Mineral County History / by David Lawrence

[frame]Native tales, historic trails, gold miners and railroaders, ancient floods and wildfires that changed our landscapes and our culture-- Mineral County's history is nothing if it ain't colorful. Below we give you just a taste. For more information, visit our museums, or some of the sites listed on our Links Page.[/frame]

Historic Trails - Built as a military road in 1859-60, Montana's first highway--the Mullan Road--followed an ancient Native American trail and linked Fort Benton (MT) with Walla Walla (WA). Today a portion near Alberton, along the Clark Fork River and I-90, is open to hikers and bicycle traffic. The County also boasts part of the Hiawatha Trail. Built along the Milwaukee Railroad right-of-way, it's a popular biking/ hiking route (with tunnel) west of St. Regis.

The Gold Rush - Numerous boomtowns sprung up in Mineral County in the late 1860s, when gold was discovered on Cedar Creek, just south of Superior. Just as quickly, most of those towns died when the ore began to pan out. The Locomotion - The nation's first transcontinental railroad, the Northern Pacific, entered Mineral County in the 1890s. The first partially electrified railway, the Milwaukee, Pacific & St. Paul arrived in 1907. Both railways opened the area to growth and economic opportunity that continues today.

The Lumberjack - Mineral County's first large lumber mill was built on a river peninsula north of St. Regis in 1897, beginning the lumberjack era. Timber remains an important part of the culture and the economy.

The Disasters - During its history, Mineral County has experienced its share of natural disasters. Some 10,000 years ago, the nearby Missoula Valley was part of a vast lake (Glacial Lake Missoula), which was formed by an ice dam in Idaho. That dam broke multiple times, sending flood waters nearly to the Pacific Ocean. Although part of Missoula County at the time, this area also experienced the Great Fires of 1910. St. Regis, DeBorgia and Haughan, as well as the County's historic Savenac Tree Nursery, were caught in the flames and embers, but all rose again.

The Builders - Around the time of the St. Regis Flood of 1933, the County was home to a large contingent of Civilian Conservation Corps workers. The largest gathering of workers was at Camp Taft, located across from the Savenac Tree Nursery. Part of a Depression- era work strategy, the "CCCs" did much to improve flood plains and roads in the area, providing protection from high water and better access to the forests. The Corps of Engineers later improved on this work, making the County the safer, tamer, place that we all know today.

The Storykeepers - Mineral County is rich in stories and our local museums are the perfect place to learn. So plan a visit to the Mineral County Museum in Superior and the Railroad Museum in Alberton. You can also find a number of our local sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the school houses in Alberton, Superior and DeBorgia.