No hotel in Montana is more centrally located to everything in the state – and we do mean everything – than is the Yogo Inn in Lewistown.
A few steps from the hotel’s indoor pool is the exact geographic center of Montana, giving Lewistown rightful claim to its “heart of Montana” slogan.
The hotel is named for the Yogo sapphires found only in nearby Yogo Gulch in the Little Belt Mountains. Early prospectors walked on the “blue pebbles” to get to the gold that had been discovered in Yogo Creek, and it wasn’t until 1895 that anyone realized they were stepping on precious gemstones.
That’s when a local rancher, Jake Hoover, scooped some of the blue stones into a cigar box and sent them to an assay office, which forwarded the never-before evaluated stones to Tiffany’s in New York.
An appraiser there, one of the country’s leading gemologists, decided they were “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States.”
Two First Ladies, Florence Harding and Bess Truman, owned jewelry containing Yogo sapphires, and the Smithsonian Institution’s gem collection includes several.
But oft-made claims that Yogo sapphires are also found in the crown jewels of England or Princess Diana’s engagement ring are said to be, at best, suspect.
With that, we launch our look at Montana’s “L” towns in our A-to-Z series.
First up, LaHood Park, which – ever since a 2001 fire destroyed the historic hotel there – primarily consists of the LaHood Park Steakhouse. LaHood Park, just four miles from the Lewis and Clark Caverns, was established by Shadan LaHood, a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in America in 1899 and came to Montana in 1902. According to the bar-and-restaurant website, you can get your hands on a big-ol’ 20-ounce rib eye for $35.95, or the entire steakhouse, which is for sale, for $425,000.
Once a sleepy lakeside community, Lakeside – on the northwest shore of Flathead Lake – seems to have woken up. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the population grew by 60 percent, from 1,679 to 2,669. It’s become a year-round destination. Flathead Lake makes it so in the summer, and Montana’s newest ski resort – Blacktail Mountain, opened in 1998 – now covers the winter.
Unless you have reason to take the gravel road that runs between Monida and pavement in Idaho that connects to West Yellowstone, you’ll probably never see Lakeview. Rest assured the tiny town is in fantastic and remote country in the Centennial Mountains, and the equally remote Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is the only place outside Alaska you’ll find a dwindling species of fish known as the Arctic grayling.
If birds are your thing, Lambert, 23 miles west of Sidney, has the Fox Lake Wildlife Management Area, a “lake and marsh in the arid prairie” that is “a haven for migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall.” We also direct you, at your own peril, to a two-part YouTube video documenting the town’s 2009 Fourth of July parade, which appears to have more participants than spectators and an overabundance of horses and dogs, as well as several random pickups in the lineup.
There’s an interesting, if hopelessly confused, story about the once rip-roaring town of Landusky, just south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
The town’s namesake, “Pike” Landusky, was reportedly as mean and ornery as a man can come, and none too handsome, either – not after an Indian shot off Landusky’s jaw in a dispute, leaving him horribly disfigured.
Landusky, who owned the Landusky Saloon, apparently feuded with lots of folks in Landusky, including the one-legged man who owned a competing saloon across the street. But Landusky may have had a generous side as well. Over a couple of days of a Christmas in the mid 1890s, he threw a wild two- to three-day party for everyone in and around town.
According to the Montana Pioneer, a barrel of bourbon was consumed just planning the details, and Landusky imported four quarts of Baltimore select oysters for the doings. However, Landusky’s one-time friend-turned-foe, “The Kid” Curry, showed up in the middle of it.
“The Kid” was part of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch, and he and Landusky were feuding over either (A) another Curry boy’s courtship of Landusky’s daughter, (B) a dispute over the altering of a cattle brand, (C) a plow the Currys had borrowed and returned badly broken or (D) a woman.
Anyway, on the morning of Dec. 26, or maybe it was the 27th, in 1894 or ’95 or ’96, depending on what version of the story you’re reading, “The Kid” walked into the saloon of Landusky’s one-legged competitor, saw Landusky standing at the bar, and slapped him on the shoulder.
When Landusky turned, “his jaw received a load of knuckles. Onlookers ordered the patrons of the saloon at gunpoint not to interfere. The Kid’s blow knocked Landusky to the floor, and the Kid beat him relentlessly to a bloody pulp. When he was certain Landusky was finished he got up, only to see Pike rise and draw his gun.”
But the gun jammed. Curry unholstered his firearm and shot Landusky dead.
The tribal government for the 444,000-acre Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana is headquartered in Lame Deer. Try finding information on the Internet about Laredo, south of Havre, and you’ll only learn that Uniroyal makes a tire called the Laredo M/T.
Larsian, midway between Fort Peck Reservoir and the Canadian border, was home to Mennonite and Scandanavian families, but drought, dust storms and the Great Depression drove many away. The town’s store often stayed open till midnight “due to the many lonely bachelors and homestead families who enjoyed visiting there.”
When you approach Laurel from the west on Interstate 90 at night, you’d swear you were driving into a major metropolitan city. Not until you’re almost on top of it do you realize what seems like lit-up skyline of skyscrapers from a distance are lights on Laurel’s CHS refinery, one of the town’s largest employers.
Midway between Twin Bridges and Ennis you’ll find little Laurin. Once called Cicero, the name changed after an illiterate but shrewd businessman named Jean Baptiste Laurin arrived and eventually was said to own every store, bridge, ranch, horse, cow and mule in a 100-mile stretch of Alder Gulch. Laurin, born into a French-Canadian family of 13 children, stood 5-foot-7 and weighed 350 pounds. He and his wife had no children of their own, but raised 14 who wound up in their care over the years.
You won’t spend long researching Lavina before you come across photos of its historic Adams Hotel. Sadly, you won’t get much farther before discovering that the man with all the cats who was trying to restore it, Raymond Barry, died on Jan. 28, 2015. On “The Adams Hotel Restoration Project” Facebook page you’ll find delightful posts from Barry (“The seven cats and I are hunkered down in the kitchen and bedroom” amid “our second bout of minus-20-degree temps in our drafty old”) building. Alas, the last two posts are from a cousin of Barry’s informing the page’s 92 followers of Barry’s death.
Has any Montana community had more names than Ledger? Before it was that, it was also Esper, Sterrenberg, and Ledgerwood – and to top it off, the town’s railroad depot sign said passengers were arriving in a place called Price.
Leiterville, east of Twin Bridges, was a mining town in the late 1800s. The first Lutheran church service ever held in Montana was on Jan. 10, 1891 in Lennep, east of White Sulphur Springs. Limestone is a ghost town west of Absarokee.
For years, the news out of Libby has mostly been bad. Hundreds of people there died, and thousands more were sickened, because of asbestos contained in vermiculite that was once mined there. But the town of 2,600 is also in a beautiful corner of Montana that has drawn filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg (for "Always"), stars like Meryl Streep ("The River Wild") and, most recently, Academy Award-winner Alejandro G. Inarritu ("The Revenant").
For a quarter of a century, a recluse kept to himself in a small cabin in the woods outside Lincoln. On April 3, 1996, the small town midway between Missoula and Great Falls was caught in the world's spotlight as federal agents swooped in and arrested the recluse, Ted Kaczynski, also known as “the Unabomber.”
An old log post office appears to be all that’s left of Lingshire, northeast of Helena. Lippard was, and Loma is, a small town northeast of Fort Benton on the Missouri River. Loma once recorded a 103-degree temperature swing in 24 hours, going from 54-below-zero to 49-above, on Jan. 15, 1972.
There’s no town left, but a great view remains of the Big Snowy Mountains, at Living Springs northeast of Harlowton. Lloyd, south of Chinook in the Bear Paw Mountains, “may have no particular claim to fame,” says the town’s website – but by golly, it has a website. You can locate Locate east of Miles City on the Powder River; there are reportedly three structures in the town.
His name was Elvis Old Bull, and he was a rock star in Montana basketball circles in the late 1980s. Old Bull led the Lodge Grass Indians to three state Class B championships. He was named one of the 50 greatest Montana athletes ever by Sports Illustrated – and the only one whose athletic career didn’t go beyond high school. His hometown, by the way, should have been known as Greasy Grass, which is what Indians called the local creek, but an interpreter mistook the Crow word for “greasy” as the one for “lodge.”
Lodge Pole is on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and shares its school with nearby Hays. Logan was a railroad town east of Three Forks. Logging Creek is a creek, was a town and now is a national forest campground south of Sluice Boxes State Park. Lohman is midway between Havre and Chinook.
There are more guesses as to how Lolo, south of Missoula, got its name than there are letters in it. The town shares the name with a national forest, mountain peak, mountain pass, creek and historic trail, not to mention Lolo Hot Springs 30 miles west.
Lombard was a railroad town on the Missouri River between Three Forks and Townsend, and we do mean railroad town: There was a time there were no roads to it, just tracks. Today trains travel by an abandoned railroad bridge that once spanned the Missouri. Otherwise, there is no sign that a town once stood there.
Lonepine is a ranching community north of Hot Springs. According to the Washington Post – really – there are approximately five vehicles for every person living in Loring, just south of Saskatchewan, “but if you count the vehicles that actually run, it’s about even.”
Located on the Montana Hi Line, Lothair lost its post office in 2005 but, in a small victory, kept its ZIP code, at least for a while. George Theodore Boileau was born in Lothrop, near Alberton, a year before the town’s post office closed in 1913, and became a bishop in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Lozeau is between Superior and Alberton. Up in the northeast corner of the state, the social event of the year in Lustre is the Schmeckfest, where they serve up German food to support the Lustre Christian School. And there’s a chance you could own the entire town of Luther, near Red Lodge. Its owner, Dan Scilley, had it up for sale in 2014.