April 21st, 2020

Manhattan Montana

Manhattan Montana

City of Manhattan, Montana History

In 1865, what is now Manhattan, Montana was first named “Hamilton, Montana,” established as a rural center for the local community. Then, in 1883, Hamilton was renamed “Moreland” for the Moreland Irrigation Canal.

About this time, while scouting for just the right Manhattan Montana real estate on which to grow malting barley used in Montana beer making, Henry Altenbrand and several NY businessmen decided in 1890 that the land around Moreland, Montana, 20 miles northwest of Bozeman, would suffice and Moreland was renamed “Manhattan” in that year.

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Circa 1910, Manhattan, MT grain elevator and loaded wagons - Montana Memory Project
Manhattan grain elevator and loaded wagons – Montana Memory Project, Circa 1910

Near the headwaters of the Missouri River, “Manhattan” (latitude 45.86 N, longitude 111.33 W, elevation, 4,243 feet), became the center of operations for Altenbrand and company. 

These early Montana beer-drinking businessmen created the Manhattan Malting Company, composed of 13,000 acres of Gallatin Valley Montana land dedicated to barley crops for Montana’s beer production. Also, they then invested money to create the West Gallatin Irrigation Company, which purchased 28,000 Northern Pacific grant lands.

Montana, Top US Barley Producer

The town of Manhattan, 10 miles west of Belgrade, MT and 12 miles east of Three Forks, MT, was platted with the malting industry in mind for beer production and included grain elevators and a malting house.

Though some malt stayed in Montana for local brewers, most of Manhattan’s malt was sent to the United States’ east coast by train.

Manhattan Montana’s barley and irrigation operation’s labor mostly came from the Netherlands, and by 1893 a sufficient supply of Dutch had settled in the region to sustain this new, water intensive industry.

Manhattan Montana Map Aerial Photo
Aerial Map of Manhattan Montana

The labor for the barley and irrigation operations mostly came from the Netherlands and by 1893 a sufficient supply of Dutch had settled in this region of southwest Montana to sustain this new, water intensive industry.

With the creation of a Montana railroad spur and an overflow of Dutch settlers in Manhattan, Montana, the town of Amsterdam, Montana, also mostly composed of Dutch settlers, formed in 1911 with many Montana homes built on the rolling hills a few miles to the south.

To this day, Amsterdam, MT has never been incorporated and, thus, still receives its mail via the Manhattan, Montana zip code 59741, as does Churchill, MT. In 1950 seed potato farming began and in the ensuing years it has grown to be recognized as one of Manhattan’s major agricultural products.

Local seed farmers sell their potatoes locally and nationally, making Manhattan, Amsterdam, and Churchill, Montana the potato capital of Montana. Each year the city holds the Manhattan Montana Potato Festival in mid-August. Today, potatoes, dairy, wheat, and beef are the surrounding area’s main agricultural products.


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