Ringling from the south
Ringling is a small unincorporated community in southern Meagher County, Montana, United States, along the route of U.S. Route 89. The town was a station stop on the transcontinental main line of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad ("the Milwaukee Road"); it was also the southern terminus of the White Sulphur Springs and Yellowstone Park Railway, which ran from Ringling to White Sulphur Springs. Ringling served as a community center for ranchers and homesteaders in the vicinity, but the town's population declined throughout most of the twentieth century as the region's agricultural activity dwindled. Both railroad lines through Ringling were abandoned in 1980, and only a handful of people remain in the town today.
Ringling was named for John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers circus family, which once owned considerable ranch land in the area. Ringling was also president of the White Sulphur Springs and Yellowstone Park Railway. After acquiring the Barnum & Bailey Circus, the combined circus had winter quarters in Bridgeport, CT (the birthplace of P.T. Barnum) and later near the town of Ringling, which was often snow-free unlike most locales at this latitude in the United States. The lower Shields Valley (which contains Ringling and environs) and nearby Big Timber, Montana has one of the warmest average January temperatures in the state of Montana, due to chinook winds (adiabatic warming). This same consistent warming was responsible for the ice-free corridor in the area, which enabled the land bridge traversing ancestors of most Native Americans to enter the mainland of North America during the Pleistocene.
Today, Ringling is perhaps best known as the setting for portions of Ivan Doig's 1979 book, This House of Sky. The town was also the subject of the Jimmy Buffett song "Ringling, Ringling" featured on his 1974 album Living & Dying in 3/4 Time.
- Cheney, Roberta Carkeek. Names on the Face of Montana: The Story of Montana's Place Names. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1984. ISBN 0-87842-150-5.