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Lavina, Montana

Lavina was founded just forty miles north of the Northern Pacific railhead in Billings by one of the Territory’s best-known pioneers, T.C. Power. In earlier years, T.C. Power was well established in Fort Benton at the time that fortified fur post changed into a thriving city when a rush to the gold mines increased river trade on the Upper Missouri. T.C. Power knew until 1880 Central Montana abounded in wildlife with thousands of buffalo but was practically uninhabited. Never-the-less, he knew with the coming of the railroad envisioned a stage line to answer the demand for a direct overland route to connect the railroad with his holdings in Fort Benton so in May of 1882 he organized the Billings – Benton Stage Company. It was the first north-south line to carry mail on coaches. About midway through the stage line, there was the river that cut its age-old course through the trees and tall grass meadows of the wide Musselshell Valley.

Where there was a good ford, he chose an ideal site for a station and said “With Clate Warner and other hired help, we put up stage stables, mess house, a bunkhouse for the men to sleep in, a store, and of course my saloon. That was the biggest business of them all.” Even though he was appointed as the first postmaster, he made the rounds of the stage line every month but none of the stations pleased him as much as the one on the south bank of the Musselshell, and in memory of a former sweetheart, Walter Burke named it Lavina. As the Musselshell Valley settled up thick in the summer of 1882, the stage stop became known as Old Lavina and it was a hub of activity. The bell tolled for Old Lavina when the surveyors chose a new townsite a mile downstream in the wide bend of the Musselshell that had been the old Indian campground. A few months later on February 16, 1908, the first passenger train steamed past the old stage stop and pulled up to the depot in what was now New Lavina.* * taken from “Bicentennial Golden Valley County Heritage ’76”

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