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How did Cascade come to be?
The town of Cascade grew out of
several other communities. Near the present site of Cascade, but on the east
side of the Missouri, a small town
developed at the ferry (nicknamed "The Mayflower") for the Chesnut
Valley freight and stage route.
|In l 879, George Steele, who also had a store at
Sun River, opened a new store in this new settlement, which by 1880 was named
|In 1885, the name was changed to
Gorham. At that time Thomas Gorham, who later opened a store across the river,
managed the Steele Store. In 1886, the land was sold to James and Mary Erskine, and in 1889 the town name was
changed to St. Clair after the couple's baby who had just died. This small town
flourished — residents built homes, and the Rev. Little started the Methodist
church in 1889. It’s believed that the St. Clair school was held in the living
room of the log cabin parsonage. A Chinese family also ran a restaurant in
|In 1886, the Montana Central
(later the Great Northern) started building its tracks from Great Falls on the
west side of the river. Starting as a railroad-crew town, a new settlement named
Dodge appeared, complete with a post office run by Thomas Gorham as postmaster.
When the railroad was completed in 1887, the name was changed to Cascade. Just
two months before, the Territorial Legislature established Cascade County from
parts of Meagher, Choteau, Lewis and Clark, and Fergus. Before this action, the
Missouri had divided Lewis and Clark County from Meagher County.
|A bridge over the Missouri River
was built in 1893, and it replaced the ferry which stopped operating. Business
activity soon moved from St. Clair to Cascade, with some of the homes even being
moved from St. Clair. In 1893, the St. Clair post office was closed and the town
ceased to be.
|Cascade grew. Gorham and his wife
had platted the town site in 1888, and Jemison Perkins had added land to that
plat in 1890. Numerous businesses appeared — stores, an elevator, a creamer, a
drug store, liveries, tailoring shops, bakeries, restaurants, a saw mill,
stockyards and shearing sheds, banks and numerous saloons (some say as many as
11). The town was incorporated in 1911, and in 1914 the newspaper, The
Cascade Courier, stated that
Cascade was a boom town with 52 business establishments.
|The will of
provided funds for a gymnasium and a library, and the town also boasted the
services of a doctor and lawyers. Clubs formed, such as the Commercial Club, the
Odd fellows, who built a two-story hall, the Rod and Gun Club, the Volunteer
Firemen, the Masons and the Eastern Star.
|The first school reportedly was a
dug-out log building on the river bank. During the summer of 1887, classes were
held there for four or five children. In l 887, a one-story frame and brick
building was built on the south side of Central Avenue, and in 1909 a new
three-story brick school was completed on the hill at the west end of Central
Avenue. It was used until 1957 when a new school was erected and the old one
|The growth would stop, however,
and by 1930 there were half of the former businesses still open. With the advent
of a good road to Great Falls, most business establishments closed as people
traveled to Great Falls to shop. Still, the town has survived. In fact, the
little horse and buggy village has grown to a town of over 700 people, with many
more in the surrounding rural communities whose mailing address is Cascade.
|Cascade has produced a number of
people who have reached beyond the local area in their success. However, two
individuals have become particularly famous. Charlie Russell met his future wife
Nancy in Cascade. She was visiting relatives, and the smitten Charlie began his
courtship. They were married in Cascade and lived in the town the first year of
their married life.
|Another well-known person is
Mary Fields, an African-American who came as a free woman to St. Peter's Mission in
1885 to help Mother Amadeus. She moved to Cascade in 1895, where she ran a
restaurant, drove the mail stage to the mission, served as the baseball team
mascot, and baby-sat for several families. She died in 1914 and is buried in
Hillside Cemetery near Cascade.