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Looking at Troy's earliest years, toward the future

by Seaborn Larson
| July 30, 2013 9:57 AM

Troy celebrated its 120th year in June, commemorating the homesteads that were some of the first to localize Montana’s true wild nature.

Troy’s early history is a story of resilience. Plagued by fires and economic instability, Troy rebuilt itself over and over to gain lasting infrastructure.

The region was bound to resources. Logging and mining were accompanied by the life that gathered in the Troy area with the placement of the Great Northern Railroad.

“The railroad came and that’s what really opened the town. It was boomtown for working men, people set up their homes without a real plan to stay,” said Troy Mayor Tony Brown.

The congregation of settlers and railroad workers originally named the development “Lake City,” before the town voted to change its name to Troy in 1892, when officially filed in Missoula County.

The town name caused dispute, as some had claimed it was named for a faraway place known to the railroad workers. But most often it was told that it was named after Troy Morrow, who was only seven years old when he was met by a surveyor from the Great Northern Railroad Co., and grew up to be a physician for the community.

Within the Troy Museum are many personal records of life in the frontier town of Troy. One collection of memories by Edith Wood, one of the first to raise her family in Troy, claimed that it was a lawless town full of “gamblers, ‘painted ladies’ and a rough and tough element.”

One family recently celebrated 100 years of their family roots planted in Troy, where their ancestor, Clifford Morgan Akin, had built his homestead overlooking the Kootenai River in 1913.

Akin came west from Jamesville, Wis. and made his living as a logger and tree farmer. His wife, Ida, and son, Ralph, joined Clifford in trapping game, planting corn and logging a few trees to be sold in town.

In the prohibition era, bootlegging was a known pastime in Troy. Clifford’s grandson, Cliff, found several artifacts while examining the property years later. He came across two glistening bottles mostly buried in the woods nearby. One question he may never know, “Did grandpa have a hidden distillery out here?”

Cliff and his family now reside in a cabin built on the property in the ‘80s, still overlooking the Kootenai River.

Troy’s economic development of the early 1900s was a roller-coaster of construction and deconstruction by forest fires. The town’s commercial district burned to the ground in 1906, and the Sylvanite Mine fire nearly took the town again in 1910.

But several businesses gained footing in harnessing the region’s natural resources. W.D. Savage sawmill, the Sandpoint Lumber Co. and several mines including the Snowstorm and Sylvanite mines were among the names established in Troy during the years of early development.

Troy developed as a thriving source of resources. The population leaped from 320 people in 1915 to 763 in 1920, and 1,700 people in 1926.

Several buildings still stand as some of the first in Troy, including the Home Bar, the Kootenai State Bank (now serving as the VFW), and the Troy museum and visitor’s center that once stood as a checkpoint for incoming trains.

The community now supports several outdoors and tourist attractions while the community works on regaining control of the local mining industry.