Anxious to create new free territories during the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs an act establishing the Montana Territory. However, as Montana was on the unstable frontier, it did little to add to the integrity of the Union, and Sidney Edgerton, the territory’s first governor, fled after suffering through several months of Indian raids.
Among those Indians known to have inhabited Montana in the 19th century were the Sioux, the Blackfoot, the Shoshone, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Kutenai, and the Flathead. The vast area of what we now call Montana became a U.S. possession in 1803 under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase. Two years later, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark became the first known explorers of European origin to explore the region on their journey to the Pacific Ocean.
Significant U.S. settlement did not begin in Montana until the 1850s, when the discovery of gold brought people to mining camps such as those at Bannack and Virginia City. In 1864, Montana was deemed worthy of territorial status and 25 years later entered the Union as the 41st state.