Montana Settlers and Early Businesses

Haying field

Archives and Special Collections (ASC) holds a number of manuscript collections containing diaries, letters and photographs documenting the experience of Montana’s homesteaders and early settlers. Collections range in size from a single diary written by an unidentified miner to the extensive collections of the James Fergus family and the Sherburne family. Business records providing insight into western Montana in the late 18th and early 19th centuries include the records of the Missoula Mercantile (within the papers of C. H. McLeod and Walter McLeod), the Northern Pacific Railway, the Collins Land Company, and the Marcus Daly family.

In addition to unpublished materials, ASC holds numerous pamphlets and books (both primary and secondary sources) documenting the experiences of early settlers – and the marketing and boosterism used to draw them West. All books and most pamphlets in our collection have been cataloged; records can be found using the Mansfield Library's OneSearch. Particularly noteworthy is the serial Western Homeseeker: An Opportunity in the West Magazine. Regional and Historic Maps in Archives and Special Collections help document the impact of the railroads and the growth of communities. Additional information about relevant resources from ASC documenting early businesses and settlement can be found by keyword searching or browsing the Archives West database.