Montana Territory

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For the film, see Montana Territory (film).
Territory of Montana
Organized incorporated territory of the United States


Coat of arms of Montana Territory

Coat of arms

Location of Montana Territory
Montana Territory, 1879
Capital Bannack (May 28, 1864-February 6, 1865)
Virginia City (February 7, 1865-1875)
Helena (1875–1889)
Government Organized incorporated territory
 -  Split from Idaho Territory May 26 1864
 -  Statehood November 8 1889

The Territory of Montana was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1864, until November 8, 1889, when it was admitted as the 41st state in the Union as the State of Montana.


The Montana Territory was organized out of the existing Idaho Territory by Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 26, 1864. The areas east of the Continental Divide had been previously part of the Nebraska Territory and Dakota Territory and had been acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

The territory also included a portion of the Idaho Territory west of the continental divide and east of the Bitterroot Range, which had been acquired by the United States in the Oregon Treaty, and originally included in the Oregon Territory. The part of the Oregon Territory that became part of Montana had been split off as part of the Washington Territory.

The boundary between the Washington Territory and Dakota Territory was the Continental Divide (as shown on the 1861 map); however, the boundary between the Idaho Territory and the Montana Territory followed the Bitterroot Range north of 46°30′ north (as shown on the 1864 map). Popular legend says a drunken survey party followed the wrong mountain ridge and mistakenly moved the boundary west into the Bitterroot Range.

Contrary to legend, the boundary is precisely where the United States Congress intended. The Organic Act of the Territory of Montana[1] defines the boundary as extending from the modern intersection of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming at:

The forty-fourth degree and thirty minutes of north latitude; thence due west along said forty-fourth degree and thirty minutes of north latitude to a point formed by its intersection with the crest of the Rocky Mountains; thence following the crest of the Rocky Mountains northward till its intersection with the Bitter Root Mountains; thence northward along the crest of the Bitter Root Mountains to its intersection with the thirty-ninth degree of longitude west from Washington; thence along said thirty-ninth degree of longitude northward to the boundary line of British possessions.

The boundaries of the territory did not change during its existence. It was admitted to the Union as the State of Montana on November 8, 1889.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "An Act to provide a temporary Government for the Territory of Montana" (PDF). Thirty-sixth United States Congress. May 26, 1864. Archived from the original on January 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°47′N 109°22′W / 46.78°N 109.37°W / 46.78; -109.37