The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through Montana in 1805-1806, on their journey to explore the western portion of the United States. They traveled up the Missouri River and crossed the Rocky Mountains, encountering many Native American tribes and documenting the flora and fauna of the region.
Toole County, Montana, located in the north-central part of the state, has a rich and diverse history. The area was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Blackfeet and Assiniboine people, who relied on the lands for hunting and gathering. European settlers began to arrive in the late 1800s, with the establishment of the Great Northern Railway leading to increased development and population growth.

In 1909, Toole County was officially established, named after Joseph Toole, Montana's first state governor. The county's economy initially relied on agriculture, with farming and ranching becoming prevalent in the area. Irrigation projects were implemented to utilize the waters of the Milk River, boosting agricultural output and attracting more settlers to the region.

During the early 20th century, Toole County experienced rapid growth and prosperity. Towns like Shelby, the county seat, became hubs for agriculture, commerce, and transportation. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the creation of the Inland Empire Highway (now U.S. Route 2) further enhanced the county's connectivity and facilitated trade and travel.

The history of Toole County also includes significant military contributions. During World War II, the county was home to Shelby Air Force Base, which served as a strategic training facility for bomber pilots. The base played an essential role in training thousands of airmen and contributed to the war effort. However, the base closed in 1945 after the end of the war, causing a decline in the local economy.

Today, Toole County remains a primarily agricultural region, with farming, ranching, and energy industries contributing to its economy. The county also embraces its historical significance, with heritage sites, museums, and festivals celebrating its cultural and military past.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Toole County, Montana.

  • 1883: Toole County established as a county in the state of Montana.
  • 1885: The town of Shelby was incorporated, becoming the county seat.
  • 1893: The Great Northern Railway arrived in Shelby, bringing increased economic opportunities.
  • 1909: Oil was discovered in the Kevin-Sunburst Field, leading to a boom in the local economy.
  • 1914: The town of Sunburst was established as a result of the oil boom.
  • 1920s: Agriculture became a prominent industry in Toole County, with the cultivation of wheat, barley, and cattle ranching.
  • 1930s: The Great Depression had a significant impact on the local economy, but several New Deal programs helped alleviate some of the hardships.
  • 1940s: Toole County experienced growth during World War II due to the construction of the Cut Bank Army Airfield and the establishment of the Galata Air Force Station.
  • 1950s: Interstate 15 was constructed, connecting Toole County to the rest of Montana and facilitating transportation.
  • 1960s: The oil industry experienced a decline, leading to economic challenges in the region.
  • 1989: The town of Kevin was disincorporated due to declining population.
  • 2010s: Toole County continued to rely on agriculture, oil production, and tourism as key economic drivers.