The History of the Winifred Area
Much of what is displayed in the history section of this site is copyrighted material
graciously provided to us by Jim Arthur. To develop a deeper and richer appreciation
for the history of the Winifred area, we strongly recommend that you get your hands on
a copy of his book
A History of Winfred, Montana.
It is a fascinating compilation that
gives the reader a narrative of the families that are the history of Winifred and also
tells the tales of the economic factors that led to the founding of a town on Dog Creek.
Introduction to Winifred History
The Winifred Area saw its share of colorful history comprising of trappers, traders,
Indians, Indian Councils, steamboat days, outlaws, cattle drives, settlers,
homesteaders and hearty businessmen.
The construction of Fort F.A. Chadron was completed in 1843. This was the
beginning of Indian trade, trapping and hunting of the buffalo in this area.
One of the largest Indian Councils ever held took place in 1855. The location of the
Council was across the Missouri River from the mouth of Dog Creek.
1860 saw the beginning of steamboat travel on the Missouri. By 1880 the steamboat
days were all but history.
The first military post in Montana, Camp Cooke, was established in 1866. Camp
Cooke, located at the mouth of the Judith River, saw a very short life before being
abandoned in 1870. Fort Claggett followed the construction of Camp Cooke in
1869. It continued to serve as a trading post for many years.
The fall of 1877 saw the passing of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians on their
flight to Canada. They travelled down Dog Creek to about where Winifred now
stands, then took an Easterly direction to the Cow Island Crossing. A brief skirmish
took place at this location before they continued on North.
The U.S. Government land survey records at 1884 reveal a scattering of settlers
throughout the area. Some of these were G.R. Norris, mouth of the Judith River;
Jacob L. Gjerde, Winifred area; William T. Swope, East of Suffolk and John Brooks,
West of Suffolk.
James and Andrew Fergus had arrived at the Armells Ranch the summer of 1880 and
was ranging a vast area including the Dog Creek-Armells drainages. This was soon
to come to an end as squatters started moving in during the 1880s and early 1890s.
However, the great influx of people to this area was not seen until about 1910.
The town of Winifred was established in 1913. An article in the Winifred Times, dated
January 16, 1914 reads, "Milwaukee Railroad carrying passengers the last few
trips." It is believed the railroad arrived in Winifred late in 1913.
Courtesy of Jim Arthur
The History of the Winifred
area is a story of strong and
building a community in
rough and beautiful country.
These pages are an effort
to capture just a slice of that
story to provide a very basic
understanding of who and
what preceded us on the
ground we walk when we
are in Winifred.