I love Montana town signs, and Troy, deep in the state’s logging country, has one of the best. The sign lures to a city park nestled along the Kootenai River. The focus point is a
historic Great Northern depot, which has been moved to the park. There is also an interpretive trail, part of a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, that tells the story of the Callahan boom, which mining and logging combined to lure investors and residents to the area. It is a story arc that the forest service follows at other sites in a region the service describes as the Callahan Creek Historic Mining and Logging District. It is a very useful perspective on the town’s history, and not one that I pursued in 1984 when I explored this part of Lincoln County in the fieldwork for the state historic preservation plan. I paid attention to the historic railroad corridor–Troy (1892) after all was on
the Great Northern’s main line, and I documented the few historic buildings left facing the railroad tracks today. The Home Bar (c. 1914) and the Club Bar were institutions then, and remain so today. The Kootenai State Bank building still stands but has experienced a major change to its facade–made better in part by the American flag painted over some of the frame addition.
The Troy Jail, above, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and it remains the only building so listed in the town today. D.E. Crissey, a local contractor, built it out of concrete in 1924 during Troy’s boom from 1916 to 1926 when its population jumped from 300 to 1300. The Snowstorm mine, which produced lead, zinc, and silver, started to serve the demand for raw materials during World War I. The mine soon turned what had been a small railroad town into a mining camp best known for its brothels and bars. Then in the early 1920s the Great Northern decided to build a division point here, further booming the town. The Sandpoint Pole and Lumber Company began its logging business in 1923, and Troy suddenly was the largest town in the county
Perhaps the most impressive landmark left in the wake of the Troy boom is the public school, with the impressive central block flanked by classroom wings and a gymnasium built in later decades. Home to the Troy Trojans, the soldier statue in front of the school is also a public art landmark in Lincoln County.
Troy thus was much more than just a gateway into Montana from U.S. Highway 2–it was once a mining center, but one that went broke fast as the mines played out in the 1920s, the Great Northern closed its roundhouse, and the Great Depression hit in the 1930s.
In 1984 as I traveled from Troy via Montana State Highway 508 to Yaak, the only “town” left in the state’s far northwest corner, you could still encounter key mining properties along the Yaak River, such as this concentrator at Sylvanite.
The Keystone Mill was barely hanging on to the side of the mountain then, now it is nowhere to be seen. Montana 508 has instead become a gateway to some of the some of the most open, untouched high mountain landscape, one that meanders back and forth with the river, bridges, and, perhaps most importantly, bars.
That would be the Dirty Shame Saloon–another institution that some back in the city thought that perhaps I should avoid. Glad I did not. Had a great meal there in 1984, and even though the bar’s dining area has been extended, it still had that vibe, of both a local place but also another remnant of the old logging and mining days along the Yaak.
Yaak by way of local paths and trails is a gateway too, between Idaho and Montana and Montana and British Columbia. More to the point it is a gateway between what was and what still is within the Montana landscape.
Yaak’s general store, service station, lodging, and whatever else you need is another throwback place, and can be found on the web as the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile. You haven’t “done” Montana if you don’t make it to Yaak.