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Libby, Montana is the seat of government for Lincoln County, in northeastern Montana. The first non-indigenous person known to visit the area was David Thompson, a Canadian explorer and employee of the Northwest Company, who came there in the early 1800s, traveling the Kootenai River and using Indian and game trails. Other trappers and traders came to the area in search of beaver as early as 1809, setting up trading posts that were generally temporary structures that were frequently moved. A warehouse was built above Kootenai Falls in the winter of 1808-09 by Finan McDonald, probably at Rainy Creek. Beginning in the 1860s, prospectors came into the area seeking gold and silver, giving names to several area creeks, including Fisher River, Libby Creek, and Sherry Creek, the latter of which was later changed to Cherry Creek. In 1867, a group of prospectors began placer mining along Libby Creek, which grew to about six hundred for a time. The first ranches in the area were situated near the mouth of Libby Creek in the late 1880s, and other settlers worked at Libby Placers and built homesteads and mills along Libby and Flower creeks. The city is spread out into two areas because the original speculators didn’t realize that the land they had sold and built on near the confluence of Libby Creek and the Kootenai River had been a section originally given the railroad as a land grant that awarded them uneven numbered sections year earlier. Another homesteader plotted forty acres of his homestead into lots, about one mile south of Libby, and called it South Libby, so those who were unable to get clear title to the land they had purchased in the northern site bought building sites in South Libby. Libby later became an asbestos mining town, producing 80% of the world’s vermiculite, producing Libby amphibole asbestos, chemically different from chrysotile, the more common type.


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