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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.


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Ronan Montana

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