A Brief County History


MEAGHER COUNTY is located a little southwest of the center of Montana. It was created in 1867 from parts of Chouteau and Gallatin counties; a part of Meagher County was taken to form Fergus County in 1885, and a part to form Broadwater in 1897; parts were annexed to Cascade and Lewis and Clark 1890-1900, a part of Fergus was annexed to Meagher in 1911, and parts of Meagher were taken to form parts of Sweet Grass in 1885. White Sulphur Springs is the county seat.

MEAGHER COUNTY was named for Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish patriot and Civil War "hero" who was a federal official when he arrived in Montana. Kenneth Richard Meagher of Antelope High School, a descendant drawing on family records, says, "Before coming to the United States, Meagher joined a band of men in Ireland who were trying to separate Ireland from England by violent means. When put to trial he was sentenced to death for treason, but the sentence was changed to life imprisonment in Van Diemen's Land, now called Tasmania. On his way to Van Diemen's Land he managed to escape and come to the United States, where he became a general leading a Union band called the Irish Brigade. After the Civil War and his release from the Army, he became a writer and lecturer. Failing at this, he took his chances and came to Montana and was acting governor of the territory during the Blackfeet trouble. He became known as 'Meagher of the Sword' because he once stated in a speech that the only way to freedom was by bloodshed. Meagher disappeared from a riverboat on the Missouri at Fort Benton." What happened to Thomas Francis Meagher remains one of the mysteries of pioneer Montana. Some of his staunch supporters declared him a martyr to the Irish cause and erected a statue of him on the capitol grounds in Helena. Elizabeth Lake and Elizabeth Falls in old Missoula County were named for his wife.

Source: "NAMES ON THE FACE OF MONTANA - The Story of Montana's Place Names" by Roberta Carkeek Cheney. Published by Mountain Press Publishing Company submitted by Megan Perales and Bonnie Palmer

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