Libby is a timber town through and through. Initially, trees were harvested for mine timbers, later for railroad bridges and ties; but ultimately the timber industry eclipsed both mining and the railroad and remains the mainstay for this town of approximately 2,600.
The town is spread along the Kootenai River Valley, making it a very long town. The Cabinet Mountains border the south, the Purcell Mountains the northwest, and the Salish Mountains are the fortress to the northeast.
The Kootenai Indians roamed the region where Libby is located for about 300 years before the white man came. Explorers and trappers passed through this area, but the rugged physical terrain and deep forests discouraged settlers until late in the 1800s.
The town of Libby was built on the railroad right of way in 1892, as settlers joined the miners and trappers who had erected tent or simple log dwellings. Originally called Libby Creek, the name was shortened to Libby in 1904. The town was incorporated in 1909.
A typical small western town, early structures included log and wood frame buildings. The wood was supplied by the Libby Lumber and Development Company mill. Other building supplies came from two brickyards and a local marble quarry. A building boom took place between 1892 and 1894. Sixteen blocks had been laid out in the downtown area and lots were sold. But the boom was brief and the town slumbered through the depression of 1893. It wasn’t until 1906 when Libby’s lumbering industry gained momentum, that consistent growth began. Prior to 1906, most of the timber harvested in the area was floated down the Kootenai in log drives to Bonner’s Ferry and the mill there.
Portions reprinted from Libby Chamber of Commerce data sheet.