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Deer Lodge History
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Deer Lodge History

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Deer Lodge got its name from what is now called the Warm Springs Mound. This Is a geological formation over 40 feet in height, built up over the centuries through the thermal action of hot water bubbling to the surface and depositing minerals around the vent.

It is located in a level valley and in the early days could be seen from a great distance. It was a landmark for roaming Indian hunting parties and later for white trappers and fur traders. When the temperature of the air was cooler than that of the bubbling waters, a cloud of steam rose from its peak which from a distance made it appear like a giant Indian lodge with campfire smoke Issuing from it.

The warm waters kept the grasses green around the base of the formation and the abundant whitetail deer made it a favorite grazing area. The mineral deposits were also saline making the mound a saltlick. The Indians called it "the lodge of the white-tailed deer" and while the earliest fur traders and trappers were French, when the mound received an English name, it was Deer Lodge.

Originally, the Clark Fork River was called the Deer Lodge River, but the name was changed in honor of the Lewis & Clark Expedition co-leader.

The town of Deer Lodge was originally called both Cottonwood and Spanish Fork, but was renamed Deer Lodge in 1864 as it was located in the middle of the Deer Lodge Valley with the Deer Lodge River running through it. Deer Lodge County, incorporated in 1865, was one of the original 8 counties in the newly formed Territory of Montana, and the city of Deer Lodge was the county seat.

In 1883, Marcus Daly built a smelter in what became the city of Anaconda. Soon the population of Anaconda exceeded that of Deer Lodge and the citizens of Anaconda thought they should have the county seat. In an election in 1897, Anaconda won the county seat of Deer Lodge County. In 1901, the citizens of the city of Deer Lodge and north Deer Lodge County succeeded in splitting the county. The original proposal would have Anaconda become the county seat of Daly County and Deer Lodge become the county seat of Deer Lodge County. However, the War of the Copper Kings was in full force and William A. Clark was not about to let Daly have a county named after him. After much wrangling, Daly lost out and the State Supreme Court ruled that Anaconda was the county seat of Deer Lodge County and Deer Lodge chose the name of Powell county. It remains so to this day.

The Warm Springs Mound became part of the property of the state hospital for the mentally ill. The hot water is piped off into concrete pools and there is no public access to the Mound. It is surrounded by an aging fence with several rusty signs reading, "Danger, Very Hot Water."



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