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At the turn of the century shortly after Montana territory received statehood, Hysham was part of a vast open area known as Custer County. At the time, it was on part of the Crow Reservation. The Flying E Ranch had thousands of cattle grazing the Yellowstone River Valley, and many of them grazed along the railroad tracks. The trainmen of the Northern Pacific railroad often left supplies ordered by Charlie J. Hysham, an associate of the Flying E, labeled "for Mr. Hysham." The association between the site, the Flying E, and Mr. Hysham stuck and the spot became known as simply Hysham. Today Hysham is the county seat of Treasure County and is bordered on the north by the Yellowstone River, and to the south by beautiful rolling hills.

This area is rich in history of the early days in the settlement of Montana. Near here, Manuel Lisa built a fur trading post near the mouth of the Bighorn River in 1807. This was the first building in the state of Montana. Fort Cass, the first fort built by the American Fur Company on the Yellowstone, was constructed just three miles below the mouth of the Bighorn. Near the mouth of the Bighorn, the stockade of Fort Pease was built in 1875 as a defense against a part of Sioux Indians and also to serve as a trading post. There are still some remnants of Fort Pease on the original site, but the locations of the other forts remain a mystery.

Today Hysham is a clean, friendly little town. As you enter the town, the historic Yucca Theater stands guard at the end of main street. This distinctive stucco building and its Santa Fe art deco style of architecture seem oddly out of place in this small farming community. Constructed in 1931 by David Manning, a local contractor, the theater was the focal point of entertainment in the area for more than 50 years. The first film shown there was the 1914 classic A Room With A View. The last film to grace its screen in 1986 was Tillie's Punctured Romance.

David Manning later went on to become one of Montana's most prominent legislators serving in the Montana House of Representatives continuously for 52 years until his retirement in 1985. In 1990, the Manning family donated the theater to the museum across the street. It seemed fitting as most of the museum contains the memorabilia and inventions of Senator Manning.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

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On This Date in Montana: October 2, 1884

Father Antony Ravalli passed away and was buried behind St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. Father Ravalli, an Italian, arrived at St. Mary’s in November 1845. In addition to being a Jesuit priest, he was Montana’s first physician, surgeon and pharmacist. He was an architect, an artist and sculptor. He built the first grist mill and saw mill. He and his Jesuit brethren were instrumental in opening western Montana to white settlement.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

Copyright © 2003 Michael Dougherty. Use of this material for radio and television programs, printed media, webcasting, and any other source of mass dissemination is prohibited without permission of the publisher.

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