Golden Valley County History
| Golden Valley Co., Continued
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Golden Valley Co. was formed in 1920 out of what had been the western end of Musselshell County and a northeastern corner of Sweetgrass County. Parts of Golden Valley County have at various and previous times been part of Fergus, Yellowstone, Meagher, and Wheatland Counties. Golden Valley is one of the smaller counties in the state. With only 1172 square miles. It extends approximately 50 miles in a north-south direction from the Big Snowy Mountains in the north to the Big Coulee in south. It is approximately 30 miles wide in an east-west direction. The course of the Musselshell River traverses the county in this direction. Golden Valley County was named because of the great expectations of this area as a grain-growing agricultural region.
The northern part of the county is predominately stock country and is liberally sprinkled with sagebrush and grease-wood from the river to the base of the Snowy Mountains. At one time during the homestead days, much of the land was broken by plow and farmed. The ground proved to be nonproductive as farm land. It does provide excellent range-land. Many large sheep and cattle ranches occupied this area at one time, but now most of the sheep enterprises have turned to cattle ranching.
South of the Musselshell river much of the bench land is farmed. Wheat is the main grain crop along with oats and barley. There is also an abundance of range land here as well. Six miles south of Ryegate is the Big Coulee. This wide open valley surrounded by sandstone rims drew many settlers to the area.
Golden Valley County is a sparsely settled county having approximately 1117 people in the entire county. It has only 2 incorporated towns; Ryegate, the county seat and Lavina. Both towns are situated on the Musselshell River. Lavina started as a stage stop and provided a river crossing of the Musselshell River for stage lines running from Billings into the Lewistown area. Ryegate had its' beginnings with the coming of the Milwaukee Railroad in 1910. The Milwaukee Railroad no longer runs through Ryegate. The railroad abandoned the tracks in 1980. The town of Ryegate runs east and west, due to sandstone rim rock to the north and the Musseshell River to the south.
In the spring of 1938 Golden Valley County experienced a memorable murder case in which a rancher murdered two of his ranch hands and also killed a deputy sheriff in a genuine "gun battle", reminiscent of the old west. In December of 1939 the rancher was hung from gallows erected on the courthouse lawn in Ryegate. This was one of the last hangings in the state of Montana.
With the 40's and the war years the economy of Golden Valley County blossomed, as it did throughout the state. In the following years up to the present the economy has fluctuated.
Golden Valley County is run by a 3 member elected county commission board. Both towns have town councils with an elected Mayor.
Dawn in Golden Valley
Roundup on the Musselshell - (1974)
Exploring the Mystery of
Horse Thief Canyon
Rambling Memories of Cushman - by Ada Lane
Prairie Child - by Adoline Moats Christofferson
Trails Along the Musselshell- by Lew Miller
Montana Homestead Days - by Leonard Fiske
The Little Red Books
We Lived for Next Year
Too Poor to Leave but Always Rich - Jim Sargent
Leland P. Cade Books:
Well, I guess I was Just Lucky - the story of Joe and Helen Cade, both Home-steaders north of Lavina
The Schools of Golden Valley County, Montana - documenting 66 schools; index includes about 3,000 names
Ghost Towns of Golden Valley County, Montana - documenting 16 ghost towns plus Ryegate and Lavina, index includes about 3,000 names
Golden Valley County, Montana - Selected History - documents about 35 significant stories plus 6 ghost towns in Wheatland County.
The Montana Room, Parmly Billings Library
The Montana Historical Society, Helena
Last Updated: Sept. 2011. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.