When railroads replaced steamboats, Fort Benton’s importance as a trade center declined. In response, Fort Benton businessmen formed the Benton Bridge Company to construct a bridge across the Missouri River to capture the trade of the rapidly…

Homesteaders, travelers, and railroad crews helped the tiny town of Virgelle thrive during the 1910s. Town founder Virgil Blankenbaker chartered the Virgelle State Bank in 1917 where he, his brother-in-law John G. Chancellor, C. J. McNamara, and…

Volcanic activity eons ago laid down this substantial granite deposit known as the Shonkin Sag Lacolith. Geologists Louis N. Pirrson and Walter H. Weed named the gray stone “Shonkinite” in 1894. I. E. Jenkins and W. H. Guyor began formal quarrying…

The Milwaukee Land Company laid out the neat, tree-lined streets of Square Butte in 1913. Strategically located along the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific’s route between Lewistown and Great Falls, Square Butte was for a time an important…

Christopher and Edward Wilson chose this narrow canyon as headquarters for their ranching operation in 1887. The brothers lived in a dugout while they built a more serviceable two-room cabin using granite hand-cut from the nearby hillside. By 1895,…

In 1913, as workers laid track on the spur line from Harlowton to Great Falls, Milwaukee Road surveyors platted towns along the new route, including Geraldine. By October 2, Farmers State Bank opened in a wooden building on Main Street. Among the…

Fort Benton’s first school opened in 1868, over twenty years before statehood. As Montana’s population grew, so did its commitment to education, fueled by the belief that a successful democracy demands an educated populace. Upon statehood (1889),…

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fort Benton’s oldest church, is the oldest Episcopal Church in Montana. In continuous service since August 11, 1881, it appears today almost as it did upon opening. Architecturally, this Gothic style building is a fine…

The Fort Benton Engine House, built in 1883, and the Grand Union Hotel are two of only a few structures remaining to remind us of the rapid expansion here during the flourishing steamboat days. When Fort Benton incorporated in 1883, a volunteer fire…

This building opened in 1882 during Fort Benton’s “glory days” as Montana’s largest hardware store. T. C. Power and Hans Wackerlin operated the business. Wackerlin, a tinsmith, had come to Fort Benton in 1867 aboard the steam boat Richmond, which…