Photo courtesy: John Ansotegui
Montana Rail Link
Photo courtesy: MTOT
Laurel, the largest city in Montana that is not a county seat, is truly the 'Hub of Montana'. From here, all roads lead to the exciting, historical and recreational attractions of Montana. To the south of Laurel, you can select one of four outstanding entrances into Yellowstone National Park. Heading east there is Billings, Pompeys Pillar National Monument and the Little Bighorn Battlefield. North of Laurel is where the battle between the Nez Perce Indians led by Chief Joseph and the U.S. Cavalry led by Col. Samuel Sturgis took place.
The Chief Joseph Monument on the outskirts of Laurel rests where the famous Nez Perce passed, leading his people toward Canada in 1877. At the Canyon Creek Battlefield Monument, the Nez Perce Indians fought. Led by Chief Joseph, Looking Glass, Hush-Hush Cute and others, the Nez Perce were nearing the end of their 1,300-mile flight through Oregon, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, and Montana.
Of local historical significance is Riverside Park located south of the Yellowstone River bridge which was the site of a Prisoner of War Camp during World War II. The prisoners built the buildings located in the park.
Laurel is home of the 1,000-mile check point for Montana Rail Link between here and Sandpoint, Idaho. The town is rich with railroad history, having served the Northern Pacific, the Great Northern, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.
One story links the name of the city to a railroad official from North Carolina who was working here at the time, and named it for the Laurel shrub native to his state. Laurel was originally named Carlton, but was changed in 1882. The Crow Indians were the area's inhabitants when Captain William Clark and his party explored the Yellowstone River in 1806. Settlers were recorded in 1879. "In 1906, the Great Western Sugar Company erected a sugar beet-processing plant here. Agriculture has always been important to the local economy, but oil refining is the town's main industry." (Copyright 2009, Montana Historical Society: Montana Place Names from Alzada to Zortman, Montana Historical Society Research Center Staff)
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