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Lewistown City

Fergus County, Montana

Lewistown City Hall is located at 305 West Watson, Lewistown, MT 59457.
Phone: 406-535-1760.

Switzer Residence, Silk Stocking Historic District

Switzer Residence, located in the Silk Stocking Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Photo by user:Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD, 2012, (own work) creative commons [cc-4.0], via wikipedia commons, accessed July, 2021.

The city of Lewistown [†] encompasses 5.32 square miles and serves as the county seat of Fergus County, located at the approximate geographic center of the State of Montana.

Lewistown is located in an area that was once part of the territory of the Blackfoot Nation. In 1874, Fort Lewis, named in honor of Major W.H. Lewis, was established to provide military protection for people traveling on the Carroll Trail, the shortest route between Carroll, Montana and Helena. It is likely that the name "Lewistown", selected ten years later, was derived from the post. The first residents of Lewistown were Metis, who established the first permanent settlement at "Big Spring Creek" in 1879. Two of these settlers, Francis A. Janeaux, and Paul Morase, homesteaded properties on a site that ultimately became present day Lewistown. Dr. L.A. Lapalme, Lewistown's first medical doctor, platted the first Townsite in 1883, using a fence for a starting line, which likely explains the streets' southwest-northeast orientation. Janeaux founded the first public schoolhouse in the community in 1883.

During the remaining years of the 19th century, central Montana experienced growth in the cattle and sheep industries. In particular, sheep ranchers contributed to the steady development of the area and many participated in banking, land and commercial ventures in Lewistown. In 1903, the Montana Rail- road arrived in Lewistown and was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in 1908. The Great Northern Railroad extended a branch line to Lewistown in 1913 and both railroads encouraged homesteading and the expansion of wheat farming.

Lewistown's downtown was largely constructed in the first two decades of the 20th century and re- mains substantially unchanged. During the dark days of World War II after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the allies sustained major defeats around the world. The U.S. Congress responded with massive defense appropriations, including $200 million for airport development across the country. In September 1937 the City approved a resolution authorizing the city of Lewistown to acquire title to land for airport purposes. The City and County agreed to assume equal responsibility for the airport and a three- member commission was established to manage the facility. The new commission immediately paid the debt owed 17 local firms and individuals that provided funds to light the runways in 1939. At the end of July 1942, R.H. Johnson, representing the Howard R. Green Co., announced development work would begin at the airport. Citing government censorship requests, Johnson only confirmed that the army planned to build a hangar and a number of barracks. Then in 1942, a joint resolution authorizing the city of Lewistown and the County of Fergus to enter into a lease with the U.S. Government on the Lewistown Air- port for a term of three years was passed.

The War Department issued the first contracts for airfield development less than a week later. S. Birch and Sons Construction Company of Great Falls would undertake site work, including grading, excavation, drainage, paving, and boundary fences. Askevold and Rudd of Great Falls received a contract to con- struct temporary frame buildings. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assigned staff from its Fork Peck office to oversee the construction projects.

By November 1, 1942, the Army Air Corps had accepted the completed airfield. The Lewistown Satellite Airfield operated for 12 months and then deactivated. In November 1, 1943 the city passed a resolution authorizing the city of Lewistown to convey to Fergus County, an undivided one-half interest in and to the Lewistown Airport and directing the Mayor and City Clerk to execute and deliver a deed for that pur- pose. The facility was declared surplus in October 1944 and returned to the city of Lewistown and Fergus County in February 1947. On July 14, 1947, a Joint Resolution of the City of Lewistown and the County of Fergus for accepting the surrender of leased property, easements, buildings, and real property was ap- proved.

It has operated as a municipal airport ever since, with little improvements. In October 15, 1973 a resolu- tion authorizing the replacement of water mains to and a part of, the city-county airport: authorizing pay- ment therefore, and providing for the use of existing funds for such replacement costs was approved. In 2007 Nexus Methamphetamine Treatment Center was constructed on land leased from the Airport by CCCS, Inc. and with the assistance of a Community Development Block Grant through the Montana De- partment of Commerce the water and sewer infrastructure to the airport terminal was upgraded providing city water and sewer to businesses along the infrastructure corridor. In January 17, 2007, the Lewistown Satellite Airfield district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places identifying 11 buildings and 2 structures as contributing properties.

† City of Lewistown, Comprehensive Development Plan, 2017, www.cityoflewistown.com, accessed July, 2021.