Lincoln Created the Montana Territory
May 26, 1864
It was a place rich in grazing land for
cattle and sheep, with long valleys and high mountains,
producing gold and copper. On May 26, 1864, President Lincoln
signed an act making it a territory of the U.S. What is it? It's
the wide-open spaces of the state of Montana, often called "Big
During the dark days of the Civil War,
Lincoln looked away from the fighting momentarily and decided
the area now known as Montana needed governing. But violent
clashes were to occur in the new territory before it became the
41st state in the Union on November 8, 1889.
Native American tribes lived in the vast area of what we now
call Montana: the Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Flathead, and more.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were the first white
explorers to document their journey through the lands of the
Louisiana Purchase, but more settlers followed. Combat between
U.S. military and Native Americans defending their land became
frequent. Perhaps the most famous of these battles occurred in
Montana on June 25, 1876, when the Dakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne
defeated General George Custer's regular army during the Battle
of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.
Despite the violence, Montana settlers kept coming, drawn by
gold, copper, and the chance to claim some of that rich land for
themselves as homesteaders. Native Americans were forced onto
reservations while pioneers poured into the territory in the
1880s. Many of our images of Western cowboys came from these
early ranchers and travelers, like this shepherd in Madison
County, Montana. Have you ever visited the state of Montana?