Coming to Montana
The first non-Indian explorers and independent trappers who ventured into Montana had little lasting impact on the landscape. The same cannot be said for those who followed. In the early 1800s, fur trade companies began building posts at strategic points along the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, and the first Christian missionaries arrived in the Bitterroot Valley in 1842. However, it was the discovery of gold in the 1860s that brought non-Indians to the region in large numbers. Booming gold camps—populated by men from around the globe—sprang up seemingly overnight in places like Bannack, Virginia City, and Last Chance Gulch. The camps themselves did not always last, but the changes wrought by the newcomers were only just beginning.