In Valley County, Montana, a person is still able to find the fossilized remains of prehistoric creatures, tipi rings, buffalo jumps and artifacts of past Indian cultures in the hills and prairie lands where only a century ago huge buffalo herds roamed. Cattle, sheep and homestead shacks can still be seen.
Steamboats and forts once graced the banks of the Missouri River. Fur traders, buffalo hunters, woodhawks, and Indian agents have called this “home.” Sheepherders and cowboys still ply their trades today. Golden fields of grain and vast stretches of grazing land inhabit the hills, prairie lands, and river bottoms.
Small rural towns conveniently situated to accommodate their benefactors-the farmers and ranchers-have prospered to the present.
You can see evidence of the past and present at the Valley County Pioneer Museum.
Specimens of Fossils. Many fossils of the numerous species of prehistoric animals that roamed present Valley County 100 million years ago are found every year. A 30-foot vertebra of the Plesiosaur is on display.
Naming Milk River. Lewis and Clark, the first white men in present Valley County, named the largest northern tributary of the Missouri “Milk River,” noting that its water had “the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoonful of milk.” A diorama of this event is displayed here.
Indian Artifacts. When the first white men arrived in present Valley County, the land was the hunting grounds of the nomadic Assiniboine Indians. The Wetsit Collection includes fabulous Indian artifacts and the Wetsit tipi made from 23 elk hides.
The Last Hunt. Shortly after white man’s horse was introduced to the plains Indians, the men of the hunting tribes became skilled horsemen as depicted in Georgia Montfort’s action-packed “Last Hunt” diorama.
Old Fort Peck. A number of “forts” were erected along the southern border of Valley County during the fur trade days. Old Fort Peck was established in the mid-1860s and served as a trading post and Indian agency until 1877. A diorama of Old Fort Peck is featured here.
The Buffalo Bone Trade. Present Valley County abounded in buffalo before the final slaughter in the 1880s. The abandoned carcasses left on the prairies to rot produced thousands of tons of bones that were later gathered for commercial use.
The Cattlemen. Thousands of cattle were trailed into present Valley County in the 1880s to graze on the rich grasses of the late buffalo herds. The chuck wagon and stone cart on exhibit made the trip up the Texas Trail.
The Sheepmen. Close on the heels of the cattlemen came the sheep ranchers. In the spring of 1906, there were more than 250,000 sheep sheared in the Valley County area. The sheep wagon displayed in the museum served its purpose for 70 years on the prairies.
Early Day Businesses. At first, Glasgow was no more than clusters of tents along the railroad track which began to grow into the present day town. Businesses and professions developed. Opheim General Store, Hinsdale Doctor’s Office, Lustre Post Office, and the Frazer Barber Shop are displayed.
The Homesteaders. Squatters came into the area immediately following the arrival of the railroad. Homestead acts were approved, and between 1900 and 1917, 80,000 persons came into eastern Montana to file homestead claims. A diorama by Georgia Montfort depicts the Homesteaders way of life.
Jim Hill’s Railroad. In the 1850s, a survey was made to determine a practicable rail route from St. Paul to Puget Sound. The approved route cut across present Valley County. It was not until the 1880s that the railroad was finally laid. Exhibits depict this era.
The Unprecedented Fort Peck Dam. During the Depression of the 1930s, the Public Works Administration approved an unprecedented engineering project which provided employment for an estimated 50,000 workers and created the world’s largest earth filled dam. The entire Fort Peck Dam Project is featured in miniature form.
The History of Local Aviation. Valley County’s history of aviation began with “barnstorming” in 1913. With the advent of war and the need for military operations came the construction of the World War II bomber base, the Opheim Radar Base and the Glasgow Air Force Base. Valley County’s T.G. Kirkland hurled Valley County and the rest of the world into the space age with his design of the fuel cell for the Gemini V Space Craft.
Nationally Recognized Sculptor. Some years ago “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” column featured the world’s tiniest workable violin. The violin, created by the late Frank Lafournaise, as well as his tools and other samples of his masterful woodcarvings are on display.
In addition to all of this, you’ll see the fantastic exhibit of wildlife mountings, artifacts, saddles, horns, antlers and furs from the Stan Kalinski Collection. The collection is handsomely displayed in a specially designed 30 x 70-foot room for maximum viewing.
You’ll see the beautifully ornate and historical Buffalo Bill Cody bar which still sports a bullet hole and lead slug reminiscent of the wild west; the mounted head of the buffalo butchered for a celebration honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his visit here in the 1930s; the albino mule deer, the white fox, the extinct Audubon sheep, 20-foot snake skins, record size elk, and many more varieties of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
The museum is located on Hwy.. 2 in Glasgow and is open from Memorial Day to Labor. Admission is free. Reprinted from museum brochure.