The town of Virginia City, Montana, was a major center of gold mining during the late 19th century. At its peak in the 1870s, the town had a population of over 10,000 and was the territorial capital of Montana. Today, Virginia City is a popular tourist destination and has been preserved as a living ghost town.
Ravalli County, Montana, has a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Bitterroot Salish. These tribes were highly skilled hunters, gatherers, and traders, utilizing the abundant natural resources of the Bitterroot Valley.

In the early 1800s, European explorers and fur trappers began to venture into the region. One of the most notable figures in the history of Ravalli County is Jesuit priest Pierre-Jean De Smet, who arrived in the Bitterroot Valley in 1841. De Smet played a significant role in establishing missions and building relationships with the Native American tribes.

The 1860s marked a period of rapid growth and development for the county. Gold was discovered in the region, attracting a wave of prospectors and settlers. Towns such as Stevensville and Hamilton were founded during this time, becoming important hubs for trade and agriculture. Ranching also emerged as a dominant industry in Ravalli County, making full use of the fertile land and favorable climate.

Throughout the 20th century, Ravalli County underwent various transformations. The timber industry became a major economic force, supporting the growth of towns like Darby. The county also experienced advancements in transportation, with the construction of highways and the introduction of the railroad. Today, Ravalli County remains a scenic and vibrant community, known for its stunning landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and rich heritage.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Ravalli County, Montana.

  • 1805: The Lewis and Clark expedition passes through what is now Ravalli County.
  • 1841: The first known white settlement is established by missionaries in the Bitterroot Valley.
  • 1855: The Hellgate Treaty is signed between the United States and the Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai tribes, ceding their land to the US government, including the lands that would become Ravalli County.
  • 1864: The Bitterroot Valley is officially designated as Missoula County by the Montana Territorial Legislature.
  • 1893: Ravalli County is established as a separate county from Missoula County.
  • 1895: Hamilton becomes the county seat of Ravalli County.
  • 1900s: Agriculture, logging, and mining industries thrive in Ravalli County.
  • 1950s: Tourism starts to become a significant industry in the region.
  • 1990s: Ravalli County experiences population growth as people are attracted to the area's natural beauty and quality of life.
  • Today: Ravalli County is known for its outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, hunting, and skiing.