Montana 1889

ByKen Egan


When Montana became the 41st state in 1889, an old pinoeer lamented, “Now she's gone to hell,” but most Montanans embraced statehood as the inevitable culmination of one of the most rapid and dramatic transformations in United States history.

Only twenty-five years after becoming a territory, Montana was profoundly different: the buffalo slaughtered and gone, the Indian wars fought and ended, the tribal nations confined to reservations, cattle and sheep raised by the tens of thousands, Butte exploded into a rich, wide-open town, and railroads built to link the once remote land with the world.

Montana 1889 tells the many stories of this overwhelming transformation by entering into the lives, emotions, and decisions of diverse peoples cooperating and competing on this contested ground. As in Ken Egan’s highly acclaimed Montana 1864, these stories are told month by month, deftly showing the flow and friction of events and the unfolding destinies of individuals and nations.


Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-60639-102-0
Authors: Ken Egan
Pages: 288

"This is the best kind of history...exquisitely crafted. There is no doubt that Ken Egan is one of the most gifted Montana historians of our generation."
—Robert R. Swartout, Jr., Professor Emeritus of History, Carroll College (Helena, Montana)

"Anyone interested in the official genesis of Big Sky Country will want to read this book.” 
—O. Alan Weltzien, Professor of English, University of Montana Western (Dillon)

"A diverse cast of characters.... Their fascinating, multifaceted stories illuminate Montana’s early history."
—Martha Kohl, Historical Specialist, Montana Historical Society

"This is the best Montana history I’ve read in years. Bravo!"
—Brian Shovers, Montana Historical Society Librarian

"Montana 1864 is as important as it is entertaining."
Big Sky Journal

Throughout 2019, the Montana Historical Society will host a live, monthly Facebook conversation based on Ken Egan’s Montana 1889: Indians, Cowboys, and Miners in the Year of Statehood. The Facebook group will kick off Tuesday, January 15, 2019 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will continue throughout the year. They will revisit important figures out of Montana’s past such as Lone Wolf, Granville Stuart, Nannie Alderson, Louis Riel, Mary Gleim, Deaf Bull, and Charlo. We will discuss changes to the land and peoples that led up to and followed from Montana statehood. To begin this journey back through the year 1889, Egan will host an on-site presentation to introduce himself, his book, and the Facebook reading club. The kickoff will be held in the MHS auditorium on January 15 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. It will be livestreamed on YouTube and on Facebook Live, for those unable to attend the on-site presentation. To view it on Facebook Live, join the Facebook Group. For more information about the group and how it works, contact Barbara Pepper-Rotness at or 406-444-9526.

Ken Egan Jr. is the author of Montana 1864: Indians, Emigrants, and Gold in the Territorial YearHope and Dread in Montana Literature and The Riven Home: Narrative Rivalry in the American Renaissance, as well as many articles on western American literature. He co-edited Writers Under the Rims: A Yellowstone County Anthology. After completing his Ph.D. in American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he taught college literature and writing for 25 years. He currently serves as executive director of Humanities Montana, which provides programs and grants on history, literature, Native American Studies, and more all over the state of Montana.

Montana’s tumultuous statehood year captured in new history

The year Montana became a state comes alive in Ken Egan Jr.’s “Montana 1889,” a vivid description of the people and politics swirling through Montana during that crucial time. Insightful and compelling, Egan’s new book makes a worthy sequel to his “Montana 1864,” the highly acclaimed history about Montana’s territorial year.

Egan, executive director of Humanities Montana in Missoula, said he was was struck by the changes between those years. “It was one of the most rapid and dramatic transformations of land and peoples in United States history,” Egan said.

Between 1864 and 1889, the buffalo were exterminated, the Indian wars ended, tribal nations were confined to reservations, cattle and sheep by the tens of thousands grazed the open range, Butte exploded into a city with electricity and millionaires, and multiple railroads connected Montana to the world. “Montana 1889” tells the many stories of this overwhelming transformation by entering into the lives, emotions, and decisions of Indians, miners, cowboys, women, and entrepreneurs who were cooperating and competing in the new state.

Calling Egan’s book “the best kind of history,” Robert R. Swartout, Jr., professor emeritus of history at Carroll College in Helena, said Egan is “one of the most gifted Montana historians of our generation.”

The 288-page book by Riverbend Publishing of Helena includes historic photographs, maps, and an extensive list of sources for readers who want more information about specific people and events. It sells for $23.

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