Shelby was born when the Great Northern Railroad, forging through this area, threw off a boxcar and called it a station. Allan Manvel, the General Manager of the Montana line at that time, was tasked with naming the new stations along Montana’s Hi-Line.
An easy and common practice for naming sidings was to name them after company personnel. This one he named after Peter P. Shelby, the General Superintendent of the Great Northern Montana line. His response "I don’t know what Manvel was thinking of when he named that mudhole, God-forsaken place after me. It will never amount to a damn".
Truth is, had a geologist named Gordon Campbell not discovered oil here during the worst drought of the century, Peter Shelby may have been right. In the midst of a grand exodus, oil was discovered (a vein leading all the way to the Canadian border) and the town exploded in growth.
This place, "twenty miles from water and 40 miles from wood," quickly grew to be a distribution center for a 50-mile radius.