Toole History

Toole County was named for Joseph K. Toole, the first governor of the state of Montana. Created on May 7, 1914, Toole County's territory was taken from parts of Teton and Hill Counties.

Situated in northern Montana, with the Canadian line as its northern boundary and the Marias River flowing along a major portion of its southern boundary, Toole County's industries include agriculture and livestock, oil, gas and wind development, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, education, and health and social services.

The homesteading era in Toole County began in 1910.  Many factors led to the rise in homesteaders settling in Toole County, including the Congressional Homestead Acts.  These Acts opened up land to settlers willing to work hard and pay off their land, eventually owning it.  Other factors leading to the homestead boom included increases in agricultural technology, railroad marketing, and weather. Today's farmers in Toole County continue the tradition of hard work, with the average size of a farm in Toole County being 2,686 acres. The average value of agricultural products sold per farm is $84,977.

The first discovery oil well, located north of Kevin, was started in October of 1921 and completed in March of 1922. Generally, the production life for an oilfield is 40 - 50 years; Toole County is still producing both oil and gas after the first discovery 86 years ago. Unlike many oilfields, drilling a well in Toole County is cost efficient; oil, when discovered, is often found in formations only 1,500-1,800 feet under the ground.

In Toole County, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and the accommodation and food services sectors are also large industries, in terms of total number of jobs. The retail trade makes up 14.2 percent of the total county employment. Transportation and warehousing and accommodation and food services sectors provide 12.6 and 11.1 percent of total employment, respectively.

The top private employer in Toole County, employing 160 people, is the Crossroads Correctional Facility, located in Shelby. Crossroads is the first private adult correctional center in the state of Montana and was opened in September, 1999. Crossroads is the only adult institution in the Montana Prison System that has achieved both the ACA (American Correctional Association) and NCCHC (National Commission on Correctional Health Care) accreditation.

The Customs and Border Protection Agency, located on our northern border, employees a large number of Toole County citizens. The Sweet Grass (Montana)/Coutts (Alberta) Port of Entry is the largest of its kind on the northern border and has the highest traffic volume in the state of Montana with over 1.3 million travelers and 450,000 trucks crossing the border each year. The original 1890 border crossing at Sweetgrass/Coutts had one building and a white line drawn in the road between the two countries. The 100,000 square foot shared facility now has the ability to host six lanes of traffic going north into Canada and five lanes returning to the United States. (pictured above)

Toole County boasts a colorful past and a bright future.