How Shelby Got It's Name


How Shelby Got its Name

Letter From David Robert McGinnis
Kalispell, Mont. Sept 8, 1931

I have your letter of the 6th of September inquiring about the extent of knowledge I possess in regard to Peter P. Shelby, for whom Shelby was named.

Mr. Shelby and myself were personal friends at the time he was General Superintendent and later General Manager of the Montana lines of the Great Northern Railway Company.  I was at the time the first General Immigration Agent of the same railway and met him frequently in that connection.

Mr. Shelby was originally from Cleveland Ohio, but I do not know from what railway he came to the Great Northern.  He was with that railway in the above mentioned capacities about 1888 to 1890, possibly for several years previous.
At the time the Pacific coast extension was built of the GN constructed from "Black Butte" midway from Fort Assiniboine to where Havre is now situated, westward to Everret and Seattle, the names of the stations upon the
line in Montana were named by Allan Manvel, then of the GN and the narrow gauge railway from Lethbridge to Great Falls after P.P. Shelby as he was then manager of the railway in Montana.

I was personally acquainted with the site of Shelby before it had a single building upon it.  It was a very flat, cheerless location skirted by hills on the south and more remotely upon the northwest. At that time there was an
extensive shallow lake reaching from the site northwestward for a number of miles, but its locations was strategic and it grew from the very first.

Shelby was possessed of a striking personality and was loved by his entourage though he was an energetic disciplinarian.  He was affectionately known all over Montana by his nickname of "Peter Piper" Shelby.  I rode often with Shelby over the lines and he confided many things to me..  During one rather long trip, he confided to me something like this:   "Here I have given every ounce of strength and service on this new difficult road and I do not know at what time Mr. Hill may let me out..." Within one week he was promoted by Mr. Hill to General Manager of the
Montana lines west of Williston...He has now been dead for many years but left a strong impress upon the early fortunes of the GN in Montana and upon the history of the state at that period.   It was about the time that Shelby was promoted to General Manager of the Montana lines that he remarked to me:   "I don't know what Manvel was thinking of when he named that mud-hole God-forsaken place after me.   It will never amount to a damn."

If Shelby could be alive today he would change his opinion. 


Last Update: 24 Feb 2012