Old Missoula

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Sec A Page 1 B Centennial Edition Page 1 Intro. by editor E. J. Erlandson

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1860 to 1880

By E. J. Erlandson

Centennial Editor

In the 20 years from 1860 to 1880 Hell Gate and resulting Missoula grew from a store and a couple of mills into a bustling western town. The original townsite was established about four miles west of here 100 years ago when two pioneers, Frank L. Worden and Christopher P. Higgins, saw in this broad valley an excellent site for a trading center. They constructed a store at what was called Hell Gate, and this small start grew into what is Missoula of today.

About five years later they began moving their operations east along the banks of the Clark Fork River to the present site of Missoula and the population of Hell Gate followed to give the Garden City its start.

A sawmill and a gristmill were constructed where now stand the Wilma Theater and the Montana Power Co. substation. These two mills, and the store constituted Missoula or Missoula Mills as it was sometimes called in the early days.

The next years of this formative era saw the founding of Missoula County, election of its first officers, establishment of its first newspaper, church, water supply plant, bank, blacksmith shop and Ft. Missoula.

Probably through the labors of the Rev. Pete John DeSmet, S.J., and his associates through this area in the two decades preceding 1860, the Indians helped rather than hindered the white man in his struggle to make Missoula a good place to live.

The Missoulian came into the picture midway through this colorful 20-year period, moving to the Garden City from Cedar Creek and starting its publication in 1873 in a small building on West Main street. Its predecessor got its start three years earlier as the Missoula and Cedar Creek Pioneer at a mining camp near what is now Superior.

Through stories and pictures obtained from our files and from many residents of western Montana this section is dedicated to tell how our Garden City got its start.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 March 2016 00:29