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The Montana territory was first explored in the 1700's by members of the Verendrye family, who explored the northern great plains and western Canada. They established fur trading post throughout the areas of their explorations. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the Montana region was opened up by Canadian and American fur traders, including mountain men. The Lewis and Clark expedition, which was a military exploring expedition, crossed the region in 1805. The purpose of the expedition was to search out a route to the Pacific and to gather information about Indians as well as the far west. Headed by President Jeffersons private secretary, Meriwether Lewis and aided by William Clark, the members set out in 1804 from St Louis up the Missouri River. An indian woman guide, Sacajawea, aided them in crossing the Rockies. Their expedition opened up vast new territories.
Gold was discovered in the 1860's in Montana. This was the beginning of mass moves of settlers to the area. When silver was discovered in 1875 and copper in 1880, the mining trend for the Montana area was set. Early visitors to the area were struck by the way miners joined together, founded their camps and created societies. As the gold bonanza begin winding down, the growth of ranching in territory brought new settlers. Montana was established as a territory in 1864, partly to curb lawlessness. In 1876 General G. A. Custer was massacred by the Sioux Indians at the Little Bighorn River. The surrender of Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce band marked the end of major indian wars in Montana. When the railroads pushed west from 1880 to 1910 cow towns sprang up. In 1889 Montana became the 41st state to join the union.
Today Montana covers an 147,138 square mile area. The Capitol is Helena. The demand for copper in World War II stimulated the states economy followed by an oil boom in the 1950's. The land is marked by high granite peaks, forest, rivers and lakes in the western part and great rolling plains in the east. The State Flower is the Bitterroot and the State Bird is the Western Meadowlark.