Miles City, Montana

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Miles City is a city in and the county seat of Custer County, Montana, United States.[1] The population was 8,487 at the 2000 census.



After the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, the U.S. Army created forts in eastern Montana, including one where the north-flowing Tongue River flowed into the east-flowing Yellowstone River. Fort Keogh (named after one of the battle dead) started as a few rough winter cabins, but grew into a moderate sized western fort, from which its commander, General Nelson A. Miles, effectively brought the remaining "uncontrolled" Native Americans into subjugation during the last decade of the 1800s.[2] At first the camp followers referred to the makeshift village as "Milestown", but popular usage (perhaps more accurately "self-promotion") turned it to "Miles City". Livestock speculation brought thousands of cattle to the open ranges in the late 1880s, the railroad was extended through the area, and Texas drove numerous cattle to Miles City to fatten them on free grass and move them to where they could be loaded on trains bound for the slaughterhouses in Chicago.

Miles City established a municipal electric utility around 1887 and it was a source of civic pride (as any city would have towards its own utilities) until a traveling employee of Minnesota Northern Power (predecessor of MDU Resources Group, Inc.) told the city council "the emperor has no clothes;" i.e., the system was far less efficient and in worse shape than they thought. The city council eventually put the question to the voters who instructed the city to sell the utility. By this time, the people with the Montana Power Company (now NorthWestern Energy's Montana division) became aware of this and were soon locked in an epic battle with Minnesota Northern over the franchise. A franchise election was held to determine who would serve Miles City on June 28, 1927. Minnesota Northern won by a scant 16 votes.

Miles City experienced rapid growth until the 1920s and 1930s, but became overshadowed by the upstart upriver town of Billings, which became an oil refining center and is now the largest city in the state.

The publicly-owned Miles City Municipal Airport is located less than two miles (3 km) from town. Notably, it was the site of an early scheduled airline crash, involving Northwest Airlines Flight 1, which caught fire and crashed shortly after takeoff in January, 1939.

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