"Butte became a city when Montana was still a territory—a decade away from statehood in 1889."

Prior to 1881, Butte was part of Deer Lodge County. Deer Lodge was one of the original 9 Montana counties, as constituted with the establishment of Montana Territory in 1864.  The original county included what are now Silver Bow County (separated in 1881), Deer Lodge County, Granite County (separated in 1893) and Powell County (separated in 1901).  For that reason, Butte/Silver Bow County records before that time may be found in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Courthouse.  Also, it may be possible to find some records at Deer Lodge, Powell County. 

Silver Bow County is Montana’s smallest county (Butte is the county seat).

In 1977, the city of Butte and Silver Bow County combined governments to form Butte-Silver Bow. In 1980, under the guidance of the Butte Historical Society, Butte-Silver Bow established the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. All existing records of both bodies have been gathered and are preserved in the Archives. They are now available for research.

The following is from the book
The Story of Montana's Place Names"
by Roberta Carkeek Cheney.
Published by Mountain Press Publishing Company

Butte - the county seat in Silver Bow County, was first called Butte City.  A post office opened in that name in July 1868 in Anson Ford's drug store.  Miners took the name from a nearby sentinel-like peak (now known as Big Butte) which is 6,369 feet above sea level.  The first recorded visit to this hill by white men was in 1856. Judge C. E. Irvine and a party from Walla Walla, Washington visited there on an exploration trip. They found a prospector’s hole that later led to the Original Lode and some elk horns lying about which they figured had been used to dig the hole.

Gold was discovered in Butte in July 1864 by G. O. Humphrey and William Allison.  The name had been changed to Butte around 1875.  Beneath the city was one of the world’s richest mineral deposits.  Copper became Butte’s fortune, and Silver was bringing in riches too. There are some 250 miles of streets on the surface of Butte Hill, and more than two thousand miles of underground corridors and tunnels.

Marcus Daly (1841-1900), an Irish immigrant, learned about ores and mining while in Nevada.  He hurried to Butte when the rich strikes of 1874 were reported. He drilled for silver, but at four hundred feet he found the richest vein of copper known, not the silver he anticipated. The vein was fifty feet wide, and in twenty years Daly became the head of one of the world’s most powerful monopolies, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

A townsite patent was issued for Butte in 1876.  The city was incorporated in 1879.  By 1885 Butte had a population of 14,000 and the copper boom was on. The Montana School of Mines (now known as Montana Tech) was established in 1900.

Open pit mining in recent years has scarred the face of the hill and eliminated hundreds of homes, buildings and even the famous and beloved Columbia Gardens.  

Also see:  Butte History and "Lost Butte"



 Suzanne Andrews
 MTGenWeb County Coordinator
 for Butte-Silver Bow County, MT
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