Gallatin County, Montana, derives its name from the Gallatin River, one of the forks of the Missouri River that rises in Yellowstone Park, the three rivers, Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison, being named by Lewis and Clark, famous explorers, on their expedition to this part of the world in 1805. The Gallatin River was named for Albert Gallatin, at that time secretary of the United States Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson. Albert Gallatin was a native of Switzerland. He was graduated from the Academy of Geneva in 1778, and came the following year to the United States, where he became a great American statesman and one of the foremost financiers of the country. The Gallatin River has its source in Gallatin Lake among mountain peaks with an elevation of more than 9,000 feet in Yellowstone National Park.
The other rivers uniting with the Gallatin to form the Missouri River, a few miles from the present town of Three Forks, are the Jefferson, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, then president of the United States, and the Madison, named in honor of James Madison, then Secretary of State. It was in July 1805, that Lewis and Clark reached the three forks of the Missouri, and they spent considerable time in exploring the three streams and the territory immediately tributary. These streams have retained the names designated at that time.
Entries in the journal of Lewis and Clark under date of July 28, 1805, tell of their naming these three branches of the Missouri River as mentioned, and their description says: "The Jefferson and Madison, as well as the Gallatin River, run with great velocity and throw out large bodies of water. Gallatin River, however, is the most rapid of the three, and though not quite as deep, is yet navigable for a considerable distance. Madison River, though much less rapid than the Gallatin, is somewhat more rapid than the Jefferson; the beds of all of them are formed of smooth pebble and gravel, and the waters are perfectly transparent."
In the southwestern part
of the state, Gallatin Co. was one of 9 original counties formed in
1865 by the Territorial Legislature. Parts of Gallatin County have
been used to form Yellowstone and Park Counties.
Gallatin County Research
Information for these pages from "Early History of Gallatin County, Montana"
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2009-2013 Judy Wallis White
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