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            Ravalli County was formed in 1893 from a portion of Missoula County.  The driving force behind the formation was Edwin Smalley, an early day druggist.  Edwin C. Smalley was born in Ohio, in 1846, and was the sixth child of a family of eight. He started in the drug business at the age of 22 and had various drug stores in the east before coming west to Montana in 1880 and starting a drug store in Stevensville.


            Mr. Smalley was elected in 1892 as one of the Missoula County representatives to the Montana State Legislature. He was Chairman of the Committee on Towns, Counties, and Highways in the State Legislature when he introduced a bill to establish the County of Bitter Root on January 11, 1893. The bill received its first two readings on January 13, 1893, and was ordered printed, according to the House Journal of the third Legislative Assembly of Montana. However, after passing through many sets of official hands and being read for a third time. Judge T. D. Fitzgerald of Anaconda moved that the name be changed to Ravalli in honor of Father Antonio Ravalli, one of the original priests stationed at St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville who did much for the people in the Bitterroot Valley. The amended bill was passed unanimously the next day. "The legislators rendered a graceful tribute to a worthy man when, on motion of Judge Fitzgerald, they changed the name of the new Bitter Root County to Ravalli" stated the Anaconda Standard on February 7, 1893.  The path to the division of Missoula County had not been without potholes. First there was the matter of the boundary. According to published accounts in the Western News, there was a "little mistake" in the original bill by which about 18 miles of the Northern Pacific Railroad near Bonita were erroneously included within the proposed new county. Evidentially, members of the Missoula legislative delegation discovered the blunder and had an amendment written, not only reclaiming the strip in question, but lopping five or six miles off the north end of the new county!


            Although the significance of the boundary change was called to the attention of valley

Representatives G. W. Ward and E. C. Smalley, Bitterrooters felt the change was rammed through by Missoula interests before opposition could be mounted. "There is every probability that in the near future a railroad will go through the Lolo Pass, and this latest action will deprive Ravalli County of the taxes on many miles of the roadbed," the Western News reported.  "It is said that the Missoula schemers, when the first error was noticed, saw an opportunity to benefit themselves in the future, at our expense, and that the amended bill was framed by one of their smart lawyers with this object in view, and assisted by a select body of Missoula rustlers, was hastened through the Senate before its real significance became known here... Missoula took an underhanded advantage of the situation and the late hour, to rob us of our just rights. Let our people remember this," the newspaper said.


            Stevensville was named as the provisional seat of the new county, a proposition which was to be reviewed in two years. The Western News published then in Stevensville, sounded confident that the town would grow and become the permanent county seat. Stevites were less than thrilled when Hamilton received the coveted designation as county seat. While no concrete evidence was ever introduced, rumor had it that some of the county records were "lost" in the transfer from Stevensville to Hamilton.


                                    Taken from, Bitter Root Trails, Volume III

                        With permission from, Bitter Root Valley Historical society