HISTORY OF RONAN MONTANA
Excerpts from The Fabulous Flathead by J.F.
McAlear and Sharon Bergman, c1962
The city of Ronan Montana lies in the center of a rich agricultural area and for
many years has been a trade center for the farmers of the lower Flathead and
Mission valleys later becoming Lake County Montana.
In 1883, with a small trading post as the nucleus of the settlement, it was
known as Spring Creek - named for the creek that flowed through the town. In
1885, the government constructed a flour mill and a saw mill at the site, and
the name was changed to Ronan Springs, in honor of the Indian agent,
Peter Ronan, who served the Indians
so well from 1873 to 1892.
The building of the Great Northern Railway increased the activity on the
reservation, and on October 4, 1894, a post office was established to handle the
increased demand for mail facilities. The name of the settlement was shortened
to Ronan, and Ludger C. Tuott became the first postmaster.
In 1905, A. M. Sterling took over the trading post, received a government Indian
Trader's license, and established the A.M. Sterling Company. He enlarged the
store and built the Sterling Hotel, and became the first major business man of
In 1908-1909 many other businessmen became established in the Center City -
Joseph and Ross Lemire, Frank Menager, J.F. O'Brien, Pablo & Potvin, A.J.
Brower, and others. Stanley Scearce came from the Klondike country in Alaska and
built a general merchandise store which contained 6,000 square feet of floor
space. By 1910, Ronan was booming, and soon had a population of over 500
But the town met disaster on August 24, 1912. A fire broke out in the automobile
garage of Crawford & Clairmont during one of the fiercest wind storms of the
season, and before the town could be alarmed, the fire had spread to other
buildings. Willing men were ready to fight the inferno, but the chemical engine
was not charged. Buy the time the engine was charged and ready for action, half
the town was in flames and the other half was threatened.
Fire fighters carried water in buckets, tubs, and barrels from Spring Creek, but
in vain. The fire spread across the street, destroying buildings in its path.
The wind was so strong that it carried a piece of burning rubberoid roofing a
quarter of a mile, and set the government flour mill on fire.
When the smoke had cleared, there were four buildings still standing west of
Spring Creek - The Ronan Pioneer Building, Lemire Bros. Store, the J.F. O'Brien
General Store, and a millinery shop. Destroyed were The Glacier Drug Store, Dr.
Sheen's office, the Ronan State Bank, the Flathead Valley State Bank, and
Stanley Scearce's large general store. The east side of Spring Creek was
untouched except for the flour mill. Smoky, but safe, were the Sterling store
and hotel, Menager's Dry Goods, the Edmondson Pool Hall, Bateman's Livery Barn,
Burland's blacksmith shop and the Bigelow Photograph Gallery.
Undaunted, the burned-out business men set about to re-build the town. Stanley
Scearce erected a 9,000 square-foot brick building on a site away from other
buildings. Others follower suit, such as The Reservation Land and Lumber Company
which constructed its building and yard at the edge of town.
Stanley Scearce, Inc. did a big volume of business, but in 1928, fire struck
again and burned the business to the ground. Still not discouraged, Scearce
re-built - this time on Central Avenue.
The A.M. Sterling Company continued to improve their building structures and
their business. After the death of the senior Sterling, his son, Robert
Sterling, continued with the business.
In 1916, Z.B. Silver and J.L. Jones formed a partnership, built a fireproof
brick garage, The Ronan Garage Company, and opened the first Ford Auto agency in
The business development as indicated by the statements of assets of the local
banks show that on June 1, 1913, the First National Bank of Ronan had assets
totaling $35,396.84, and the Ronan State Bank had assets of $93,253.61.
The city government of Ronan was first organized in 1912, with E.H. Rathbone
elected to serve as the first mayor.