In 1876, Frank Gaugler built a hotel and general store near the forks of the Musselshell. He named the place Gauglersville. In August the following year, a gentleman named Richard Clendennin moved his family to the North Fork of the Mussellshell directly across from Gauglersville.
In time, the two men joined forces and established the town of Martinsdale. They named the town for the Montana Territory’s Congressional Delegate, Martin McGinnis. Soon, wool growers, discovering the mild climate of the Musselshell valley, began to move in and the area flourished.
In 1875, a wool growers stock company was established and within three years the association had more than 20,000 sheep. Fortunes were made here, including those of John Smith, whose ranch grew to 86,000 acres and C.M. Bair with 80,000 acres. These were two of the biggest sheep outfits in the state. In 1910, records show that Bair shipped out forty-four carloads of wool with an estimated worth of $500,000. This was the largest shipment of wool to ever leave Montana. False fronts on the buildings still standing in Martinsdale reflect the era of the 1880s.
The Milwaukee depot in Martinsdale sat quietly for most of the year but became a bustling place when the cattle and sheep from the local ranches were brought in for shipping. Today, Martinsdale still serves as a small ranching community and stands as a testament to the pioneers of Montana.
Top Photo: This was the first building in Martinsdale. It was built in the late 1890s by William Coates and served as a livery stable and the home of Coates’ Coulson Martinsdale Stage Company. Martindale's wide Main Street can be attributed to the need for space to turn the stagecoaches around. Frank Rognlie ran a bar in the south part of the livery stable, which later became a barbershop. Through the years, this building has served as a garage, a restaurant, and once housed the Martinsdale power plant. —Historical marker on the building.