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Facts & Figures

State Name

Updated: August 10, 2020

Welcome to Montana
Welcome to Montana

Montana is a word derived from the Spanish word meaning "mountainous." The western portion of the state is dominated by the rugged Rocky Mountains. The Continental Divide, the continuous division from north to south along the Rocky Mountain crest, divides the flow of water between the river systems flowing to the Pacific Ocean from those flowing to the Atlantic. In all Montana features over 50 mountain ranges, and many of the higher mountain areas remain covered with snow for up to 10 months of the year.

The area now known as Montana had been part of various territories including: Louisiana Purchase, Missouri Territory, Indian Country, Nebraska Territory, Dakota Territory and Idaho Territory. When gold was discovered near Bannack and Virginia City, the population grew rapidly and there was a drive to make this region a separate territory.

In 1864 Sidney Edgerton Chief Justice for the newly created Idaho Territory headed to Washington with the idea to divide the Territory. In 1864 Montana became a territory approved by Abraham Lincoln. It was at this time that the territory officially became known as Montana. Representative James Ashley of Ohio carried the legislation to name the territory Montana. He was the chairman of the Committee on Territories. Later, President Ulysses Grant appointed him the fourth Territoral Governor of Montana in 1869 after he was defeated for re-election in November 1868. However, Montana's first territorial governor was Sidney Edgerton.

In 1962 the State Highway Department was having a promotion and needed a name. One of the men working there had read a book called The Big Sky, written by a Montanan author, A. B. Guthrie, Jr. This book was about trapping and the outdoors. Guthrie gave the State Highway Department permission to use the name, and Montana has been "Big Sky Country" ever since.

Montana's official nickname "Treasure State" originated with the mining that occurred in the state.

Updated: August 10, 2020

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