Sun River Crossing

MT 200, MP 138, Sun River

When John Mullan built a wagon road from western Montana in 1860, he utilized a ford across the Sun River just a few yards west of here that had been used by the Indians for generations.   Johnny Healy established a trading post on the north side of the ford in 1867 to trade with his Blackfeet neighbors and travelers on the Benton Road.  He also operated a ferry for those who didn’t want to cross the river during high water.  After the gold strikes in southwestern Montana, traffic between the mining camps and FortBenton made the Sun River Crossing an important place.  Healy and John Largent built a toll bridge at the crossing in 1867.  Largent ran a hotel, store, and blacksmith shop on the south side of the river.  A settlement quickly grew up near the bridge and prospered because of the  road.  During the 1870s, Sun River Crossing boasted hotels, general merchandise stores, saloons, and a brewery operated by Bill Weigand.  Several livery stables were also located in the settlement.  Sun River Crossing was an important rendezvous place for cowboys, bullwhackers, muleskinners, trappers, and Indians as well as an important stopping place for thousands of others who traveled on the Benton Road.  Although the completion of the Montana Central Railroad in 1887 made travel easier between Fort Benton and Helena, it did not, at first, diminish the importance of Sun River Crossing and it continued to thrive until after 1900.  Today, the community and the bridge (in its fourth incarnation) attest to the strategic importance of this place and its significance to Montana history.   

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