Our History

As the settlers moved into Indian Territory, a treaty was formed.  The Treaty of 1855 was an attempt to keep the peace between the settlers and the Indians.  The treaty was ratified in 1859, but the “peacefulness” was short lived because of the gold found on the Indian Reservation in 1860.  In an effort to “get rich quick,” the treaty was violated by many of the white settlers and therefore a second treaty in 1863 was formed, reducing the size of the Indian Reservation.  Consequently, the Nez Perce split into five bands.  In 1877, a non-treaty Nez Perce band led by Chief Joseph became trapped forty miles from Canada.  They camped at Snake Creek, close to the Bear’s Paw Mountains seventeen miles south of what is now Chinook.  On October 5th, 1877, after a five day fight with the U.S. Army, Chief Joseph surrendered with a speech entitled “I Will Fight No More Forever.”  The Nez Perce were then sent to a Reservation in Nebraska.

In the 1890’s, settlers were in search for a rapid growing trade point with farmable land in Northern Montana.  As a result, the community of Chinook formed.  With fertile land, good stock ranges, and a decent supply of lignite coal, this area seemed full of endless opportunities.

By 1886 a railway was laid in preparation for the arrival of our first train on September 13th, 1887.  At the time, Chinook was the second largest city in the valley and had the largest livestock, wool shipping point in Northern Montana, and plenty of timber.

By 1903, Chinook had much to offer.  Hotels, businesses, churches, schools filled our town, along with a telephone system, a power plant, a railway, and productive farming and ranching.  On July 4th, 1914, Chinook held a massive parade, celebrating the completion of the Court House.  Chinook had much entertainment options to offer including: Chautaqua Tents, where plays, revival meetings, musical events, and circuses were held, hunting fishing, and camping on the Tiger Ridge, playing in Clear Creek, and Orpheum Theatre or Blaine Theatre.  During the second World War, German war prisoners worked the beet fields as well as Mexican nationals the following year.

In 1924, the Utah-Idaho Sugarbeet Company moved to Chinook through 100 train cars.  The formal, grand opening took place on October 1st, 1925, and the factory remained open for 26 years.  Harvested sugarbeets were made into molasses and beet pulp.  During WW II, the factory was short on laborers, so Mexican nationals were hired to take care of the sugarbeet crops.  Within years after the factory’s closure, the sugarbeet became our school mascot.