Area History

The Bitterroot Valley was a travel route for several Indian tribes that passed through on their way to the eastern plains to hunt bison. Only the Salish-speaking people considered the Valley their home. They were hunters and gatherers who lived off the area's abundant native animals and plants, such as the starchy root of the succulent Bitterroot plant. The small pink blooms of this plant prompted the naming of the Bitterroot River and Mountains and became the Montana State Flower.

In 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition entered what is now the Bitterroot National Forest, taking a very difficult route to the west. Camping near Hamilton, Montana, significant planning was made for their trek to the Pacific. One expert calls the route, "The single most obscure and enigmatic of the entire Lewis and Clark expedition." It is this spirit of heartiness and history that one can see and hear in the shadows of the mountains and rustling of the trees from each of the forty-one ranch, estate sites.

 

Historically, Hamilton was not a pioneer village in the days that it was founded. Instead, it was a planned town of wide streets and avenues, with a complete economic center for an area of farms and stock ranches.

The history of Hamilton began when Marcus Daly, a great finance figure of the 1880 era from the Butte and Anaconda mining    development, made his way into the Bitterroot Valley seeking interests other than mining. Daly bought up small sawmills west of the present site of Hamilton and, almost overnight, established a lumber-making industry on the bank of the Bitterroot River.

Marcus Daly's next move was to bring two men from another state, James Hamilton and Robert O'Hara, to plan and develop his dream town. Daly named the town of Hamilton after James Hamilton. Incorporated about 1894, O'Hara was named the city's first mayor.

 

  • State Flower of Montana - Bitterroot

  • State Bird of Montana - Western meadowlark

A Few Historic Attractions in the Bitterroot Valley

  • Fort Owen – Established in the mid 1800s

  • St. Mary's Mission – The first white settlement in Montana

  • Marcus Daly Mansion – The summer mansion of Marcus Daly

  • Tammany Castle – An elaborate horse stable built and named for Marcus Daly's horse, Tammany

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