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Russell Rowland

  • Broadwater County is one of many counties in Montana that came into being because of the railroad. And in fact, the county seat, Townsend, is named after Alma Townsend, the wife of the president of the Northern Pacific at the time it came through Montana. But the railroad is long gone from Townsend, so it relies heavily on agriculture to stay relevant.
  • Meagher County is named for the first territorial governor of Montana, Thomas Meagher, who suffered a tragic end when he drowned in the Missouri River near Fort Benton. Meagher’s body was never found, and it remains a mystery whether he was murdered or simply fell from the deck of the steamboat, which added to the legend of a man whose life was already pretty adventurous. White Sulphur Springs was a thriving community until the early 80s, when the railroad left and a sawmill that employed several hundred people shut down. The county still has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the state, but thanks to one enterprising woman, it has also become a popular tourist destination, as well as the site for one of Montana’s most popular annual events, The Red Ants Pants music festival. My guests this month are the founder of Red Ants Pants, Sarah Calhoun, and Barry and Chris Hedrich, the owners of 2 Bassett Brewery, which opened right on Main Street in White Sulphur five years ago.
  • The name of Big Timber, Montana, comes from the original source of most of its income, which was a large saw mill. Big Timber came about when it was decided that the original county seat of Sweet Grass County, a town called Dornix, was needed to be relocated on higher ground. The sawmill is long gone in Big Timber, and today the town relies mostly on agriculture to support its population, although one branch of the Stillwater Mine, which is one of the most lucrative businesses in Montana, is also located in Big Timber.
  • Two thirds of Lake County is made up of the Flathead Reservation, which includes the Confederation of Salish and Kootenai Tribes along with the Flathead tribe. And because this county borders Flathead Lake, the tribes share a responsibility with the state to manage the fish and wildlife as well as the environment for the county. My guests this week are both wildlife biologists who have worked closely with the tribes and the state and federal entities to help maintain a healthy environment in Lake County.
  • Jordan, Montana has the distinction of being the most isolated county seat in the US, being the furthest from any public transportation. Which may account for its strong sense of community. My guests this week have both seen this community support in dramatic ways. Rex Phipps is a rancher who is also the CEO of the Garfield County Bank, but he also serves as the Chairman of the Garfield County Fire Foundation. Briana Dolbear was born and raised on a ranch in Garfield County, and when her husband Owen Murnion was killed unloading a piece of equipment in 2015, leaving her with seven daughters under the age of 16. She experienced the support of small town community like few have.
  • Gallatin County has been cited in several recent national studies as one of the fastest growing communities, as well as one of the most desirable, in the country. Bozeman has transformed from a quiet college and agricultural town to becoming one of the most popular destinations for people who can work anywhere in the country. This new growth has created an interesting challenge as more money pours in, making it harder for lower and middle class families to afford to live in Bozeman.
  • On this month's 56 Counties, host Russell Rowland features Butte-Silver Bow County in conversations with Karen Sullivan, Health Officer for Butte-Silver Bow County, and Steve Gammon, Provost/Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Montana Tech.
  • Golden Valley County is one of the smallest counties in Montana, with less than 1000 people. Ryegate and Lavina, the two towns that populate this county, both boast around 200 people, and were hit hard when the local railroad closed down. So they rely almost exclusively on agriculture for survival.
  • Fergus County was one of the pleasant surprises when I was going my tour of Montana for 56 Counties. I had never been to Lewistown before, and was surprised to find a town of nearly 6000 people, with some of the most beautiful sandstone buildings in the state.
  • Petroleum County is the smallest county in Montana in terms of population, with less than 500 people. But they have an extremely active group called ACES (Agricultural Community Enhancement and Sustainability) that is working hard to make Winnett a place where people want to stay and thrive.