The Ekalaka Eagle - Your Community Builder




March 16, 2018

Figure 1. 1915 Survey Plat for Belltower Townsite in Township 2S, Range 59E, Section 25.

by Sherry Farwell, Ned Summers & Marguerite Goeders Rozelle


The early settlers of Sykes-Belltower were able to use their imaginations because during the early 1900's, the Northern Great Plains was just being developed and there were few if any established boundary conditions regarding what was possible. In the minds of these early dreamers, their community had the opportunity to become one of central significance to the region, the state, and the nation. They imagined Sykes-Belltower as a major stop & shipping location for a new east-to-west railroad, as a central hub for a new regional telephone system, as a key business enterprise zone, and as a logical place for the seat of the possible new county being discussed as an independent entity after the pending division of Fallon County. In anticipation of this latter objective, some dedicated Sykes-Belltower "movers & shakers" convinced State and Federal authorities to survey an official 24-block townsite on the southeast quarter of Section 25, Township 2 South, Range 59. This location is on the east side of Box Elder Creek near the Felix Carroll place. According to the Ekalaka Eagle, the platting of this new townsite was completed in mid-October of 1915 under the supervision of U.S. government surveyor, Francis W. DuBois. Next, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior directed that a public sale of lots from this new townsite would begin on September 29, 1917. The Range Gazette reported on October 4, 1917 that the lot sale in the new town of Belltower drew quite the crowd of investors, that about ninety lots were sold at prices from $5 to $40/each, and that several "Ekalakans" were among the buyers. Figure 1 shows the official 80-acre plat for the government townsite of Belltower. As written in the initial January 1917 legislative bill by State Senator John Oliver, the new entity from the division of Fallon County would be called Sykes County. However, the Montana legislature subsequently decided to honor former Senator Thomas Carter and therefore changed the name to Carter County before sending the modified bill to Governor Stewart for his signature on February 22, 1917. Whereas Ekalaka hoped to become the automatic seat of Carter County, some area citizens believed that a more central location would be preferable. Boosters from the communities of Albion, Ridgeway and Sykes-Belltower then organized an election to select the top candidate for the centralized seat of Carter County. The July 18, 1918 Range Gazette reported "At the Albion meeting on Friday of last week, the town of Belltower won a decisive victory as a result of the vote for a county seat candidate." Despite this round one success, Belltower did not prevail during the next political round when its opponent was the more populated Ekalaka, which was already the temporary County Seat. Although disappointed, the Sykes-Belltower supporters found contentment in the popular baseball adage of "Some we will win and some we will lose."

... to be continued


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