Yellowstone County, organized out of Gallatin and Custer in 1883, comprised a part if not all of the former Crow reservation.
The county town, Billings, was founded in 1882, and had a rapid growth. It contained 400 building’s in 1883, among which were a brick church of good size, a bank building, several wholesale merchandise establishments, three hotels, a commodious schoolhouse, the roundhouse and shops of the Northern Pacific railroad, at the terminus of the Yellowstone division, and three newspapers, one a daily.
This phenomenal growth, seldom seen except in mining towns, might have quickly disappeared were it not that the country surrounding Billings was of the greatest fertility, with an irrigating ditch nearly forty miles in length, which supplied water to 100,000 acres in the Clarke fork bottoms; besides which the mining districts of Clarke fork, Barker, and Maginnes were tributary.
Coalmines also existed in the immediate neighborhood of Billings, distant thirty miles. The whole country within a radius of 100 miles was tributary to this little metropolis. It was one of the two principal shipping points for cattle sold to eastern dealers. In the autumn of 1882, 16,000 head were loaded on cars to be taken to Chicago, in 1883, 20,000, and in 1884 nearly 35,000. There was abundant waterpower in the Yellowstone to supply unlimited manufactories.
A wool market was early established, and in May 1883 a shipment was made of 60,000 pounds of silver bullion from the Barker district. The early towns and settlements of Yellowstone County were few, owing to its occupation by the Crows. They were Carlton, Huntley, Junction, Merrill, Park City, Rapids, and Stillwater.