Culbertson, Montana

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Culbertson is a town in Roosevelt County, Montana, United States. The population was 716 at the 2000 census.



The town of Culbertson was founded in 1887 where the Northern Pacific Railroad crossed the Missouri River near its confluence with Big Muddy Creek. The town was named after Alexander Culbertson, former head of the American Fur Company’s Fort Union, 23 miles to the west. Culbertson also founded Fort Benton on the Missouri. Married to Natawista, a Blackfoot woman, he was able to dominate fur trade in the Upper Missouri after 1840. He negotiated the safe passage of Northern Pacific Railroad survey crews through northern Montana in 1853. In gratitude, the Northern Pacific named the new railroad town on the Missouri River crossing after him.[1]

The settlement of Culbertson followed hard on the heels of the 1886-87 watershed years for the early cattle industry. As a result, the first settlers in the area raised horses for the US Cavalry’s various Montana and Dakota posts. As cattle prices slowly rebounded, the range was once again stocked with cattle, though the second wave of cattlemen utilized hardy English breeds instead of the Texas longhorns of the earlier outfits[2].

With the passage of new homestead laws in 1909 enabling homesteaders to take out larger acreages, the area saw an influx of dryland farmers. With its railroad connection, Culbertson became the center of the area’s agricultural trade. When the agricultural boom went bust after World War II and never resumed its former glory, Culbertson saw a gradual decline in businesses and population. This was somewhat ameliorated by a heavy railroad presence in the community.

Culbertson also became a surviving center as smaller adjacent communities dried up in the agricultural depression of the 1920s and 1930s. With better automobiles and better roads, farmers and ranchers could live further from centers of trade.


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 716 people, 295 households, and 192 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,213.7 people per square mile (468.6/km²). There were 356 housing units at an average density of 603.5/sq mi (233.0/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 89.53% White, 0.28% African American, 6.01% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.84% from other races, and 3.07% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.98% of the population.

There were 295 households out of which 32.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.6% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.90.

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