The Hill County Park Board had a history review during its monthly meeting Monday, with a fairly detailed look of the recreational use of the land now Beaver Creek Park.
After an audience member at the November board meeting said he wanted to know more about the history of the 10,000-acre county park, board member Robbie Lucke Monday brought in a copy of an article from “Grits, Guts and Gusto: A History of Hill County” that detailed some of its past.
The history was discussed more when Ursula Brese of Friends of Beaver Creek Park said she wants her group to hold a birthday party for Beaver Creek Park next spring, but she wasn’t even sure exactly how old it was — she said she received an email it is 130 years old, but she also was told it is not.
Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said several significant dates stick out.
“Whatever date you want to use for the beginning of the park is, in my mind, up to you,” he told Brese.
The land that includes Beaver Creek Park does have a significant date just more than 130 years ago — the creation of Fort Assinniboine.
The fort, about six miles south of where Havre would be founded, was created in 1879 following the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 and when the flight of the Nez Perce ended with their surrender at Bear Paw Battlefield in 1877 south of where Chinook would be founded. It included a massive military reservation that stretched from the Milk River to the Missouri River.
Edgar and Lucke said the area that is now Beaver Creek Park was used for camping and picnicking by soldiers and civilians at the fort, and by people off the fort including from Havre once it was founded.
Lucke added that people off the fort had to travel to Fort Assinniboine to get a permit to use the area, which led to some people recreating on Clear Creek instead.
The federal government decommissioned Fort Assinniboine in 1911 and turned the land over to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the “Grits, Guts and Gusto” article says.
Havre businessman Lawrence “L.K.” Devlin wanted the land along Beaver Creek kept from settlement and used for recreation, “Grits” says, and staked out claims along the creek. He persuaded other Havre businessmen including Edwin Cooley “E.C.” Carruth, James Holland and Edward Thomas “E.T.” Broadwater to do the same.
In 1916 — another of the significant dates Park Superintendent Edgar pointed out — Congress made Beaver Creek Playground official.
In the same act that created Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and also gave Havre 920 acres for reservoir purposes, Congress also withdrew 8,880 acres of land along Beaver Creek from control of the Interior to be “set aside as a camping ground, the same to be kept and maintained without cost to the Government of the United States.”
According to “Grits,” the people of the area became concerned that the land might not be a permanent recreation area, and, after many years of effort, the Hill County Commission paid $27,760.44 for a patent on 9,253.48 acres in Beaver Creek Park.
In 1952, the county paid $2,670 for the 920 acres patented to Havre for reservoir purposes, and after 1970 bought a small amount of land from private landowners as well as buying right-of-way access for the state-owned Bear Paw Lake.