Havre, MT 59501
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Havre is a city in Hill County, Montana, is said to be named after the city of Le Havre in
France, although this is disputed by some inhabitants. The area was originally known as Bullhook Bottoms. The population was 9,621 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hill
Located in north central Montana, it was incorporated in 1893. It was founded primarily to serve as a major railroad service center for Great Northern Railroad (built by James J. Hill) with its location midway between Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul. A statue of Hill stands near the Havre Amtrak station to
commemorate the key contributions his railroad has made to Havre's and Montana's history.
Havre is the largest city on the Hi-Line and the eighth largest city in Montana. With the nearest major city, Great Falls, about 120 miles to the south, Havre serves as a medical and business center for the Hi-Line. U.S. Highway 87 has its northern terminus at Havre. U.S. Highway 2, running east-west, is the city's main street. The largest employers are Northern Montana Hospital, Montana State University Northern, and the BNSF Railway. Throughout much of the twentieth century, BNSF was the most prominent employer in the city, but the company scaled back its workforce in Havre in the 1990's. The Milk River (tributary of the Missouri River) runs through the town, and the Bears Paw Mountains can be seen to the south.
Small grids of purple colored squares can be seen in some of the sidewalks in the downtown area (on the north side of the city). These are skylights for a sort of underground "mall" built in the city at least a hundred years ago. Throughout its history, this underground area has been host to a brothel, a Chinese laundromat, a saloon, a drugstore, at least three opium dens, and rooms used for smuggling alcohol during Prohibition. The underground area, now designated "Havre Beneath the Streets", currently operates as a small tourist attraction.
The Wahkpa Chu'gn buffalo jump, or bison kill, is located behind the Holiday Village Shopping Center near the northwest corner of Havre. Over 2,000 years old, it is one of the largest and best preserved buffalo jumps anywhere. In prehistoric times, Native Americans would drive bison over the edge of the cliff, killing or severely injuring the animals. Afterwards, the Native Americans skinned the animals and preserved the meat. The buffalo jump is now an archaeological site and a small tourist attraction.
The buffalo jump is located at the southern edge of the Havre Badlands, a badlands formation that runs alongside the Milk River to the west of the city. Small fossils, including seashells and petrified wood, can be found in the limestone sediment in this area.
Six miles southwest of Havre is Fort Assiniboine, which served as one of Montana's principal military posts from 1879 through the Prohibition era. The fort was one of many used by the United States to protect against potential attacks from Native Americans and to block incursions from Canada. At its peak, the fort housed and employed 489 soldiers in 104 buildings.
Also near Havre is the Bears Paw Battlefield site of the Battle of Bears Paw Mountain, where the Nez Perce were attacked and defeated by the U.S. Cavalry. Chief Joseph surrendered to the Cavalry and making a famous speech ending with the line, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
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