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The Territory of Montana was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 28, 1864, until November 8, 1889, when it was admitted to the Unionmarker as the State of Montana.


The Montana Territory was organized out of the existing Idaho Territory by Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 28, 1864. The areas east of the Continental Divide had been previously part of the Nebraska Territorymarker and Dakota Territory and had been acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

The territory also included a portion of the Idaho Territory west of the continental divide and east of the Bitterroot Rangemarker, which had been acquired by the United States in the Oregon Treaty, and originally included in the Oregon Territorymarker. The part of the Oregon Territory that became part of Montana had been split off as part of the Washington Territory.

The boundary between the Washington Territory and Dakota Territory was the Continental Divide (as shown on the 1861 map), however the boundary between the Idaho Territory and the Montana Territory followed the Bitterroot Rangemarker north of 46°30'N (as shown on the 1864 map). Popular legend says a drunken survey party followed the wrong mountain ridge and mistakenly moved the boundary west into the Bitterroot Range.

Contrary to legend, the boundary is precisely where the United States Congress intended. The Organic Act of the Territory of Montana defines the boundary as extending from the modern intersection of Montanamarker, Idahomarker, and Wyomingmarker at:

The boundaries of the territory did not change during its existence. It was admitted to the Union as the State of Montanamarker on November 8, 1889.

Image:Wpdms washington dakota territories 1861.idx.pngImage:Wpdms idaho territory 1863 idx.pngImage:Wpdms idaho territory 1864 legend idx.pngThe reorganization of the Idaho Territory in 1864, showing the newly-created Montana Territory.

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