The Powder River Country - Historical Marker

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Broadus 59317,Southeast Montana

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From its source in central Wyoming to its union with the Yellowstone River, the Powder River is 250 miles Long “A mile wide and an inch deep; too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” During World War I, Montana’s 91st Division gained national notoriety for the river with its war cry of ‘Powder River let ’er buck!’ The origin of the river’s name, however, is obscure.

In July, 1806, Captain William Clark christened it the “Red Stone” river. Later renamed the Powder River, historians supposed it took its name from the dark gunpowder-colored soil and sand along its banks. But army scout William Drannan maintained that the river was inadvertently named by Vierres Roubidoux, a French guide, who shouted “Cache la Powder!” (Hide the Powder!) when a group of soldiers he was escorting was attacked by Indians.

Located in the center of Powder River County, Broadus was once situated 20 miles upstream on the Powder River in 1900. Named for a pioneer family, Broadus was relocated to this site at the beginning of the Homestead Boom in 1907. The community’s strategic location at the junction of two important highways made Broadus an important trade center despite its great distance from any railroads. Designated the county seat of the newly created Powder River County in 1919, Broadus was once described as one of the “Biggest Little Towns in the West.”

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