History of Rosebud County

Rosebud County is steeped in history and culture.  Although the county formed in 1901, Plains Indians had flourished in the area, living off the land for decades prior.  The Yellowstone River brought the Lewis and Clark Exploration to what would later be Rosebud County in 1806 when Captain William Clark traveled through. This was later followed by early pioneers, explorers and settlers, traveling west with the hope of vast opportunities for a better life.

The presence of the Northern Pacific and Milwaukee railroads not only helped define the early settlement of Forsyth, the county seat, but the community of Colstrip and coal mining, and the north side as well. While the Milwaukee ran north, the Northern Pacific completed a spur line from Forsyth to Colstrip for the purpose of operating a coal mine to fuel the trains. The inaugural mine opened in 1925 and years later was sold to Montana Power Company.

The existing courthouse was completed January 5, 1914. It was at the time a controversial and epic endeavor.  The county constituents voted in favor of bonds to complete the project.  Made of sandstone, the courthouse is a treasured landmark.

While industrialization has played a significant role in the development of Rosebud County, the land and its agricultural base have proven to be the roots.   Livestock production, including cattle, sheep and horses, has played a significant role in the agricultural operations of the county. In short time, early irrigation techniques provided methods for crop production which vastly increased the livestock capacity. The Yellowstone River valley assists in producing an abundance of irrigated crops, and the remainder of the county offers prime grassland for cattle production and areas of dry land farming as well.


*Most of the information included in the historical narrative was cited from, They Came and Stayed: Rosebud County History.  1977. Western Printing and Lithography. Billings, Montana.