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State Research Guide: Montana
8/1/2005
We hand you the keys to unlock your family history in the Treasure State.

From Western Montana's lofty Rocky Mountains to the great grasslands of the east, the state known as Big Sky Country lives up equally well to its other nickname, the Treasure State. Among its geographic wonders are Glacier National Park, part of Yellowstone National Park and the White Cliffs of the Missouri River — the "seens of visionary inchantment" that inspired Corps of Discovery explorer Meriwether Lewis to wax prosaic in his journal." So perfect indeed are those walls," he wrote, "I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry."

Upon the Corps' return to civilization in 1806, glowing news reports lured itchy-footed settlers to the frontier; later, gold discoveries and government land giveaways enticed more. Montana Territory — carved from Idaho Territory in 1864 — contained 20,595 residents as of 1870 (that year's census didn't count most of the state's American Indians, though). By the time Montana became the 41st US state in 1889, roughly 140,000 people lived there.

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