White Sulphur Springs, Montana (a short history)

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Meagher County was one of the original counties in Montana and encompassed the majority of central Montana. White Sulphur Springs, the county seat, was named for the white deposits around the hot sulphur springs in the area. The Indians came to the area for the benefits of the “medical waters”. They were also able to hunt and gather food throughout the area. Remnants of teepee rings can be found still today.

James Brewer’s first cabin in the Smith River Valley, at a spot later call Trinity Springs, was the only house on the East Side of the Belt Mountain Range or east of Diamond City. Flathead Indians told him of the “hottest white Sulphur springs” close by, and it was to this spot that Brewer then moved. By 1872 he had constructed a bathhouse with three single bathrooms and one 12′ X 12′ plunge. Baths cost 75 cents-whiskey was extra. The hotel a short distance to the north was made up of a cluster of individual cabins, all constructed of logs with dirt roofs. Guests came from the Missouri Valley, Helena, Ft. Benton and Camp Baker.

In 1876, James Brewer sold 50 percent of his holdings to Dr. Parberry who later acquired the remainder. Postal service was established in that year and “Brewer’s Springs” became “White Sulphur Springs,” by order of the Post Office Department after Brewer’s sale to Parberry. Parberry’s townsite was located in 1878. Two years later, White Sulphur Springs replaced Diamond City as the county seat.

The county seat had a population of 800 people and listed 218 taxpayers in 1898. Jonas Higgins once said of the town that “business is conducted by one large store, two drug stores, two drug livery stables, one harness shop, one meat market, a saloon or two and then some, a good newspaper and two first class banks.”

Mineral water was at one time bottled for shipment to many parts of the United States by the Montana Mineral Water Company. Indians roaming through the county were the first to recognize the medicinal value of the springs. They would stop to bathe in the “Wampum Waters” (Wampum translates roughly as “good” or “beneficial”.) Many tribes, including the Flathead, Blackfeet and Crow, came here to use these waters to heal their sick. Since some were warring tribes, a form of truce was worked out and this valley became a neutral ground, a Valley of Peace. It was permissible to kill your enemy on the other side of the mountains, but not here. Here you had to co-exist, be peaceful, and share the healing waters.

Trivia:

Dirk Benedict (born Dirk Niewoehner) is an American movie, television and stage actor, perhaps best known for playing the characters Lt. Templeton “The Faceman” Peck in The A-Team television series and Lieutenant Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica movie and television series. He was born in Helena, Montana, and grew up in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

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