Early Gallatin County Towns

Early Gallatin County Towns

Gallatin City

Gallatin City, sometimes called East Gallatin, was the first town located in Gallatin County, through the efforts of pioneers organizing in the winter of 1862 and 1863, and a charter was granted for the city by the first legislature in February 1865, and this was the first county seat. A lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars was organized there in 1871, and Keystone Grange was organized in 1874, granges at Farmington and Elk Grove being organized about the same time. This town ceased to exist many years ago.

Hamilton started in 1865 and 1866, about 18 miles west of Bozeman, also had a Good Templars’ lodge, and at this town, Miss Gertrude Crittenden had a seminary for girls for a few years. John Potter opened a general store there in 1872, with a large hall on the second floor that was a popular place for dances, lodge and other meetings. When the town was abandoned, the Potter store and some other buildings were moved to what later became the town of Manhattan.


Bozeman is the oldest city in the county having continued existence, being formally named August 9, 1864, and being the county seat of Gallatin County nearly ever since the creation of the county by the territorial legislature. On February 13, 1874, the legislature approved an act authorizing the inhabitants of Bozeman to organize as a corporate body, and defined boundaries as laid down on the original plan.

Under a charter granted by the legislature in 1883, Bozeman was organized as a city, and on April 9 of the same year, the city council was organized: with

J. V. Bogert, Mayor;
J. J. Davis, Clerk and City Attorney
Jacob Oakwood, City Marshal
T. I. Dawes, Police Magistrate
John B. Davidson, Assessor
W. B. McAdow, Will F. Davis, William H. Tracy, Walter Cooper, Nelson Story, W. W. Alderson, Peter Koch and D. E. Rouse being the First Aldermen

The city is now under the commission-manager form of government. It has a wonderful water system municipally owned, with pure mountain water. Bozeman is the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park from the Northern Pacific Railroad through Gallatin Canyon and the West Yellowstone entrance.

Three Forks

The original town of Three Forks, established not far from the headwaters of the Missouri River, has only a few buildings now to mark the early settlements, the new town of Three Forks, about a mile southwest of the old town, being established about 20 years ago by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad. It is a prosperous little city with many lines of business, two weekly newspapers, a fine school building, churches and hotels.

Willow Creek

There were many pioneer farmers around what is now the town of Willow Creek in 1864, and while there seems to be no official record of the time the town was started, the first post office was established at Willow Creek January 1, 1872, and has continued ever since. The town has a fine school building, a substantial church and general merchandise stores. It depends upon the farming and poultry raising industries largely for support.


Salesville was one of the pioneer towns, named for Z. Sales, who secured a sawmill started by J. J. Tomlinson, continuing the business on the West Gallatin River several years. With his family, he established the town on his property, the name of the town being changed in 1927 to Gallatin Gateway, by the Milwaukee Road, when this town became the terminus of the branch line from Three Forks, carrying passengers for the trip through Yellowstone Park by way of Gallatin Canyon. The passenger depot was established in the commodious Gallatin Gateway Inn built by the railroad. A good brick schoolhouse, some substantial business blocks and comfort-able homes are found there.

Springhill District

It was in the Springhill District that the second flourmill was built in Gallatin Valley, and through a false report of the discovery of gold in the district, a town was established there in 1871. A post office was continued at Springhill several years, but the people of the district, which still retains the name, now receive their mail through rural delivery from Belgrade.


The town of Chesnut, named for Colonel Chesnut, a discoverer of coalmines in Rocky Canyon, was in its prime in the eighties, when the mines were developed extensively. Few people reside there now, getting out some coal, but the railroad station still functions, and the school house in still in use.


Belgrade was established in 1883, the year the Northern Pacific Railroad passed through the valley. Thomas B. Quaw with his family started the town in the heart of an important grain raising section of the valley, having a warehouse and facilities for shipping grain over the railroad before a station was built. The town has had a steady growth, a flour mill, elevators, a bank, several business houses, a weekly newspaper marking the progress of the community. There is a fine large school building, with churches and substantial residences in the city. The city owns the water works system.


Manhattan, one of the progressive cities of Gallatin County, was established in 1884, on the line of the Northern Pacific, about 20 miles northwest of Bozeman, practically supplanting the old town of Hamilton. Some of the best buildings were moved from Hamilton to Manhattan. A large malting plant was the most important industry for several years, but this was abandoned and a few years ago the building was torn down. Agriculture and stock raising for shipment are important industries, a branch line of the Northern Pacific to the Anceney Station 20 miles south, bringing large stock shipments for eastern and western markets. Sugar beets raised by some of the farmers are shipped to the Missoula Sugar Factory. The people are especially proud of their large community high school and the grade school. There are also churches and important business blocks. A weekly newspaper is published.


Trident is the home of the large plant of the Three Forks Portland Cement Company that manufactures large quantities of cement from material found in the stone bluffs or mountains in that vicinity, about a mile east of the headwaters of the Missouri. This cement is shipped to all parts of Montana and to other states for road building and for business blocks. The Montana Power Company furnishes electric power for the machinery and for lighting and cooking purposes. The residences and schoolhouse, as well as business houses are of cement.

Central Park

Central Park is a small town on the Gallatin River about 15 miles northwest of Bozeman, where a cheese factory is the chief industry. Cream is shipped by the farmers of the district from the railroad station, and some other farm products are also shipped. A schoolhouse is used by two teachers during the school year, and a church, used at one time for regular service, is used occasionally.


Logan, five miles west of Manhattan, is the junction for the Northern Pacific Railroad, stubs from regular through trains making connections with Helena and Butte and intermediate points. With a round house there, several employees of the road with their families reside there, and with families living near needing school advantages for their children, a substantial brick school house has been built, and two churches.

Grayling post office and residence of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Kerzenmacher.

While there is no town at Grayling, a few miles northwest of the regular Gallatin Canyon Road on the way to the Madison, Peter Kerzenmacher has been engaged in farming in that district for 42 years, and has had the post office at his home since it was established in December 1899. For many years this has also been a voting precinct.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone was first settled in 1907 and 1908 by S. P. Eagle, Alex Stuart, L. A. Murray, Charles Bowers, Joe Clause, Steve Kramer, and C. A. Arnett. The post office was established in 1908, with Charles A. Arnett postmaster. He was succeeded in 1910 by S. P. Eagle, who is still serving in 1932, and with his family conducts a general store, the family now moving to Bozeman for the school year. West Yellowstone was made an official entrance to Yellowstone Park in 1907, the year the railroad reached there from Idaho, though there had been an entrance at what was known as West End for several years.

The first school was established at West Yellowstone in 1914 with Miss Clara Stephens, a graduate of Gallatin County High School, who had attended the State Normal College, as the first teacher. The picture of the log schoolhouse with the children shows that in the winter months the teacher and children went to school on skis. They now have a model schoolhouse with two teachers and better traveling facilities.

Additional Gallatin Resources

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