A Brief History

The Laurel Montana area is home to several noteworthy historical events. Like much of the rest of MT, Laurel was host to several important pieces of our heritage.

The city of Laurel MT basically came about when Captain William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition camped at the mouth of the Clark’s Fork River on their return journey back across the United States.

This particular site would become known as the town of Charlton. The name was later changed to Laurel because of all the local shrubbery found in the home town of a railroad official from North Carolina.

Upon returning from the west coast of the United States, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark divided the expedition into to separate groups so that they could explore as many of the areas passes as possible, as well as smaller rivers and lakes.

Clark took the path of the Yellowstone River in order to meet up with Lewis’s party at the junction of the Yellowstone and the Missouri Rivers. While Lewis’s party did not pass by Laurel, Clark’s camped at the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River where it runs into the Yellowstone itself, which is very close to present day Laurel.

Overtime the location of the town of Laurel moved northwest away from the Yellowstone River, to where it presently sits.

A statue in downtown Laurel also commemorates the great Chief Joseph of the Nez-Perce, and the Canyon Creek Battlefield.

During the 1800’s the United States government agreed to a treaty with the Nez Perce Indian tribe. The treaty basically gave the tribe a very large amount of land that encompassed pretty much all of their ancestral home.

Problems arose when gold was discovered on the reservation in 1860 and a new treaty reduced the reservation to nearly one tenth of its original size.

The Indian chief’s whose land lay within the boundaries of the new treaty went ahead and signed it, but the ones whose land lay outside the boundaries became the Nez Perce.

The Nez Perce struggled for years to find a home for their people where they could just be left alone and fought many battles along the way as they tried to settle into various areas.

The Battle of the Big Hole took place in western Montana in 1877, during August of that year. Later on in September, the US Army under Colonel Samuel Sturgis tried to block the Nez Perce from moving at Canyon Creek, which is about six miles north of Laurel, MT.

In this battle, the Nez Perce won out and the army was unable to stop the tribes from moving further north. It was just a few weeks later, however on September 30th 1877, that Chief Joseph finally surrendered to Colonel Miles near the Bear’s Paw Mountains, just a scant 40 miles south of the Canadian border.

Thus ended the valiant fight of the Nez Perce, as they simply tried to find an area to live in peace.

The statue in Fireman’s Park in Laurel proudly commemorates the great Chief Joseph, and the nonprofit group, The Friends of Canyon Creek Battlefield work to preserve the site and also educate people about what truly took place.

The battlefield is also in the National Parks Trails System.

Laurel, MT Facts

  • The population of Laurel is around 6,300, with an additional 5,000 or so living in the surrounding area outside of town. People grow to love the small town atmosphere where you know who your neighbors are and you aren’t afraid to lend a helping hand when needed.
  • The city of Laurel has three schools; grade school, middle school, and high school, along with several private preschools. On average the high school graduates about 140 students every spring and their mascot is the Laurel Locomotives.
  • There is quite a bit to do in Laurel, which includes everything from a nice bowling alley to a skating rink, to a fitness center. The fitness center sports a full size swimming pool and weight room, along with a hot tub and spa, and exercise equipment. Aerobic classes are available for those who wish to sign up.  The Laurel Public library offers a nice quite retreat and also free wi-fi access for it’s visitors.
  • If you like outdoor activities, Laurel offers a prime golf course. You can enjoy Riverside Park as well as Coony Damn and the Buffalo Mirage Fishing access. The Rod and Gun Club offers a trap range at Riverside Park as well and the small-bore rifle range is open when shooting tournaments are not taking place.
  • Several major employers exist in the regionMontana Rail Link being one and the Cenex Refinery being another. The rail yard is the busiest and largest in Montana and has been owned by Montana Rail Link since 1987. The Refinery began operating in 1930 and was purchased by the Farmers Union Central Exchange in 1970 and renamed The Cenex Harvest States Refinery.
  • Laurel is also home of the largest fireworks display in Montana and every 4th of July visitors come from all over the surrounding areas, including Billings to see the display. On average nearly 10,000 people flood Laurel to see the fireworks every year.
  • Laurel sports a number of hotels and five bed and breakfast spots. There are also ten restaurants to choose from and four of those host banquet facilities. Laurel is also on 13 short miles from Montana’s largest city of Billings where you will find a number of metro activities as well as Logan International Airport.  Billings is also near to historic Pompey’s Pillar and Custer Battlefield. South of Billings you will find the Bighorn Canyon and Yellowtail Reservoir, which offers beautiful, scenic boating, as well as pretty good fishing.
  • The Yellowstone River offers some of the finest trout fishing in the country and you can head north from Laurel to Glacier National Park if you feel like taking a drive. Fork Peck is the nation’s largest earth filled damn, a scant 295 miles north of Laurel.

The Laurel Chamber of Commerce, which is located at 108 E. Main St in Fireman’s Park has information, maps, brochures, etc about the Canyon Creek Battlefield as well as many other historical landmarks and tourist regions in the area.


You can also reach the Chamber of Commerce at 406-628-8105 for more information about this and other places to visit in the Laurel MT area.

There is a lot to see and do in Laurel Montana, so take your time and enjoy your stay here while you explore all the region has to offer.

To learn more about Houses for Sale in Laurel MT, give us a call today at (406) 322-4115.