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The Establishment of Beaver Creek, Montana

Information on Beaver Creek, Montana was compiled by the Broadwater County Historical Society: Book "Broadwater Bygones" copyright 1977

From copies of the Official Register of the United States containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military and Naval Service, we trace the progress of the town of Beaver Creek. 1872, US Post Office at Beaver Creek, Montana Territory.

Thomas H. Pauley, Postmaster.

1874, Clifton Reynolds, postmaster

1881, Clifton Reynolds, postmaster, compensation $68.16.

1883, N.J. Kelly, postmaster, compensation $77.33.

1885, N.J. Kelly, postmaster, compensation $94.98.

History of Montana 1883 gives the following information:

"Beaver Creek is the name given to the center of this great stock range. The hamlet is 18 miles southeast of Helena, at the point where the water of the creek is diverted into the two French Bar ditches. The name Beavertown is also applied to this settlement, and under this name the census enumerator credited the place with a population of 14 people in 1880. The discovery of lodes at this point and in the Park during the years 1878-1879, added to the advances made in mining, will doubtless lead to the development of this district. The commercial community is made up as follows: M.M. Brooks, carpenter; Crahn & Marks, sawmill; Hanley Bros., sawmill; C. Reynolds, Hotel; Tucks and McPherson, hotel; J.W. Shoffs, meat market; W.H. Ridgeway, blacksmith; John Robinson, wagonmaker; and J.N. Kelly, postmaster."

Each year more immigrants took up homestead claims and began carving their destinies from the grim realities of frontier living. The community became a melting pot of many nationalities, Irish, English, German, Danish, French, Prussian, Jewish. Life was hard. To even provide the bare necessaties, shelter and food, required hard work. Accidents and illness took their toll. The lonely, forlorn grave left by some early wagon train on a hill overlooking the conflux of Beaver Creek and the Missouri River was isolated no more. That spot became the Beaver Creek Cemetery.

Those early burials must have been sad, indeed, with the home serving as hospital, mortuary and church, and only a circuit rider, lay preacher, or possibly a strange priest hurriedly brought from Helena to officiate at the service. Caskets were made, usually by an amateur caprenter, cut of whatever rough lumber was available. Often they were quite out of proportion to the size of the corpse.


1883 was a very important year under the Butte. That was the year in which the Northern Pacific Railroad passed through the valley on its way to Helena.

Ever since the railroad was completed, engines have huffed and puffed laboring to pull trains in either direction from Beaver Creek. In fact, before the advent of diesels, an auxillary engine was employed to help each train "over the hump". Many a time when the tracks were icy or snow was drifting over the tracks, the trains would get stuck, often for manyhours. Obviously this dip in the track could have been avoided and a water level grade maintained had the track been built in a semicircle arching toward the mountains and crossing Beaver Creek further up the stream. Train crews have often cursed the stupidity of the surveyors who staked out the right-of-way.

With the railroad came not only a new means of transportation but a new means of communication, the telegraph. After this the country changed much faster.

The townsite of Beaver Creek, actually located on Staubach Creek, was swampy ground. Each new business was established a little higher from the creek bottom in the direction of the railroad siding caled Placer. There was a hotel, saloon, butcher shop, and a livery barn that held forty horses. The halfway house, then owned by Julia and Clifton Reynolds, was torn down and moved to their ranch where it was to be occupied until 1964: by the Reynolds until Clifton's death in 1919, then by Julia until her death in 1936, at which time the property on which the house was located was passed on to their daughter, Julia A. Reynolds Albright who sold it to her son, Albert Albright and his wife in 1945.

The town of Placer (Beaver Creek), later became what is known today as the town of Winston, Montana. The Winston Brothers, contractors from Minneapolis, took a contract for hauling the ore from the East Pacific mine. They were instrumental in getting a siding built on higher ground about a mile south of Placer. This siding was known as Winston, as was later the town that sprung up next to the double track. Another siding was built opposite the McMaster ranch and this siding retained the name Placer. "Placer" having been in two locations makes it very confusing for some who are interested in the history of this locality.


Settlers, of course, meant children and children needed schools. There are a few records of the earliest schools but a bit of information picked up here and there casts some light on the subject.

The residents of lower Beaver Creek had constructed a sort of community center which had been instigated by the circuit riders of the Methodist church, mostly for the purpose of holding religious services. In the early 1880's this building was appropriated as a school house. The building itself was of log and had a dirt roof. It even had a floor but the boards in the floor were so far apart that the rattlesnakes used to stick their heads up through the cracks during school."

Schools were anything but permanent in the early days. Not only were they held in the homes, changing from one home to another in accordance with the age of the children or the availability of space in which to teach, but school houses were toted from hither to yon to convenience the majority of pupils.

In the early days when Placer was the community center (1887-1891), school was held in a log building in the bottoms under the Miner's Cemetery, and referred to as the Placer School. One person recalls, "the school house was located down on Beaver Creek, in a gully at the foot of a mountain. Many rocks and boulders made ideal basking areas for a multitude of rattlesnakes that infested that territory in those days. The reptiles writhed in the hot summer sun. Sometimes they lay behind boulders, coiled and ready to strike when the children stumbled upon their hiding places. Our teacher always kept the door of the school house closed to prevent the rattlers from entering the building.

This is only a brief sketch of the history of Beaver Creek, Montana, now commonly known as Winston, Montana. There are many more paragraphs concerning the development of this area.

My mother was raised in Winston, as her father was a miner in the area. At one point, before her death in 1995, my grandmother was the oldest living resident of Winston, and an article and photo regarding that was published in a local newspaper.

My Reynolds family were indeed true Montana Pioneers, helping to establish the town of Beaver Creek. Also my Davies family were early settlers of the area as well, and were involved in ranching.

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Reynolds Lineage
Sampson Lineage