Excerpt from Where Buffalo Roamed by Velma R. Kvale, Edited by Margaret Sterling Brooke
Peter Ronan was the man for whom Ronan Springs (early name) was named. His contribution to the lives of the Indians in this area was so great that we will briefly review his life for you.
He was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia on June 1, 1836. He was the sixth of eight children. Of Irish extraction, he was taught to fight "at the drop of a hat." He attended school until he was thirteen years old.
Peter moved to Rhode Island in 1851 and apprenticed himself to a printer. He learned quickly and well. At age seventeen he became foreman of a book and job printing firm in Providence, Rhode Island. Later he held the same job in Boston.
From 1860-62, he searched for gold in Colorado. Then he went to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he bought an interest in the Daily Enquirer. It was a political paper and too partisan. He was jailed, then freed, and then allowed to publish again. But the public was so angered at his release from jail that they destroyed his press and all equipment.
Peter then started to the mines of Oregon, but turned off with acquaintances to camp at Bannack, Montana. The year 1863 found him in Alder Gulch and doing so well he sent for his brother, Jim, to join him. He sold out his share and went to Helena, where he again went into partnership. This time his paper was called the Rocky Mountain Gazette. Twice he was burned out. This bad luck sent him to the gold mines again...this time in Blackfoot City, Montana. Here his jackpot was stolen, so he again landed in Helena, looking for a job.
He was appointed undersheriff of Lewis and Clark County. This doubtless gave him the experience for his next appointment, which put him into Montana's history books.
In 1877, he was appointed Superintendent of the Confederated Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation. He served with distinction in this capacity until his death in 1893. He is the most respected and loved of all the superintendents the Flathead has ever had...and many were fine men.
Agency headquarters were near Arlee, at the extreme southeastern end of the reservation. The reservation was established in 1872 and at first covered 5,000 square miles. Notice, it was only five years old when Major Ronan took over. Also bear in mind that these great distances had to be covered on horseback or in a buggy or sleigh. Very often he had trips of seventy miles and more.
About 1885, the government helped develop the area around our Spring Creek, by building a dam near the Indian village. The government moved a grist mill from Arlee to this area and also built a lumber mill. There were a few log houses. L.C. Tuatte built a trading post. However, he died in 1893 and was buried in Missoula. Until this time, it was known as Spring Creek, but when Major Ronan died that same year, it was changed to Ronan Springs to honor this fine man.
Gradually, the "Springs" was dropped and Ronan became the official name.