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for its use. Within a few years, Browne had acquired about 3,000 acres near the bridge and had developed nearby Browne’s Lake for recreational purposes. A post office was located just west of the bridge from 1872 until the early 1880s. Even though most of Montana’s counties assumed control of the state’s toll facilities by 1892, Browne operated the bridge until his death in 1909. Beaverhead and Madison counties assumed joint ownership of the bridge in 1911.

In 1915 the counties petitioned the Montana State Highway Commission for a new bridge. The Commission designed the bridge in 1915; a Missoula company built it during the autumn and winter of that year. A riveted Warren through truss bridge, it was one of the first structures designed by the Commission’s bridge department. In 1920 high water destroyed the old structure, which was located slight- ly upstream from this bridge.

Beaverhead County rehabilitated this bridge with funds provided by the Montana Department of Transportation.


T Argenta

Hwy 278 to Argenta Flats Road, W of Dillon

Argenta (formerly Montana) was the site of Montana’s first silver-lead mine in Montana, The Legal Tender. It once had a population of over



1,500. Granville Stuart, in speaking of Argenta wrote, “The wealth of the Rothchilds is as noth- ing compared to the riches which lie concealed in the bowels of the Rattlesnake hills awaiting the coming of the enchanters with their wands (in the shape of greenbacks), to bring forth these treasures.” In 1866, the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company funded and built the first smelter in the Montana Territory here. The only remnants of this town are mine shafts, slag heaps, some abandoned mine structures, and several private residences.

23. Lodging

Dillon Dillon was born with the screech of a steam whistle. The Utah and Northern Railroad (pre- sent day Union Pacific) was forging north, toward Butte in 1880, as winter converged the railroad halted construction at Richard Deason’s ranch. The location of the town was determined coincidentally when the rancher owning the land refused the railroad passage. Some enter- prising businessmen travelling with the train bought the ranch to form a town site company. During the winter the railroad remained at the end of the track and when it moved north again in the spring, the town remained. Dillon was

Map not to scale

named after the president of the Union Pacific Railroad, Sidney Dillon.

With a population of about 4,000, Dillon is an agricultural community and the regional trade center for southwestern Montana. At one point it was the largest wool shipping point in Montana. It is also the county seat of Beaverhead County and boasts an “Entrance to Montana” Visitors Information Center located in the old Union Pacific Depot Building alongside the Chamber of Commerce. Western Montana College, built here in the early 1900s, has assisted Dillon’s economic stability and development.

Nestled within the surrounding mountain ranges of the Beaverhead, the Tendoys, the Centennial Range and the Pioneer Mountains, Dillon enjoys a pocket of mild weather and a vari- ety of geographical splendor.

24. Food, Lodging

T Clark’s Lookout State Park

In Dillon on 490 at MT 41 exit .5 mi E, then .5 mi N on county rd. 834-3413

This is the location of an observation site used by William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition on August 13, 1805. This area has some great views. Undeveloped land makes it a great place for adventure and primitive camping.

Montana Trivia

The six men who discovered Alder Gulch were not real adept at keeping a secret. Their plan was to “sneak” out of Bannack with the horses and supplies they had purchased with their new gold. The discoverers--Bill Fairweather, Tom Cover, Henry Edgar, Barney Hughes, Harry Rogers, and Mike Sweeney--just had that “look” about them and spent a little too freely. When they left town they were followed by 200 men who had been observing their behavior for the past week. Just before reaching Alder Gulch, they realized there was no fooling the followers and confessed to the new find. Not before sending Barney Hughes ahead to secure their claims though. On the trail they called a miner’s meeting with the followers to establish some rules. No miner could possess more than two claims. A claim was 200 feet wide in the bed of the gulch or to the center of the stream in wider parts. A miner had to work his claim at least three days a week to retain title to it. Stuart Granville no doubt used a little hyperbole when he claimed “The Alder Gulch diggings were the richest gold placer diggings ever discovered in the world.” They were rich. According to Granville “the district extended from the foot of Old Baldy to twelve miles down the creek, and the bed of the creek and the bars on both sides were uniformly rich; the bed rock being literally paved with gold.” Virginia City was established here and grew to nearly 10,000 inhabi- tants before the gold played out.


Section 6


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