Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
The Original 9 Counties of Montana
Ninety-one years ago this month, the first legislature of the Territory of Montana was in session, having convened in December, 1864, and it was by an act of that body passed on February 2, 1865, that the territory was divided into its original nine counties. This session was held at Bannack, the first capital of Montana. The first eight sections of this act define the boundaries of
  • Missoula County, with its county seat of Hell Gate;
  • Deer Lodge County, with its county seat of Silver Bow;
  • Beaverhead County, with Bannack City as its county seat;
  • Madison County, with Virginia City as its county seat;
  • Jefferson County, with Jefferson City as its county seat;
  • Edgerton County, with Silver City as its county seat;
  • Gallatin County, with East Gallatin as its county seat;
  • Chouteau County, with Fort Benton as its county seat;
Section 9 of the Act reads:
"Be it further enacted, that all the remaining portion of the Territory of Montana, not included in the counties before named in this act, be and the same is hereby created a county to be known as 'Big Horn County', and shall be attached for legislative and judicial purposes to the County of Gallatin."
The Act further provides:
"That the people of the several counties may, by vote of the first election held in the Territory, locate the county seat of their respective counties."
Although the county seats have been changed in all but two of the eight counties where county seats were designated, only one county of the eight has had its name changed. Edgerton County is now Lewis and Clark County. However, the ninth county--Big Horn County--was divided in 1869, and the portion in the southeastern corner of the Territory was renamed Custer County. The original Big Horn County comprised all of what is now Valley, Sheridan, Richland, Roosevelt, Daniels, Garfield, Dawson, Custer, Powder River, Carter, Wibaux, Fallon, Rosebud, Treasure, Big Horn, Prairie, Yellowstone and McCone Counties, and portions of Phillips, Petroleum, Musselshell, Fergus, Stillwater and Carbon Counties. In fact, it was practically the eastern one-third of the Territory. It was not until 1877 that Miles City was designated as the county seat of Custer County, and a county government set up.