Originally settled by Salish residents in 1883, this town was called Spring Creek for the local warm springs that flow into the nearby Flathead River. Residents changed the name to Ronan Springs in 1893 as a tribute to Maj. Peter Ronan, who served as the Flathead Indian Reservation agent from 1877 until his death in 1893. Ronan experienced a sudden boom when the federal government opened the Flathead Indian Reservation to non-Indian homesteading in 1910. (Copyright 2009, Montana Historical Society: Montana Place Names from Alzada to Zortman, Montana Historical Society Research Center Staff)
Adorned with the beauty of the Mission Mountain and various sources of fishing and wildlife habitat, the community of more than 3,000 residents offers a wealth of resources and enjoyment. Ronan’s Area Chamber of Commerce is a community project serving summer visitors to the Mission Valley. Hiking in the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area by permit, touring the National Bison Range, picnicking in the city park, enjoying the Garden of the Rockies Museum and sightseeing along the Flathead River are among the many attractions. Just west of Ronan, The Mission Mountain Golf Course is acclaimed as one of Montana’s finest golf courses featuring lush fairways and beautiful green with a fantastic view of the Mission Mountains. This course is suited for any caliber of golfer and is open to the public.
Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuge is an exceptional wetland complex that contains over 800 glacial potholes and a 1,770-acre reservoir. About 200 bird species have been recorded. Nesting great blue herons and double-crested cormorants can be observed from the road on the west side of the refuge.
Ronan Area Chamber of Commerce
Ronan’s Mission Mountain County Visitor’s Center is a community project of the community of Ronan whose aim is to serve summer visitors to the Mission Valley in Western Montana. The community operates the visitor’s center from Memorial Day through Labor Day of each summer tourism season. The visitor’s center building is a hand-hewn log structure that was built in the 1870’s and was used at the Sloan Stage Stop on the Dixon to Polson stagecoach line in the latter quarter of the 19th century. The building had fallen into disrepair and was relocated on property that was developed into the Mission Mountain Country Club in the 1980’s.
The cabin was moved off the site by Ronan State Bank and was eventually donated to the community for the purposes of being restored into a visitors information center. The project was spearheaded by the Lake County Community Development Corporation which raised community support for the project and secured the assistance of the US Forest Service who awarded a grant to further the project. The site is provided by Ronan State Bank and the building and improvements are owned by the Lake County Community Development Corporation. The center is operated by volunteers organized by the Ronan Chamber of Commerce. Plans are currently being developed to further improve the center by adding a hand hewn log structure to the site to house a restroom facility.
Although the Visitor Information Center is open seasonally, the Chamber of Commerce is open year round.
Garden of the Rockies Museum
The Garden of the Rockies Museum was the first church in Ronan built in the early 1900s. It was given to the Mission Valley Heritage Association in 1980 and moved to its present site with a beautiful view of our famous Sheep’s Head Mountain. We acquired Sloans Flat Stage Stop-a dovetailed log house built in 1886; which has added more history to our little corner of the Mission Valley. The Museum has been developed and operated by many volunteers.
Recent additions include a one room schoolhouse, a tool shed and farm machinery building. New buildings and ground space currently in the process of being acquired. We are in the process of developing a cultural center building, the former Round Butte gym building.
We extend an invitation to any individual or organization to join us in our effort to keep all remembering the way it was.
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 the area.
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 residents.
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 Ronan.
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.
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.