The old cowtown of Culbertson was born on the prairie in 1887 with the arrival of the railroad. While Buffalo and Indians roamed freely over the plains, a townsite was established and horse ranching was the order of the day, with a constant demand for cavalry mounts by military posts along the Missouri River. Big scale cattle ranching replaced the horse trade and with the arrival of homesteaders, the little cowtown gradually became an agriculture and livestock center.
The town is thought to be named after Alexander Culbertson, a manager and partner in the American Fur Co. Culbertson married an Indian princess named Natawis. While ranchers had run cattle and horse herds in the area as early as the 1860s, the Culbertson’s son Jack founded one of the first ranches in the area in 1879.
When the railroad arrived, Culbertson became a stock shipping center and a rowdy cowtown which at one time boasted fourteen saloons. A boom in new businesses came with the homesteaders. Banks, shops, and services appeared overnight. Today Culbertson is an agricultural and livestock area with significant oil industry.