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56 Counties
First Monday of the Month at 6:30pm

Fifty-Six Counties is a radio program hosted by Russell Rowland, author of the book Fifty-Six Counties: A Montana Journey. For the book, Rowland traveled to every county in Montana and interviewed the people there about what’s going on around the state, while also researching the history to find the parallels and patterns.

The radio program is an extension of this conversation, with Rowland interviewing people from all over Montana to find out how Montana has shaped them, and what they’re doing to shape Montana.

  • Jeannette Rankin is mostly known for two things: being the first woman to ever be elected to Congress, and voting against both world wars. But perhaps the most significant part of Jeannette Rankin’s life might be what happened after that vote against entering World War I, which was the first vote she ever cast in Congress. This episode explores how she managed to rebound from the intense criticism she received for that vote to become one of the most significant figures in the world of women’s rights.
  • On a cold winter day in February of 1911, an unknown former social worker took the podium in the Montana capital to address the legislature about Women’s Suffrage. It was the first time a woman had ever been invited to speak at the Montana legislature, and Jeannette Rankin made such a huge impression that day that it launched her into a career even she herself could not have anticipated.
  • From the time The Virginian was published in 1902, there has been a pattern of outsiders telling the story of the West, and often about Montana, and getting it horribly wrong.
  • The Speculator Mine Disaster, which took place in 1917 in Butte, is still the deadliest underground mine accident in American history. One hundred and sixty-eight men lost their lives when an oil-soaked cable was accidentally set on fire with a carbine lantern.
  • The Dawes Act, passed in 1887, was one of the most significant actions by the U.S. government in terms of removing almost any hope of Native Americans to create a strong infrastructure for their tribes.
  • 2 January 2023
  • The Homestead Act was passed in 1862, but there were several other pieces of legislation that had as much or more impact on the settlers who decided to pack everything they owned and make their way West in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The impact of this huge influx of new farmers and ranchers on our region is still resonating today as farmers and ranchers try to keep their operations alive in current-day Montana.
  • In 1864, when Idaho was declared a territory, Congress adjourned before allotting any funds or assigning any authorities to oversee the territory. Soon after that, a gold rush on Alder Creek near Dillon brought a huge rush of people into the region, many with questionable backgrounds.
  • 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. So, they rely almost exclusively on agriculture for survival.
  • Dan Tronrud is a lifetime resident of Sweet Grass County. He and his wife reside on the family ranch that his great grandfather homesteaded over a hundred years ago. Amber Martinsen-Blake has her Masters in Social Work and is the Executive Director of Catalyst for Change.