Historical Notes


The following are spotlights of the major historical events that have had a lasting effect on the Missoula area.

September 4, 1805
The valley's first residents, the Salish Indians had their first encounter with the Caucasian race when a party of 400 met up with the Lewis and Clark Expedition just south of what is now Darby, Montana. The Salish people treated them well and showed great kindness, not only to Lewis and Clark, but to settlers who would follow.
July 4, 1806During the expedition's return trip, Meriwether Lewis and his party passed through what is now Missoula, stopping to camp along the Blackfoot River, approximately eight miles east of Missoula.
1860The Washington Territorial Legislature created Missoula County, with the county seat "temporarily located at or near Worden & Co. Trading Post in Hell Gate Ronde." Hellgate was the site of the first settlement in the Missoula Valley, located approximately four miles west of the current downtown. It was an ideal location as it was the crossroads for north-south and east-west travel.
1864Worden & Co. erected a saw mill and grist mill on the river four miles east of Hellgate. In 1865, they moved their store to the new location called Missoula Mills (now the north end of the Higgins Avenue bridge). The construction of the mill marked the beginning of Missoula as we now know it.
1869Emma Stack (Dickinson) was hired as Missoula's first teacher.
1870Missoula first newspaper, "The Missoula and Cedar Creek Pioneer", went to press.
1873The first Higgins Avenue bridge was constructed. St. Patrick Hospital was opened.
1877Fort Missoula was established. The first Fire Department was organized
1878A Library Association was formed.
1879The first telephones were installed.
1883A charter for the Town of Missoula was approved by voters and formed as an aldermanic form of government. Frank Woody was elected as the first mayor. The Northern Pacific railroad arrived.
1884The first telephone exchange was opened.
1887First City Hall was constructed at the corner of W. Main and what is now Ryman St.
1889Montana became a state. Electricity arrived to Missoula. Electors voted in favor of re-incorporating Missoula as a city.
1890First horse drawn street cars went into service.
1894The Missoula Public Library was opened.
1895The University of Montana opened with 50 students enrolling on the first day.
1908The U.S. Forest Service Office was established. Missoula experienced its worst natural disaster - the flood that washed away the Higgins Avenue bridge.
1910First electric street cars went into service.
1911The second City Hall was opened at 230 Woody Street The City adopted a commission-council form of government. Eugene Ely took off in his Curtiss Biplane on June 25, 1911, from the ballpark at Fort Missoula, the City's first aviation event.
1913The first plane flew into Missoula (from Milltown).
1917Missoula's Jeanette Rankin was sworn in as the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.
1920The City opened its first public swimming pool.
1947Community Hospital was opened. Juliet Gregory was elected the first and only woman mayor.
1948Parking meters were placed into use.
1954President Eisenhower dedicated the Aerial Fire Depot. The City Fire Department relocated from the old City Hall to its new headquarters at the corner of W. Pine St. and Ryman St. The City's form of government changed to commission-manager.
1959The City returned to an aldermanic form of government.
1961Missoula voters approved a $2,657,000 bond issued to build Missoula's sewage treatment plant. The plant was operational by 1964.
1969The current City Hall at the corner of W. Spruce and Ryman St. was completed.
1970Mayor Shoup resigned as Mayor to begin his successful campaign for the U.S. Congress.
1977Mayoral and Council elections were changed from May to November and increased from two-year to four-year terms.
1979Last passenger train left Missoula.
1995New City Fire Headquarters (Station 1) was opened at 625 E. Pine St.
May 1995After four years of a huge volunteer effort, the Carousel for Missoula opened its doors to the young at heart.
November 1995The City electorate approved a $5 million Open Space Bond for the preservation of open space natural areas in and around the City.
June 1996Charter form of government was approved by the City of Missoula electorate.
January 1, 1997Missoula City Charter went into effect.