By Amy Pearson
The charming community of Choteau, Montana has somehow managed to stay relatively quiet. With incredible access to public land for hiking or hunting along the Rocky Mountain Front, the nearby snow geese migration at Freezeout Lake, Teton Pass Ski Resort, Choteau Country Club complete with a golf course, professional outfitters who take guests into the backcountry, a fine selection of shops, restaurants, and bars, and the Old Trail Museum highlighting dinosaur fossils and the area’s early history, one could surmise that Choteau really has it all.
Choteau started as a trading post in 1873 and was named after the French Canadian fur trader Pierre Chouteau, Jr. who worked in the area during the late 1800s. Early businessman A. B. Hamilton built the trading post along the Teton River trading mostly with the Blackfeet. In 1883, Hamilton and Isaac Hazlett plotted a townsite with a general store and soon shops, saloons and hotels started popping up.
In addition to some of the prominent people and businesses you’ll read about in the following pages, Choteau has been noticed for being close to late night talk show host David Letterman’s ranch, and as a residence for writer A. B. Guthrie who called the town his “point of outlook on the universe.”
One of the most beautiful buildings in perhaps all of North Central Montana stands in the center of Main Ave on the south side of town. The two-and-a-half story Teton County Courthouse was built by Great Falls architects Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley in 1906 out of sandstone taken from Rattlesnake Butte south of town. Their intention was to design the building in an Italian Renaissance Revival style; it contains a bell tower, an arched entrance, grand staircases, and a large interior brick chimney. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Choteau is a small town with a big heart, kind people, and amazing views. If you haven’t been there yet, or even if you have been, it is a Montana destination well worth a visit.