Willow Creek was named for the creek on which it is located, and the creek was named for the many willows along its banks. The first pioneers arrived in the area in 1864, among them the Green, Tinsley, Williams, Smart, and Hale families. The Reverend Lerner Statler, a Methodist minister, and his wife arrived the same year. Each of them had driven a covered wagon and the Statlers joined up with a Jim Bridger caravan for protection against the Indians. A small frame church was built in Willow Creek and Mr. Statler served the area from there to Virginia City, averaging 200 miles a week for the thirty years he was there. When he was off preaching, Mrs. Statler milked six cows and made butter to sell.
When the Northern Pacific Railroad came through the valley about 1882, the community was moved to its present location. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company)
The creek itself was named "Philosopher's River" by Captain William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Willow Creek is near Three Forks, named for the point at which the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers merge to form the 2,300-mile Missouri River. It is also close to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park and Madison Buffalo Jump.
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