Hill County, Montana, (population 16,673) is located in north central Montana. The Native Americans of this area encountered white settlement when Fort Assinniboine was constructed in 1879 as the second largest fort in the western United States territories.
The Great Northern Railway soon followed, leading to the building of several towns, including Havre, Kremlin, Gildford, Hingham, Rudyard, and Inverness.
The railroad brought immigrants, coal miners, laborers, and farmers, causing the “highline” population to soar. In 1912, the county of Chouteau split and the new county of (James J.) Hill, named after the famous railroad giant, was founded.
The railroad and agriculture continue to provide many jobs, and Hill County’s economic base expanded with the addition of the gas and oil industry. The county seat of Havre is home to a university; other major employers include retail and the medical and hotel sectors. Additionally, Hill County is becoming a popular major cultural tourism site.
Hill County is home to one of the largest known prehistoric Native American buffalo jumps in North America. The site, Wahkpa Chu’gn, includes a campsite that was frequented 600 to 2,000 years ago. The site was rediscovered in 1961 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The H. Earl Clack Museum conducts tours there, offering insight to the area’s prehistory and illustrating the techniques used in excavation.
Hill County also has several properties listed on the National Register, including the Carnegie Library, Young-Almas House, Earl Clack House, Fort Assinniboine, and the Havre Residential Historic District. The town of Rudyard is home to the Depot Museum, Automobile Museum, and Paper Museum, as well as the Rudyard Homestead Shack and Country School.
Each year, Hill County is the site of “Hands on History,” a traditional powwow and dance ceremony at Rocky Boy; “Havre Festival Days;” an annual tour of Fort Assinniboine; and an atlatal (spear thrower) competition at Wahkpa Chu’gn.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2007.