Downtown Belt, Montana
Castner Park a.k.a. "Big Park"
Belt High School
Belt Football Field
Belt Creek In June
View From Highway 200
Belt Montana In February
Welcome to the Belt, Montana Town Picture Tour
The town of Belt, Montana was founded on coal in the late 19th Century. During your visit to Belt, you will see the name “Castner” pop up all over town. John Castner ran a freighting operation on the Mullan Road hauling supplies from Fort Benton to Helena, Montana by horse team. Castner diversified his business by staking coal claims around Belt in 1877, opening a hotel in town and was a partner in a local grocery. Initially coal mining was carried out by small, individually owned companies to provide fuel the town of Fort Benton to the north.
In 1895, Castner’s fortunes and Belt’s population changed dramatically when the Anaconda Copper Mining Company purchased most of the mining claims in order to provide coke for it’s smelters in Great Falls and Anaconda. Large scale mining employed about 1,000 workers, largely immigrant miners such as the Finns, Slavs, Italians and Irish. By the end of the year, the town’s population soared to over 3,000 citizens. ACM erected a total of eleven “beehive” coke ovens on the south end of Belt. In addition, ACM built coal crushers and washers to process the ore. Coke was shipped out at a rate of 2,500 tons per day.
The Coal boom came to an abrupt halt in 1899 when alternative sources of coke became readily available elsewhere. In addition, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was purchased by the Amalgamated Copper Company (owned by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company). Belt’s population fell to just under 1,00 by 1921. The drought of the late 1910’s and early 1920’s reduced the town’s population further. By the 1930’s the population stabilized to where it is today at about 650.