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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Lewistown, Montana

Lewistown, Montana, (population 6,300), is located in the middle of the state. Its history dates back to 1879, when 25 Métis families, descendants of marriages between French Canadians and native peoples, established the first permanent settlement in the area. Soon cattlemen took advantage of the open range, the sheep industry became established, and gold was discovered in the nearby Judith and Moccasin Mountains.

The town site was incorporated in 1889. By the turn of the century a land rush was on, and Lewistown experienced tremendous growth. The presence of good building stone and the building boom encouraged many stonemasons to settle in Lewistown, including a sizable community of Croatian craftsmen.

The Montana Railroad gave Lewistown its first train service in 1903. The Great Northern Railroad extended a branch line to Lewistown in 1913, and both railroads encouraged homesteading and the expansion of wheat farming. Today, Lewistown is still an agricultural community but has diversified enough to withstand the downturn of the agricultural economy that has affected much of the state.

Walking tours take visitors to six historic districts, which are experiencing unprecedented reinvestment sparked by a recently developed Downtown Master Plan. Lewistown is also home to the Central Montana Historical Museum.

The town hosts an annual Métis gathering, featuring parades, a pow-wow, and demonstrations of traditional skills. The annual Pioneer Power Days showcases steam engines, antique tractors and implements; and the Foods of Heritage Festival features food, costumes, music, and dancing associated with many of the ethnic groups that settled in central Montana.

For more information

Lewistown Visitors Guide: www.destinationlewistownmontana.com

Lewistown Chamber of Commerce tours: www.lewistownnews.com/discoverltown/city.html#tour

Posted March 13, 2009

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