12:47 PM

Montana has a sparse population even though it is the country’s fourth largest state geographically. Its vast, wide-open lands, including mountain ranges along with agricultural and ranching areas, have helped shape Montana history.

Here are eight important events that influenced the state of Montana:

1. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 included territory that would become Montana. President Thomas Jefferson authorized the $15 million payment to Napoleon Bonaparte of France for areas that would expand the United States — from the Dakotas and Montana in the North to Louisiana in the South, totaling 13 eventual states.

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2. The Lewis and Clark Expedition brought the first white explorers to the territory between 1804 and 1806, opening up the future state to more travelers and eventual settlers. The Montana area remained a vast area of exploration by trappers, fur traders and missionaries, as well as remaining home to Indian tribes, through the 1850s.

3. Gold was discovered in Western Montana in the 1860s, bringing prospectors and miners to the Montana area, leading to the boomtowns that grew dramatically and turned Montana into a U.S. territory in 1864 with nine established counties. Cattle ranching by early settlers also flourished.

4. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as "Custer's Last Stand," was won by the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes who slaughtered 265 men of Gen. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry in 1876. However, it led to a strengthened U.S. Army occupation in the area, and the Black Hills were soon under the control of the U.S. Many Indian tribes surrendered within a year after the battle and were confined to reservations.

5. Railroads started crossing Montana in the 1880s, expanding exploration and trade from steamboat and wagon trails. The Utah and Northern Railroad went into operation in 1881, helping the mining trade.

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6. Montana became the 41st state admitted to the Union in 1889 by a Presidential proclamation. A state constitution was ratified that same year and stayed in effect until 1972 when Montanans rewrote it following a vote for a constitutional convention.

7. Montana history was significantly affected with the passage of the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. Tens of thousands of farmers journeyed to the state for its wheat farming and cattle and sheep ranching. The boom later turned into a bust during the Great Depression, but work projects were provided to the area through "New Deal" programs.

8. Glacier National Park in Montana was established for its unique scenic beauty in 1910 following a bill signed by President Taft. In 1932, Glacier became the world’s first International Peace Park when it combined with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.

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Montana has a sparse population even though it is the country's fourth largest state geographically. Its vast, wide-open lands, including mountain ranges along with agricultural and ranching areas, have helped shape Montana history.
Montana History, Big Sky Country, Glacier National Park
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2015-47-27
Friday, 27 Feb 2015 12:47 PM
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