Lake County Centennial
LAKE COUNTY HISTORY PART I
The first entry into the minutes of the Lake County Commissioners Office on August 10, 1923, includes the following statement: “This is the day on which Lake County begins to function.”
The opening of the new County, comprised of 500 square miles from the north end of Missoula County and 1,200 square miles from the south end of Flathead County, was the culmination of a process begun in 1911 in the State Legislature by a group of Polson residents. Despite strong opposition from groups like the “Flathead Anti-County Committee,” Commissioners from Flathead and Missoula County agreed to move ahead with the possible creation of the new county by holding an election in April of 1923 that would allow the voters within the boundaries of the proposed county decide. That same election would also allow voters to choose between Ronan and Polson as the new county seat. There was strong sentiment in favor of a new county and voters gave approval by about 2,000 votes. In contrast, the competition for the county seat was fierce. Polson argued that it was the most populous, most scenic, and the business hub of the Mission Valley. Ronan countered with the slogan, “It’s the Land, not the Water,” and made the argument that as the agricultural center of the area, it should be the county seat. Polson’s argument proved to be the most convincing and electors gave the city 2,756 votes while Ronan was selected on 1,451 ballots, establishing Polson as the headquarters of the newly formed county.
Commissioner meetings began in May with Commissioners elect G.T. Farrell, Arthur Schmidt, and hold-over Commissioner from Flathead County, C.W. Weythman attending. Uppermost on the Commissioners’ agenda, prior to the official opening for business, were the leasing of buildings for County offices, purchasing furniture, equipment, and supplies for the offices. One major issue that needed to be negotiated by the new Commission was the amount owed to Flathead and Missoula counties for assets they still owned in Lake County. Following days of negotiations, payments in the amount of $71,387 to Flathead County and $16,446 to Missoula County were agreed upon in July and the stage was set for Lake County to begin operations.
This summer, the County is preparing a 100 years celebration with a variety of events culminating on Saturday, August 19 at the Courthouse in Polson. Voluntary committees made up of County employees have been formed and preliminary planning is underway. Some of the activities planned include a parade, food court, vendors, music, production of a video highlighting the county’s history, and a Courthouse display to include photos from various parts of the County. Other events and activities will be added as plans progress.
Residents are encouraged to mark the date on their calendars and help the County celebrate its first 100 years.