Helena, Montana

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Helena (pronounced /ˈhɛlɨnə/) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Lewis and Clark County.[1] The population was 25,780 at the 2000 census, and had been estimated to rise to 29,939 by 2009.[2] The local daily newspaper is the Independent Record. The local weekly (and independent) newspaper is the Queen City News. The Helena Brewers minor league baseball team call the city home. The city is served by Helena Regional Airport (HLN).

Helena is the principal city of the Helena Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties; its population was estimated at 73,412 on July 1, 2009.[3]



Helena was founded with the July 14, 1864 discovery of gold in a gulch off the Prickly Pear valley by the "Four Georgians". The city's main street is named Last Chance Gulch and lies close to the winding path of the original gulch through the historic downtown district.

The original camp was named "Last Chance" by the Four Georgians. By fall, the population had grown to over 200 and the name "Last Chance" was viewed as too crass. On October 30, 1864, a group of at least seven men met to name the town, authorize the layout of the streets, and elect commissioners. The first suggestion was "Tomah," a word the committee thought had connections to the local Indian people of the area. Other nominations included Pumpkinville and Squashtown (as the meeting was held the day before Halloween). Other suggestions were to name the community after various Minnesota towns, such as Winona and Rochester. Finally, a Scotsman named John Summerville proposed "Helena," which he pronounced "hel-EE-na," "in honor of the heLEENa in Scott County, Minnesota..." This immediately caused an uproar from the former Confederates in the room who insisted upon the pronunciation HELena, after Helena, Arkansas, a town on the Mississippi River. While the name won, the pronunciation varied until approximately 1882 when the HELena pronunciation became dominant and has remained so to the present. Later tales of the naming of Helena claimed the name came variously from the Island of St. Helena, where Napoleon had been exiled, or was that of a miner's sweetheart.[4]

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