Slope County History
The town of Marmarth was born with the coming of the Railroad in 1907. On the east side of the Little Missouri River was the Neva Post Office. The original townsite was located here. A rancher owned this site and was not very interested in selling land. So the town site was moved to the west side of the river and by 1908 buildings were being built. Marmarth was named for Margaret Martha Fitch, grand daughter of the president of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.
The town grew fast and in 1909 a form of government was established. A school district had been formed in 1908 and by 1909 schools were built to educated the children of the area. In 1912 the first group graduated from Marmarth High School.
In 1909 one of the prettiest buildings in Marmarth was constructed. It was called the Barber Building. There were businesses on the ground floor and the upper floor was an Opera House. When new it was one of the finest west of Minneapolis, but it burned in 1918. It was rebuilt soon after and is still standing today, although in sad shape.
The town grew fast and by 1911 it was the largest town on the Milwaukee Line in North Dakota. It was the fifth largest town west of the Missouri River.
A theatre was built in 1914 and christened the Mystic Theatre. It is still standing and shows are put on every summer.
When Slope county was born in 1915, there were 1000 people in the town and a more updated form of government was implemented. The first electric plant was built this same year and what a change that must have been.
The Milwaukee Railroad was the heartbeat of Marmarth. In it's hey day there were three trains per day going both east and west. Many of the early homesteaders came through Marmarth to arrive in eastern Montana to their new lives. There was even a roundhouse in Marmarth!
An early problem in traveling to and from Marmarth was the Missouri River which snakes around Marmarth on both sides. The first solution was a ferry, but it failed and floated away. A steel modern bridge was started in 1915 and it was finished in 1916.
Natural gas was brought into the town by 1917 and it was the only town in North Dakota to have natural gas piped in for personal and commercial use.
There was water and sewer by 1918 and it was now a modern town. There were two banks, the post office, two hotels, a jewelry store, a gas station, a meat store, a hospital, a car dealership, a theatre, a laundry, and a hardware store.
Today Marmarth has slowed it's pace a little. It is a quaint and quiet town with beautiful views, interesting people, and tons of history. There are about 50 people living there and there is no longer a high school in existance. There is an excellent restaurant that is a diamond in the rough. There is a gas station and cafe but that is the bulk of the businesses.
The Historical Society has been trying to raise the money to preserve the railroad depots and old buildings but the area is mostly supported by agriculture and there aren't many donations coming in. If you are interested in contacting them, I can provide you with some phone numbers if you would like to help.
I am also trying to find people to help transcribe the Slope Saga, so that it can at least be put out again as a electronic version. If you are interested in helping, please email me. We need about 10-12 volunteers and currently only have three.
MARMARTH HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PIONEER TRAILS MUSEUM