Lewis and Clark County, Montana GenWeb History
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1864 The discovery of gold in the summer of 1864 was the start of present day Helena. Four men, two from Georgia, one from Iowa, and one from Alabama, known as the "Four Georgians"took their "last chance" for paydirt. John Cowan, John Crabb, Reginald "Bob" Stanley, and D.J. Miller found their luck changed at Last Chance Gulch. Last Chance Gulch is now the main street in downtown Helena. Over the years many millions of gold was taken out of the area making Helena one of the richest places in the world at one time. Living in tents and cabins, miners came in search of their big chance. Mining claims popped up all over the area. Freight and supplies were shipped from Fort Benton, 150 miles to the north. Winters were hard and mining stopped when the ground froze. Water supplies were short. Water systems were designed and by 1870 the "Big Ditch" flowed into the area. Ten Mile Creek was diverted to supply water to the miners. Ten Mile Creek still runs from McDonald Pass to the west of Helena down into and throughout Helena. McDonald Pass sits just outside of town on the the Continental Divide.

Sheriff Roberts was the sheriff. Chief of Police was William Warfield, deputies were Frank Takats and James Glenon.

1869 A four lane bowling alley was constructed.

$500,000 per month worth of gold was being shipped out
Census population was 20,580 persons for Montana Territory.
5,030 persons in Lewis and Clark County, the largest county in population, smallest in area.
1,642 dwellings in L&C County
109 farms in L&C County.
1,336 families in L&C County
3,303 white men, 933 white women, 663 Chinese citizens.

1871 First Chess Club formed.
Corrine, Utah was the main point on the Union Pacific Railroad. The Diamond R Company owned by Colonel Broadwater had a freight service to Corrine. It was 480 miles one way and took 8 days to get there.
The fire of 1871, several businesses were burned out.
Silver quartz mining was alive and well.
The fourth telegraph started between Helena and Bozeman-100 miles away.
Canyon Ferry's name was changed to Staffordsville, but the name was never used.

First Earthquake on December 10, 1872 at 4:30 pm.
Second fire on August 23, 1872. 23 residences and several businesses were destroyed.

1874 One January 9, 1874 Helena had it's third fire. This fire destroyed 150 homes and most of the town's businesses. There was one fatality, Konrad Kipper. Montana Historical records were also lost. The fire started in the "Chinatown" area. Racial tension was incredibly high.
In 1874, pay was $4-5 per day in Helena. This was 3 or more times higher than most places in the country.

Helena became the official capitol. It had previously been Virginia City.
One could take the stage to Fort Benton or the steamer to Bismarck, North Dakota and east.
In July the grasshoppers had a "field day" with the local crops.
Central School started construction.


Accounts of Sioux uprisings and military actions were commonplace. On June 25th, 315 of General George Armstrong Custer's Calvary were killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Gold was discovered in the Black Hills and many Helena residents left for golder pastures.
Helena had 23 lawyers and 9 doctors.
A road was proposed to join Helena and Butte, 70 miles to the south. Butte was becoming a leader in quartz mining.


Leading hotels in the area were: The St. Louis, Dana House, The Magnolia, The Cosmopolitan (owned by Schwab and Zimmerman), The International, and the Overland.
In the fall of 1876, 300 children enrolled in school.
Since 1863 over $110 million in gold had been shipped out of Helena.


In May scarlet fever broke out.
Indian troubles were starting again. The Calvary under Thomas P. Fuller (for who Fuller Avenue is named) formed to fight the Nez Perce Indians. An artillary unit was formed under Charles D. Curtis.


The Northern Pacific Railroad was formed.


The Rocky Mountain Snowshoe and Toboggan Club formed.
The school census: 867 males and 854 females aged 4-21, 242 males and 245 females under age 4, 2,208 children total.


  The Encore Club formed, a drama group.

The Helena school paper started, "The Critic".
The population of Helena was 10,671 people.
Home delivery postal service started.
The new St. Peter's Hospital started.
The new Lewis and Clark County Courthouse was dedicated.



Should you have any questions, please email the County Coordinator.


Copyright by Vikki Gray for the benefit of the MTGenWeb Project. ęCopyright 2013 - Present MTGenWeb County Coordinator