HISTORY OF MELROSE
Montana is a small town located in the southernmost
tip of Silver Bow County and is a stone’s throw away from the counties
Beaverhead and Madison. The area of
Melrose became known as Camp Creek in the 1870s and was home to several
ranching operations and a rest stop for travelers making their way
records of the earliest settlers in the
valley reveal Jefferson McCauley and John S. Stone’s farms as being
first to choose the lush fertile valley along the Big Hole River. McCauley was a Montana pioneer and
in Virginia City in 1864. He started his
ranch and farm operation near Melrose in 1870.
1880, Dillon became the terminus town for the Utah and
Northern Railroad. This was the furthest
point to the north that passenger service was available.
Grading and track laying crews worked through
the winter to a point of the next terminus town, Melrose.
following news item
appeared in the Helena Independent on December 8, 1880: “A town
has been laid
off there, to be called MELROSE, which will be the next terminus."
For nearly six
was the “end of the line” for the Utah and Northern, and the arrival of
railroad would become a great asset for shipping and receiving goods. The Hecla Consolidated Mining Company’s
(HCMC) smelter at Glendale was producing bullion and the six mile
the rail, cut the shipping costs tremendously and travelers would not
rely on the slow stage operations to reach their destinations in a
July 2, 1881 issue of the Dillon Tribune, the
following letter was published:
Dillon on the 24th ult., at 8 o’clock p.m., on the
train, we soon realized the fact that we were spinning down the Beaver
valley at a rapid gait toward the new terminus town of Melrose. On traveling a few miles, we struck the grade
going up to Birch Creek, and having an unusual big load of ties,
passengers, it was very difficult for our engine to make the top of the
then we began going down grade all the way into Melrose.
Coming to the Big Hole bridge, which is one
of the largest bridges on the road, and spanning the great Big Hole
began curving around the mountains until leaving Joe Brown’s and there
almost a straight bee line for Melrose.
Arriving here at 10 o’clock p.m., all was hustle and
looking for trunks, some looking for - well, they did not know
were so excited, while your correspondent was looking out for himself,
for a chance to steal a ride on the coach, but upon inquiry, I found
filled to their utmost capacity, with seven trunks and a pair of shafts
decorate the top deck, so I concluded it wouldn’t do to steal a ride as
a little higher than I wished to ride, so I concluded to postpone my
until I could find a small load going out, but I am no better off, nor
further than I was the first night.
Melrose is situated in a very pleasant valley, and
within a stone throw
of the magnificent banks of the great Big Hole river, and surrounded by
mountains, and within ten minutes walk to Beaver Head and Madison counties.
Melrose is five miles from Glendale and has a good
wagon road leading to
that city. Five miles from Melrose is
the Soapstone gulch where the Hecla Co. haul their ore from through
Glendale. Several very nice buildings
are going up every day. Among our
business men are Joe Keppler, Pond & Urlin, Gilg & Hoppe, B.M.
& Co., of Glendale. E.M. Ratcliff,
C.L. Thomsen, L. Eliel, Chas. Schlesinger, Blanchett & Howell, and
& Sweet of Dillon. There are a score
of other building store rooms and will be ready for business in three
days then Melrose will have the appearance of a flourishing little city. Saturday night being the first night for
passenger trains, we were treated with some choice selections of music
Glendale Silver Coronet Band, which was a credit both to Glendale and
young men that composed the band. About
100 of the Glendale citizens greeted the train with shouts of welcome
came thundering into our city. More
town of Melrose was carved from the ranch owned by
William Bowe. Bowe was born in
in 1844, a son of Lawrence and Margaret Bowe.
By 1848, the family had left their roots and
immigrated to the United
States. In the 1850 U.S. Census,
William, his parents and five other siblings were residents of
Connecticut. Ten years later, the family
is in New Britain, Connecticut with two additional children as
residents. In 1870, William is found in
Census for German
Gulch, Silver Bow County, Montana, at which time, he was a 25 year old
miner. 1875 was the year that Bowe began
his ranching profession after the acquisition of a homestead in Madison
County. William married Lucina Philips
Christmas Day in 1876, after her divorce from Adam Fleser.
In 1878, Bowe and his partner, Andrew McBride
had filed for homesteads in the present Melrose area.
In addition to the ranching operations,
William and Lucina opened a stage stop near the banks of the Big Hole
River. The provided lodging and served
meals to the
naming of Melrose has been debated by local historians
for years. Some suggest that the new
General Manager of the Hecla Company was given the privilege after his
in April, 1881. Others claim that
William Bowe, the owner of the ranch from which the town was carved,
location in honor of his stepdaughter, Melrose.
She was the youngest child of Adam and Lucina Fleser. Melrose became the bride of Sherman Vance in
1887 and she died at the age of 27 in 1897.
After a funeral, held at her mother and step
father’s home, she was
interred at the Melrose Cemetery.
first depot for railway passengers was built in 1886,
which was moved to its present location in 1960 and houses the
the volunteer fire department. The town
also served as the main fuel stop for trains traveling to and from
Butte. A large coal chute with a capacity
96 tons of the product was erected near the depot.
Steam engines could also replenish their
water supply from a tank which was filled using a pump powered by a
windmill. In 1900 stock yards with
loading chutes were constructed by the railroad which enabled area
ship their stock to market. The railroad
business provided employment for several families residing in the area.
Melrose is a quiet community and ranching remains an
important part of its economy. During
the summer and autumn months, recreationists enjoy the benefits of the
River and the beauty of the East Pioneer Mountains, located to the
the Highland Mountains, which are situated to the east. The town
has lodging and food accommodations
which are often enjoyed by those seeking follow the footsteps of their
ancestors who helped to create the area’s unique and rich history.
visit the Melrose
Cemetery to find the information about those who been laid to rest
in this quiet place.
are some wonderful photographs for you to enjoy.
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