Beaverhead County, in the Southwestern corner of the state, was organized as one of the original territorial counties on February 2, 1865. It was named for the rock which Sacajawea pointed out to Lewis and Clark explaining that her people had called it that

 because it resembled a beaver's head [see photo above]. It was one of the smallest of the original counties, but is now one of

the largest. Beaverhead County is shown as Beaver Head County in early records and newspapers.  It has maintained its original area until 1911 when 938 square miles of Madison Co were added.  Beaverhead County contains 5,657 square miles or 3,620,480 acres.


Originally populated by Indians, the gold rush started here in 1862 when gold was discovered on Grasshopper Creek.  News spread like wildfire and miners rushed in. 


They set up humble abodes and created a town called Bannack (named for the Bannock Indians who were in the area) which sprung up overnight. 


Originally called Bannack City, it was first capital of Montana.  Montana's first Governor lived in Bannack and his residence was shown below.   The first post office in Montana was set up there in November 1863.


The capital was moved to Virginia City in 1865 in Madison County, eventually moving to Helena

Bannack is now known as a ghost town.

As the miners came in, the "Road Agents" arrived.  Please read more about the communities answer to that crime, Vigilantes.

At Bannack City and that vicinity in the winter of 1862-3: John Ault, Harry Arnett and brother, James M Arnoux, William Babbett, Ephraim Bostwick (killed by Crows on Bighorn River in 1863), George S Bachelder, William H Bell (died at Bannack, Nov 12, 1862, the first death at that camp), Henry A Bell, Samuel W Bachelder, Joseph Bender, David A Bentley, William Buchanan, Stewart Buchanan, William Beeken, Charles Benson, John Bertwhistle, R M Biggs, Patrick Bray, Con Bray, George Brown, Joseph A Browne, John Bothwell, John Burnett (killed by Indians on Salmon River March 1863), George Beatty, Mr Buttica, Henry B Bryan, Felix Burton, Richard Tinker Brown, Joseph Brown (killed by Indians on Salmon River, March 1863), Ed Brown, William Buffington, N W Burris (killed by Indians at the mouth of Maria River 1865), William Butz, Henry R Brooks, Peter Butler, Mr Boyd, William Cook, John Campbell, John Carrico, Joseph Carrigan (killed by Indians on the Salmon River 1863), J M Castner, Albert G Clarke, Herman Clarke, George Colburn, Mr Cole, the two doctors Cox, Henry Crawford, Robert Homer Crawford, George M Carhart (killed by road agents in 1863), William Carr, Peter Cardwell, Josiah Chandler, Jesse Crooks, Thomas H Clark, William Cole, George Copley (killed in attempting to arrest a road-agent 1864), H Conover, Thomas W Cover, E Crawford, J W Crow, F E Curtis, Louis Cossette (killed by road-agent Reeves and others in 1863), William Clancy, George Cobb, George Cobb Jr, Jac Cleveland (killed by road-agent Plummer Dec 1862), Alexander Carter, Theodore Carrick, Clemens, Cooper, Nathaniel J Davis, William H Deriar, J Donnely, Elijah M Dunphy, Gilbert Durant, Tom Duffey, Dobbins, John Durgan, L W Davenport, Charles M Davis, George Dewees, Edwin D Dukes, Frank Dunbar, James Dyke, Richard Duryea, Baptiste Dorrica, George Edwards (murdered by road-agents Jan 1863), Jason E Eddings, J F Emory, Robert Ells, John Ellis, William H Emerick, Charles Entwhistle, John Falls, James Fergus, James S Ferster, Thomas Foster, David E Folsom, Charles Falen, William Faulds, Watson Forst, Thomas Fallon (killed by Indians on Salmon River Mar 1863), Fox (who shot Arnett in arresting him in July 1862 at Gold Creek), W L Farlin, O D Farlin, William Fenton, Dr Fossett, Patrick Florida, J M Galloway, H R Geey (killed by Crows on Bighorn River May 1863), John G Gill, William Goodrich, Jack Funn, James Gourley, Ard Godfrey, Philip Gardner (call the man eater), James Gennell, Barney GIlson, W C Gillett, J S Glick, William Graves (hanged by Vigilants at Ft Owen 1864), Daniel Gould, Charles Guy (murdered on Rock Creek by persons unknown), Lon Gillem, Gwin (killed by Sioux while descending the Missouri in 1863), James Harby, Amos W Hall, Ed Hibbard, Holman, William T Hamilton (known as Wild Cat Bill_, John J Hall, S T Hauser, Harry Heusted, George Hillerman (nicknamed the Great American Piebiter), Peter Horan, Hector Horton, Frank and Dr Hoyt, Barney Hughes, Edward House, Freeman House, George Hurd, Rolla Hurd, George Hacker, Heister, Richard m Harris, Robert Holladay, Daniel H Hunkins, William Hunter (hanged by vigilants near Gallatin City Feb 1864), Hawley, Henry C Harrison, James Hauxhurst, John Higgins, Charles Hammond, David A Hopkins, John Innes, J F Irwin, George Ives (hanged by vigilants near Nevada City Dec 1863), John M Jacobs, David Jones, Leander Johnson, Augustus Jordan , William Kiplinger, Conrad Kohrs, John Knowles, James King, William Kinney, John Kane, Dr A Ketchum, Lawrence Keeley (murdered by Peter Horan in 1863), R C Knox, E R King, Thomas Kirkpatrick, John Kirtz (killed by a cave-in of earth in Alder Gulch in 1864), F Kuster, Joshua Laffin, Henry Lansing, Lear, E P Lewis, E D Leavitt, Philip Lovell, B Franklin Lowe, Jason Luce (shot in Salt Lake for the murder of Bill Button in 1863), Hays Lyon (hanged at Virginia City by vigilants Jan 1864), Samuel Livingston, M H Lott, Wilford Luce, Andrew Luzi, Henry Lynch, Frank M Madison, H M Mandeville, Capt O H Maxwell, Daniel McFadden, John S Mendenhall, Saml Mendenhall, L C Miller, H H Mood, Moore, William Moore, h F Morrrell, Gabriel Morris, John Murphy, Elijah Markham, Perry McAdow, John Mannheim, Charles Murphy, George manning, Richard mcCafferty, George McIntyre, Robt Menefee, John Merry, William Mitchell (killed by Indians on Salmon River Mar 1863), David Morgan, Harry Moore, James H Morely, Julius Morley, Thomas Metcalf, Thomas McNamaara, Mackey, James Marsden, Andrew Murray, Alfred L Nichols, Lemuel Nuckolls, A J Oliver, W H Orcutt, Thomas O'Connor, Frank Parish (hanged by vigilants in Virginia City Jan 1864), A Prarie, Thomas D Pitt, C W Place, Putnam, E Porter, George Pratt, Edwin R Purple, Frederick Peck, Alonzo Pease, George Perkins, Thomas Pitcher, David Phillips (murdered with Lloyd Magruder's party in the winter of 1863-4, H Porter, Henry Plummer (chief of the band of road-agents) S Jeff Purkins, Harry Phleger, Mark Post, William Parks, Charles Reeme, Charles Revil, Charles Rumley, W C Rheem, Thomas Riley, Frederick W Root, John W Russell, L F Richie (died from an accidental gunshot wound in 1863), Raymond, Charles Reeves (road agent), William Rouch, Harry Rickards, John Rhinehart, Orson J Rockwell, Henry Rodgers, James Roup, Rowley, Patrick Skye, Shaw, William Stamps, M V Sewell, George Shears (hanged at Hellgate by Vigilants in 1864), J H Shepherd, Joseph Stark, John Scudder, Asa Stanley and brother, Cyrus Skinner (hanged by vigilants at Hellgate in 1864), O J Sharp, William Spencer, John A Smith, H P A Smith, Smith (killed by Indians on Salmon River in Mar 1863), John B Spencer, Sweeney, J V Suprenant, William Still, G and Jas Stuart, Jerry T Sullivan, R M Spencer, William Simpson, A J Smith, Enoch Smith, Lew P Smith, James Spence, George H Smith, A K Stanton, G W Stapleton, E C Stickney, William Sturgis, Christopher Stoker, Joseph Swift Jr, F M Thompson, C L Tisdale, H R Tyler, William Terwilliger, William Townley, Benjamin Townley, C O Trask, Trainer, Thibodeaux, John C Terrill, Robert Tingley and 2 sons, one named Robert, Drewyer Underwood, John Vedder, Vancourt, John Venderbilt, Woodworth, J H Wildman, S Walton, N Wall, E P Waters, William Wallace, Cyrus D Watkins, Frank Watkins, Ned Williamson, George Wing, P C Woods, William Wright, Wilds, James Wiggington, Wendell, Horace Wheat, George Wickham, J R Wilson, Warren Whitcher, Frank H Woody, J S Willard, James N York, Charles L Young.  John A Smith (one of the founders of Bannack died 19 Apr 1872)

The farmers and ranchers followed the miners. They were primarily cattle and sheep ranches.  John F Bishop brought in the

first band of sheep overland into Montana.  At one time Beaverhead County was the largest exporter of sheep wool in Montana. 

The 1870 census shows a total of 185 dwellings, 293 families and 593 white males.  No doubt

some were missed by the census taker, but you can see the area was still sparsely populated.


1877 brought the Battle of Big Hole with the Nez Perce.  The Nez Perce were attempting to go into Canada to escape the

Cavalry.  The Big Hole Battlefield is a National Battlefield Park now.


Next came the railroad in 1879 from the southern end of the county.  As the railroad was built, tent cities were established every fifty miles.

 Dillon started  in one of those tent cities in 1880, and was named for the Union Pacific Railroad President Sidney Dillon. Dillon became the county seat (taking away from Bannack) in 1881.  The first brick building was built there in 1881.


Some historic information is on our towns and communities page.


For information about the Vigilante time see that page on this website.


You can read an excerpt from "Bannack, Cradle of Montana" By F. Lee Graves about Henry Plummer, one of Bannack's

most colorful characters. Mr. F. Lee Graves has very generously allowed us to transcribe and place information from his

book that pertains to Henry Plummer on this website. We would like to thank Mr. Graves for this wonderful book about

 Bannack and for granting us permission to use parts of his book for all to read. Enjoy!


Sources: From Names on the Faces of Montana (by Roberta Carkeek Cheney, Copyright 1983 Revised 1984, 6th printing, January 1996); The Church

on the Changing Frontier by Helen O Belknap, 1922; History of Washington, Idaho and Montana 1845-1889, page 622-623


©  2016 to present,  Beaverhead County MTGenWeb Project. All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on -08/10/2019


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