Montana Territory

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Territory of Montana
Organized incorporated territory of the United States
Montana territory coat of arms (illustrated, 1876).jpg
Coat of arms
Montana Territory, 1879
Capital Bannack (May 28, 1864–February 6, 1865)
Virginia City (February 7, 1865–1875)
Helena (1875–1889)
  Type Organized incorporated territory
 Split from Idaho Territory
May 26 1864
November 8 1889
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of the United States (1863-1865).svg Idaho Territory
Montana Flag of Montana (1905-1981).svg

The Territory of Montana was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1864, until November 8, 1889, when it was admitted as the 41st state in the Union as the state of Montana.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Montana State in the United States

Montana is a state in the Northwestern United States. Montana has several nicknames, although none are official, including "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State", and slogans that include "Land of the Shining Mountains" and more recently "The Last Best Place".


Original boundaries

The Montana Territory was organized out of the existing Idaho Territory by Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 26, 1864. The areas east of the Continental Divide had been previously part of the Nebraska Territory and Dakota Territory and had been acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

Idaho Territory territory of the USA between 1863–1890

The Territory of Idaho was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 3, 1863, until July 3, 1890, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as Idaho.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

The territory also included a portion of the Idaho Territory west of the continental divide and east of the Bitterroot Range, which had been acquired by the United States in the Oregon Treaty, and originally included in the Oregon Territory. The part of the Oregon Territory that became part of Montana had been split off as part of the Washington Territory.

Bitterroot Range mountain range

The Bitterroot Range is a mountain range and a subrange of the Rocky Mountains that runs along the border of Montana and Idaho in the northwestern United States. The range spans an area of 24,223 square miles (62,740 km2) and is named after the bitterroot, a small pink flower that is the state flower of Montana.

Oregon Treaty 1846 treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States

The Oregon Treaty is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty was signed under the presidency of James K. Polk, the treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country; the area had been jointly occupied by both Britain and the U.S. since the Treaty of 1818.

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries, the region was divided between the UK and the US in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City, then Salem, followed briefly by Corvallis, then back to Salem, which became the state capital upon Oregon's admission to the Union.

The boundary between the Washington Territory and Dakota Territory was the Continental Divide (as shown on the 1861 map); however, the boundary between the Idaho Territory and the Montana Territory followed the Bitterroot Range north of 46°30′ north (as shown on the 1864 map). This change was due in part to Congress unifying the area with the creation of Idaho Territory in 1863, coupled with the subsequent political maneuvering of Sidney Edgerton, soon to be the first Territorial Governor of Montana, and his allies in the Congress. They successfully implemented the boundary change that won the Flathead and Bitterroot valleys for Montana Territory. [1] The Organic Act of the Territory of Montana [2] defines the boundary as extending from the modern intersection of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming at:

Sidney Edgerton Union United States Army officer

Sidney Edgerton was an American politician, lawyer, judge and teacher from Ohio. He served during the American Civil War, as a Squirrel Hunter. During this time, Edgerton served as a U.S. Congressman. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln appointed him the first Chief justice of the Idaho Territorial Court. Edgerton lobbied for the creation of separate territories, out of the Idaho Territory, and in 1864, Abraham Lincoln appointed Edgerton as the first Territorial Governor of Montana. During his term as Territorial Governor, he was an alleged member of the infamous Montana Vigilantes, and was reputedly among its founders.

The Flathead Valley, located in Northwestern Montana, is a region of the U.S. state of Montana. It includes Flathead County, and part of Lake County. Notable towns include Bigfork, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Polson, and Whitefish. The geography of the Flathead roughly corresponds to the valley where Flathead Lake is located. In addition to the lake, the area's proximity to attractions such as Glacier National Park and Whitefish Mountain Resort have made the area a major resort destination. Many outdoor activities can be pursued there such as hiking, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, skiing, hunting, and trout fishing. The Flathead Valley is also home to a portion of the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Bitterroot Valley valley in Montana, United States of America

The Bitterroot Valley is located in southwestern Montana, along the Bitterroot River between the Bitterroot Range and Sapphire Mountains, in the Northwestern United States.

The forty-fourth degree and thirty minutes of north latitude; thence due west along said forty-fourth degree and thirty minutes of north latitude to a point formed by its intersection with the crest of the Rocky Mountains; thence following the crest of the Rocky Mountains northward till its intersection with the Bitter Root Mountains; thence northward along the crest of the Bitter Root Mountains to its intersection with the thirty-ninth degree of longitude west from Washington; thence along said thirty-ninth degree of longitude northward to the boundary line of British possessions.

The boundaries of the territory did not change during its existence. It was admitted to the Union as the State of Montana on November 8, 1889.


The act of Congress of 1864 creating Montana, known as the Organic Act, [3] prescribed a somewhat standard organization for the territorial government of Montana. It established executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government, however, the federal government held a dominant role in administering the new territory. Particularly, the Congress reserved the right to nullify any laws passed by the citizen-elected territorial legislature. The President of the United States appointed the most powerful positions in the territory, including a governor, secretary of the territory, and three members of the territorial supreme court, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. The citizens of the territory elected a legislative assembly, consisting of a Council and House of Representatives, which together created the laws for the territory. Citizens also elected a lone delegate to Congress as strictly an advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives; a territorial delegate was not permitted to vote. [4] The territorial government was meant to provide a training ground for a future move to statehood, allowing time for an area's institutions to mature and populations to grow. [5]



The governor served a four-year term, unless removed by the President. Duties of the office included 1) the faithful execution of the laws, 2) to serve as the commander-in-chief of the militia, and 3) to serve as the superintendent of Indian affairs. The governor also had to approve or veto laws within three days of passage by the territorial legislative assembly. [6]


Dem Democratic Rep Republican

Governors of Montana Territory [7]
#GovernorPartyTerm startTerm endAppointed byNotes
1 Sidney Edgerton RepJune 22, 1864July 12, 1866 Abraham Lincoln Did not find out he had been appointed right away; left the state in September 1865 and did not return for 25 years
2 Green Clay Smith DemJuly 13, 1866April 9, 1869 Andrew Johnson Did not assume office until October 1866; stopped functioning as governor in summer 1868
3 James Mitchell Ashley RepApril 9, 1869July 12, 1870 Ulysses S. Grant Removed from office by President Ulysses S. Grant in mid-December 1869 for unclear reasons. [8]
4 Benjamin F. Potts RepJuly 13, 1870January 14, 1883 Ulysses S. Grant
5 John Schuyler Crosby RepJanuary 15, 1883December 15, 1884 Chester A. Arthur
6 B. Platt Carpenter RepDecember 16, 1884July 13, 1885 Chester A. Arthur
7 Samuel Thomas Hauser DemJuly 14, 1885February 7, 1887 Grover Cleveland
8 Preston Hopkins Leslie DemFebruary 8, 1887April 8, 1889 Grover Cleveland
9 Benjamin F. White RepApril 9, 1889November 8, 1889 Benjamin Harrison

Secretary of the territory

The secretary of the territory served a four-year term, unless removed by the President. Duties of the office included 1) the recording of all laws and proceedings of the legislative assembly and the acts of the governor, 2) the transmission of copies of the laws and journals of the legislative assembly to the President and the leaders of Congress, and 3) the transmission of executive proceedings and correspondence twice a year to the President. Importantly, the secretary also served as acting governor in case of the death, removal, resignation, or absence of the governor from the territory.


Dem Democratic Rep Republican

Secretaries of Montana Territory [9] [10]
#SecretaryPartyCommissionedAppointed byNotes
1 Henry P. Torsey RepJune 22, 1864 Abraham Lincoln Declined appointment due to poor health. [11]
2 John Coburn RepMarch 3, 1865 Abraham Lincoln Did not assume office as he resigned almost immediately upon being appointed; later in 1884 appointed a justice to the Supreme Court of Montana Territory
3 Thomas Francis Meagher DemAugust 4, 1865 Andrew Johnson He served as acting governor from Sep. 1865, when Gov. Edgerton left the territory, until Oct. 1866, when Gov. Smith arrived. [12] He served again as acting governor from early 1867, when Gov. Smith went to Washington D.C., until Meagher's death on July 1, 1867. [13]
4 James Tufts RepMarch 28, 1867 Andrew Johnson He served as acting governor from the summer of 1868, when Gov. Smith left the territory, until the summer of 1869 when his replacement arrived. [14]
5 Wiley S. Scribner RepApril 20, 1869 Ulysses S. Grant He served as acting governor from mid-December 1869, when Ashley was removed, until the end of August 1870, when Gov. Potts arrived in Virginia City. [15]
6 Addison Hiatt Sanders RepJuly 19, 1870 Ulysses S. Grant Withdrew before taking office since he took another appointment as register of the Land Office in Montana. [16]
7 James E. Callaway RepJanuary 27, 1871 Ulysses S. Grant He did not arrive in Montana until mid-April 1871 to take up his duties; [17] he was the longest serving secretary of the territory.
8 James Hamilton Mills RepMay 10, 1877 Rutherford B. Hayes
9 Isaac D. McCutcheon RepMay 28, 1882 Chester A. Arthur date is given as the date he arrived in Helena; he resigned under scandal in Sep. 1883 [18]
10 John S. Tooker Rep1883 Chester A. Arthur He appears to have been commissioned sometime during the last three months of 1883 after McCutcheon's resignation, [19] [20] though one source reports him being appointed in Jan. 1884, [21] and another on April 21, 1884. [22]
11 William B. Webb DemOctober 23, 1885 Grover Cleveland One source has Webb appointed in 1886. [23]
12 Louis A. Walker RepApril 15, 1889 Benjamin Harrison

Congressional delegation

The eligible citizens of Montana Territory voted for a delegate to Congress, electing them to a two-year term. The territorial delegate had a seat in the House of Representatives and, as any other representative, participated in debates, yet they did not have the right to vote. [24] During the time Montana was a territory, some delegates to Congress were allowed to sit on select committees and even standing committees of the House, yet as on the floor of the House, they were not permitted to vote. [25]


Dem Democratic Rep Republican

Delegates to Congress from Montana Territory [26]
#DelegatePartyTerm startTerm endCongressNotes
1 Samuel McLean DemJanuary 6, 1865March 3, 1867 38th, 39th
2 James M. Cavanaugh DemMarch 4, 1867March 3, 1871 40th, 41st
3 William H. Clagett RepMarch 4, 1871March 3, 1873 42nd
4 Martin Maginnis DemMarch 4, 1873March 3, 1885 43rd, 44th, 45th, 46th, 47th, 48th
5 Joseph Toole DemMarch 4, 1885March 3, 1889 49th, 50th
6 Thomas H. Carter RepMarch 4, 1889November 8, 1889 51st After statehood, became Montana's first U.S. Representative

See also


  1. Malone, Roeder, and Lang 1991, p. 95.
  2. An Act to provide a temporary government, 1864.
  3. An Act to provide a temporary government, 1864.
  4. Renne 1958, p. 20-23.
  5. Renne 1958, p. 19.
  6. Renne 1958, p. 20-21.
  7. Owings 1956, p. 62.
  8. Spence 1968, p. 33.
  9. Owings 1956, p. 62-63.
  10. Spence 1975, p. 234.
  11. Spence 1975, p. 18.
  12. Spence 1975, p. 34, 43.
  13. Spence 1975, p. 51.
  14. Spence 1975, p. 55.
  15. Spence 1975, p. 68, 75.
  16. Spence 1975, p. 77-78, 234.
  17. Spence 1975, p. 78.
  18. Spence 1975, p. 156.
  19. Spence 1975, p. 234.
  20. Miller 1894, p. 74.
  21. Leeson 1885, p. 1256.
  22. Owings 1956, p. 63.
  23. Spence 1975, p. 234.
  24. Palmer 2011, p. 3-4.
  25. Palmer 2011, p. 6-8.
  26. Owings 1956, p. 63.

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Coordinates: 46°47′N109°22′W / 46.78°N 109.37°W / 46.78; -109.37