Thursday, October 6, 2011

20. Valley County

Created on February sixth, 1893, when the Montana legislature split Dawson County (16) in half, Valley County covered all of eastern Montana north of the Missouri River. It remained intact for twenty years until 1913 when the county was split to form Sheridan County (34) along the North Dakota border. In 1915, Phillips County (11) was created with land taken from western Valley County and eastern Blaine County (24). Valley County was reduced in size again in 1919 with the creation of Roosevelt County (17) and in 1920 when Daniels County (37) was created. Since 1920, Valley County has remained untouched, with a 2010 population of 7,329 and a total area of 5,062 square miles. This makes it just smaller than the state of Connecticut, but much, much larger than Delaware. The 2010 census count is down 4% from the 2000 count, the fifth consecutive population decrease since 1960 when the county's population was at its highest number, 17,080.

Glasgow, named for Scotland's largest city, began as one of James J. Hill's railroad towns in 1887. It's 2011 population was estimated to be 2,965. As the largest community in the area, Glasgow was chosen to be the seat of newly formed Valley County, and it has remained the seat ever since the county's formation.

Valley County Courthouse
The Valley County Courthouse, Glasgow, Montana

Glasgow and Valley County experienced their first growth spurt between 1900 and 1910 when the county's population grew over 300%. By the 1920 census, all the divisions of the county had been completed, and the population reflected a drop of 15%. The population continued to drop until the 1930s during which time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Fort Peck Dam across the Missouri River. Construction of the dam, which took seven years to complete, brought many new residents to the county, and the 1940 census showed a 35% increase. The dam remains the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States, and is one of the largest earth fill dams in the world. The lake formed behind the dam is Montana's largest body of water, with a shoreline of over 1500 miles. Completely within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all persuasions. For those with an interest in historic preservation, eight of Valley County's sites on the National Register of Historic Places are at Fort Peck, including the theatre.

The Theatre at Fort Peck

As a result of U.S. entry into World War II, the country activated the Glasgow Army Airfield on November 10, 1942. It was originally a satellite of the larger airfield in Great Falls, Montana (now Malmstrom Air Force Base). Deactivated at the end of the war, the base came back into prominence during the Vietnam war, and with it Valley County's population surged again, reaching an all-time high in 1960. The subsequent history of the Glasgow Airbase reads like a business soap opera, with exciting high hopes and devastating betrayals. Today, driving along Montana Highway 24 north of Glasgow, you come to a sign for St Marie. To the east you can see what looks to be a rather large city, but should you turn off the highway, you enter a ghost town, albeit a ghost town with 1960s architecture. Today 183 people live in a "city" designed to hold 10,000.

In addition to Glasgow, Fort Peck, and St Marie, other communities in Valley County include Frazer, Hinsdale, Nashua and Opheim.

The Hinsdale United Methodist Church

The early days of Glasgow and Valley County were typical of the Wild West in general, and Montana in particular. The local newspaper had two reports of the death of one resident on July 28, 1894. The two articles follow:

p.3 - Made His Last Fight - Allison Tisdale Killed in a Gun Fight by George Dunnell. Glasgow's wonted quietness was rudely disturbed Tuesday evening at 11 o'clock by five pistol shots fired in rapid succession. The shooting was the result of a quarrel over horses between A.A. Tisdale, alias Al. Allison, and Geo. Dunnell. (Full story).. J. DeRobbins took the gun from his hand, and Dunnell handed his revolver to the under sheriff and surrendered. Tisdale only lived a few seconds after he fell. He never said a word after the shooting commenced. The body was laid out in the office of the Waldo house and an inquest held. The verdict of the jury was that he met death from a pistol ball fired by George Dunnell. The preliminary hearing of Dunnell occured in the court house Wednsday afternoon. The evidence showed that the murdered man was a hard case and regarded life lightly. The defendant was discharged, as there was no evidence against him. It was a plain case of self defense and justifiable homicide.
P.3 - A.A Tisdale, who was killed here Tuesday evening, was born in Williamson county, Texas. His father was a wealthy man and the owner of the old Oregon farm. His family were religious people, the father being one of the pillars of the M.E. church in Georgetown, the county seat of Williamson county. He was also a high mason. Al left home when young and had a bunch of cattle in New Mexico. He got into trouble there, and left all his property and went to Johnson county, Wyoming. There he was the first man black-balled for mavericking and was the main instigator of the war between the cowboys and stockmen that darkened the annals of the history of Wyoming. He had the respect and sympathy of the people of the county a long time, and was a partner of Jack Flagg, editor of the People's Voice, and at present clerk and recorder of Johnson county. During the war between there two factions John Tisdale, brother of Al, was murdered by the stockmen. Then Al began drinking and carousing and finally lost the respect of everyone. He came from Wyoming to Montana, and has been in this section of the country for about three years....

Today visitors to Glasgow and Valley County will find a modern community, with motels, restaurants and other amenities to serve their needs, and a friendly population willing to answer questions and direct you to the various points of interest in the area.

Montana Highway 24, north of Glasgow, Montana

Valley County's web site can be found at:
The City of Glasgow has its own site at:

Photo Information (all photos taken with a Nikon D80 DSLR and a Nikkor 16-85 mm wide angle/tele/zoom lens):

Valley County Sign. Taken 8/27/2011 on the Daniels/Valley County Line, Montana Highway 5 east of Opheim, Montana. Lens set at 68 mm, ISO 100, f /11.0, 1/45 second.

Valley County Court House. Taken 10/7/2009 in Glasgow, Montana. Lens set at 35 mm. ISO 250, f /22.0, 1/45 second.

Fort Peck Theatre. Taken 8/28/2011 in Fort Peck, Montana. Lens set at 25 mm. ISO 100, f /11.0, 1/90 second.

Hinsdale UMC. Taken 8/28/2011 in Hinsdale, Montana. Lens set at 25 mm. ISO 100, f /11.0, 1/90 second.

Evening Farmland. Taken 8/27/2011 along Montana Highway 24. Nikon D80 DSLR, Nikkor 16-85 mm lens set at 16 mm. ISO 100, f /13.0, 1/20 second.

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