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Named for David Thompson, a British explorer and fur trader who founded a North West Company fur trading post called Saleesh House in 1808, Thompson Falls is situated near a natural waterfall on the Clark Fork River. The Thompson Falls Dam, built in 1915, was constructed on top of the original falls. The Saleesh House was used sporadically until the 1820s, mostly by employees of the North West Company. Nothing exists of the Saleesh House today, and settlement of the area was sparse until the railroad was extended through the area in 1881. Even then, an account of the city’s founding suggests that, because its early residents felt neglected by the railroad, they piled logs across the tracks, forcing the train to stop. Townspeople then boarded the train and persuaded passengers to settle in Thompson Falls. Not long afterward, gold was discovered and the Couer D’Alene mines were established, and the town grew to accommodate the men traveling the Murray Trail to the mines. In 1885, John Russell platted the townsite. Thompson Falls is the county seat of Sanders County, Montana. Thompson Falls is southeast of Trout Creek and northwest of Plains, and is surrounded by national forests and the Flathead Indian Reservation.


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