Miles City

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The Yellowstone Highway | The Bucking Horse Sale | Cowtown Beef Breeders Show |
Range Riders Museum | Art Center | Hunting  | Events

Miles City, Montana, got its start when Colonel (later General) Nelson A Miles was ordered to build a cantonment where the Tongue River flowed into the Yellowstone.  The colonel and his men were sent in response to the Battle of the Little Big Horn, to protect settlers and freight wagons as they passed through the fertile Yellowstone valley.  The cantonment was constructed in the fall of 1876 and by spring, a town had sprung up two miles away to provide rest and recreation for the soldiers.
 The founding father of Miles City was a "suttler", a storekeeper who specialized in doing business with the soldiers.  According to the diaries kept by George Miles, a nephew of the colonel, who traveled with his uncle, a man named Mat Carrol set up some barrels under a tarp and started selling whiskey.  When Colonel Miles got tired of having his guardhouse filled to overflowing, he ordered Carrol and the other purveyors of liquor to leave the military reservation.
 An employee of Carrol's, John Carter, rode east on his big bay horse until he was the required two miles away, beyond the edge of the reservation.  He found a flat spot along the Yellowstone built a crude log hut out of driftwood and started selling whiskey.  The soldiers soon found the place, other merchants followed, and Miles City was born.
 Within the year, the cantonment moved to higher ground, becoming Fort Keogh and the town followed, picking up lock, stock and whiskey barrel and moving to the present location.  Less than a year after its founding, there were more than two hundred citizens and a post office was established officially naming the town after Colonel Miles.
 Miles City's name sake General Nelson A Miles has been called the most consistently successful frontier commander and had a military career filled with distinction.

The Yellowstone Highway
Before the railroad came to Miles City, steamboats ran up the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River, bringing supplies and frontier settlers.  During the June rise, several steamboats made multiple trips up the Yellowstone, bringing freight and passengers in, taking buffalo robes and wolf hides back.  The first boats of spring were welcome sights.  If a store ran out of an item in December, there was no getting another until the spring, when the river was high enough to carry traffic.  In 1881, there was a famous potato shortage and in another year, the town even ran out of beer.
 Looking like smaller versions of the great steamers of the Mississippi River, the steamers of the Yellowstone were elegant little ships, complete with fancy dining rooms and velvet-curtained salons.
 Although they were tough ships, they were not indestructible.  Buffalo Rapids, named by Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the Wolf Rapids claimed several vessels before the U S government used dynamite to smooth things out.  When the steamer Yellowstone ran aground at Buffalo Rapids, her passengers and some of her cargo were shifted to another steamship, the Western, and an attempt was made to float the Yellowstone.  The efforts were not successful and the Yellowstone was no more.

 The bell and anchor from the ship, however, are on display at the Range Riders Museum.  The building on Main Street where Shore's is currently located was known for several years as the "Steamboat Building" because it was build with timbers from the Yellowstone.

In 1879, there were fifty-four steamboat arrivals during the spring high water.  The last steamboats made their trips in 1882.  The railroad had arrived and no one had to wait for the June rise again.
 Miles City, the county seat of Custer County, is one of the last genuine cowboy towns on the western frontier.  Continuing a tradition of rodeos that stretch back into the 19th century, the Bucking Horse Sale is Miles City's biggest event.  For more than 50 years, horses have been "bucked out" at the fairgrounds as part of a citywide celebration of the cowboy.
 While Miles City is still proud of its colorful Old West history, the community is a thriving, modern town, complete with high-tech trimmings.  Contemporary Miles City has not been swept up by the winds of change that have threatened to shape look-alike communities across the nation.  Miles City still has a traditional Main Street, complete with numerous buildings from the late 19th century and early 20th century, many of which are listed on the National Historic Register.  These classic buildings include a saloon painstakingly restored to its original, century-old splendor.  Plus, there are no parking meters!
 The nearly 9,000 area residents are good hosts who enjoy talking about the many historic photographs proudly displayed, about the hunting and fishing in the area, and about colorful "characters" who fashioned the town's personality.  The Miles City Chamber of Commerce's motto,  "Proud Past: Progressive Future" also describes the community.  Its many services have made it the hub of southeastern Montana, both economically and as the center of vacation-time attractions.

Railroad brought changes to Miles City
The railroad has always been a part of Miles City, from the early Northern Pacific to the Milwaukee Railroad, which brought more change and growth in 1907 when it was built in The city's northern section.  At one time, an elaborate roundhouse and dozens of other buildings served the railroads.  A miniature display at the museum depicts the thriving local industry.  Today, the depots and shops are either gone or out of service, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe is the sole freight line through town.  Stop in at the Wool House Gallery for memorabilia and history of the Milwaukee Railroad

Bucking Horse Sale a tradition for over 50 years
The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale is synonymous with this town and the celebration of the horse a and the celebration of the horse, the cowboy and Western hospitality. Horses have been especially important to Miles City, even from its birth as a military post. Many of the first soldiers at Fort Keogh were mounted – even some of the infantry. After the Frontier Wars, the fort became a remount station, widely known during World War I, when it set records for the number of horses shipped from here.
The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale is always the third full week end in May. The BHS celebrated its 52nd year anniversary in 2002. The sale is an outgrowth of an informal gathering of stock contractors who began meeting in Miles City each spring starting in 1914. The Bucking Horse Sale is sponsored by a volunteer board of directors.
Through the efforts of many people over the years, Miles City has gained a national reputation as host for this three day Cowboy Mardi Gras. It is often a reunion and rendezvous point for former Miles Citians and all Montanans. The socializing can be easy or strenuous – cowboy hat a plus, but not required.
The BHS is a convention of rodeo stock contractors from all over North America. The horses, from untried stock to some with a couples of trips out the gate to spoiled saddle horses to tried bucking stock, are sold at auction immediately following their rides. The feistiest command high prices and appear in rodeos all over the world.
The week end is jam packed with activities including a parade, trade show, horse racing, bull riding, art shows, barbecues, religious gathering and street dances. Saturday's parade usually begins at 9:30 AM, it is not unusual to have over 100 entries sponsored by the Optimists Club. The sale begins at 5:30 at the Eastern Montana fairgrounds on Friday evening. On Saturday and Sunday action begins at 12:30 PM.

Cowtown Beef Breeders Show the first Friday in February
At no time are Miles City's ties with the ranching industry more visible than when it donates Main Street for a day in early February to the display of some of the best yearling bulls in our region.
The 10th Annual Cowtown Beef Breeders Show, Craft Expo and Ag Trade Show were held on Feb. 1, 2002. There is a practical reason for the date is to accommodate the ranchers: before calving gets into full swing, so they have a little more time.
Lewis and Clark Bicentennial plans
Famed explorer William Clark traveled down the Yellowstone River with half of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery crew on the return trip to St. Louis, MO in the early 1800's. During his voyage, Clark camped in several sites in this area, including Pirogue Island. It is not known exactly where Clark camped on the island, only that he camped there July 29, 1806.
The Miles City merchants are having a heritage day or week end the last week end of July to coincide with Clark's travels down the Yellowstone. This year Pioneer Days and Clark on the Yellowstone will be the same weekend. Possible attractions will be wagon rides, historic tours, a ghost tour, old West photos, and stores dressing for the occasion.
The Lower Yellowstone Bicentennial Commission is a regional commission planning for the centennial in 2006. Miles City is one of the communities working to have Corps of Discovery stop for 2 or 3 days between signature events like Pompey's Pillar and New Town, ND. The National Park Service is sponsoring Corp II which will feature murals on the semi's, a 50 seat auditorium, and a display area with voyage artifacts. Corp II is an educational exhibit with presenters to tell the stories of Lewis and Clark, their travels through Montana

Range Riders Museum
The Range Riders Museum is one of the finest as well as the largest museums in Eastern Montana. It's rich history began in 1942 with a single log building after a group of old-time cowboys got together in 1938 and began talking about forming an organization that would preserve the past.

The museum complex has grown enormously since its inception, and this year a steeple from the former First Presbyterian Church building, built in the 1800's is an new memorial to Miles City's spiritual history. Enlarged pictures of the 24 Miles City churches will be featured inside the steeple along with six bibles and hymnals used in early day Miles City.
The Range Riders Museum captures the essence of area ranches, railroads, Indian villages, Fort Keogh and all the things that make southeastern Montana special and historical. The museum captures early times with miniature replicas of the Milwaukee Railroad roundhouse and rail yards, Fort Keogh, a ranch headquarters and an Indian village of Chief Lame Deer. The Milwaukee Railroad: railroad shops, roundhouse and other building (50 in all) that were build to service the steam and later diesel locomotives were recreated in miniature by the Barthelmesses and other local helpers. Indian village: a duplicate of the 51 lodge village of Chief Lame Deer before it was destroyed in May of 1877. Ranching: a duplicate of the old L O Ranch a spread early in this century was the largest operating ranch in this area. Fort Keogh: complete with two-story barracks for the enlisted men, duplexes for officers and their families and many other buildings.

Some of the things you will see are: C M Russell Gallery, three shops for women, an extensive family gun collection, a restored Fort Keogh officers' quarters duplex, a pioneer log house, a rural school, a building housing the wagons and cars, saddles and boots from Miles City's historic Miles City Saddlery and Furstnow Saddlery. There are many more historic things to see when you stop and visit, but be sure to have the time to check it over good or you will short change yourself.

Custer County Art Center
The Custer County Art Center is nestled in a park setting overlooking the Yellowstone River. The Art Center galleries are open year round, with many changing exhibits representing a variety of mediums-painting, prints, sculptures, textiles, woodcarvings and photography. In 1979, the Art Center earned the Governor's Award for best adaptation of a historic structure for its renovated facilities in the water holding tan holding tanks of the Miles City Water Works. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Western Art Roundup, annually one of the center's most popular shows, captures the spirit and feeling of the old and new West through a variety of traditional and contemporary art.

Hunting Opportunities
A wide variety of game exists in south-eastern Montana, capable of fulfilling a broad range of tasks.
Big Game
The major four-legged species in eastern Montana are: mule deer, whitetail deer and prong-horn antelope.
Upland Birds
Southeastern Montana hosts an impressive number of upland game birds. Natives include sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse and migratory mourning doves. Introduced species include ring–neck pheasants, Hungarian (gray) partridge and Merriam's turkey.
Southeastern Montana lies in the Central Flyway and plays host to thousands of migrating geese and ducks every fall.

Miles City, Montana Chamber of Commerce
315 Main Street
Miles City, MT  59301
Phone: 406-232-2890
Toll Free: 877-632-2890
Fax: 406-232-6914

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