"The best little Fly Shop on the Blackfoot River"

A Very Brief Ovando Town History


Meriweather Lewis was the first white explorer to visit the area of Ovando
on his return trip from the Pacific Coast, minus William Clark, on July 6, 1806, when he camped near Ovando at the confluence of the Big Blackfoot River and a creek, accompanied by nine mounted soldiers, 17 horses, and his Newfoundland dog, Seaman. Lewis named that creek Seaman's Creek after his dog. Today Seaman's Creek is called Monture Creek, named after George Monture, an early day U.S. Army scout. Lewis described this part of the valley as "prairie of the knobs" because of the mounds along the trails, some of which can still be seen today.

The "knobs" that Lewis described were caused by glaciers dumping rocks along the edges and down icy holes and cracks within the glacier. The glaciers that left these knobs began to melt and slowly retreat to the north some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The area came into existence in the 1870's and '80's with the pioneering efforts of the Geary's, McNally's, Jacobsen's, Brunner's, Jakways', Shoup's, Boyd's, Kleinschmidt's, and Ovando Hoyt himself, who the town is named after. Many descendents of these early settlers remain in the area, and the McNally brand "MN" is one of the original brands in the state. Ranching and lumber were the mainstays of the economy.

Ovando Hoyt arrived with a herd of cattle and horses in the early 1880's. He later returned from England with his sister Melinda, who is credited with bringing the first dandelions into the valley. "She thought they were so pretty and made such good greens" it has been quoted. Hoyt was an inventor, rancher, merchant and the town's first postmaster. The community elected Hoyt to write to Washington DC for mail service and a post office. The town was to be called "Sadiesville" but when he signed his name to the request, the postal authorities said it was such an unusual name they thought "Ovando" would be a better title for the new town and post office.

In 1883 the first post office was built and opened by Ovando Hoyt. Mail was brought to the town on snowshoes, horseback, four-horse teams, sleighs, and wagons. At that time over 1,000 people claimed Ovando as their home. In 1884 a schoolhouse was built with the student population increasing from six to 45 students in a short time. Currently the school educates about 35 students.

The Jakways came into the valley in 1892, operated a sheep ranch and opened a merchandising business. Charles Jakways built the first telephone line from Ovando to Drummond by putting the wire on fence posts, trees and stakes. This was called the Blackfoot Telephone Co. The switchboard was at the Jakways' ranch and all ranchers on the local line had to pay ten cents toll to be switched onto the Blackfoot Telephone line for a long distance call or to call Ovando.

Ovando's best known landmark is Trixie's, a diner and bar named after the former trick rider, roper and show girl who bought it in the 1950's. Its earlier history is quite colorful, being situated in the heart of Ovando in 1897 and owned by Henry Dixon and Charlie Young who called it the "Bucket of Blood". From them it passed onto the Barbie's hands and renamed the "Double Diamond". Bud Beard claimed it next in the 1930's calling it the Brand Bar Saloon; where in it's original location currently is the Brand Bar Museum, a testament to the town of Ovando and it's history.

Ovando was a bustling place in the early days being the main distribution center for an area encompassing 75 miles and due to the pending Blackfoot Railroad's arrival. Besides five saloons, it boasted two stores, two blacksmith shops, a drug store, hotel, barbershop and the US Forest Service Headquarters for the Blackfoot Forest, now known as the Lolo National Forest. Guides and Packers flourished and there were many logging camps.

In December 1919, a fire broke out in one of the stores, quickly destroying much of the town. These buildings were never rebuilt, and with the Blackfoot Railroad never being completed to the town, population and businesses dwindled.

Today, the 100+ year old buildings that survived remain the cornerstone of Ovando's main streets and Town Plaza housing the Community Church, Blackfoot Commercial Company [www.blackfootinn.net], providing gas, a market and lodging; The Blackfoot Steamer & Custom Welding Design offering espresso and gifts, and the Blackfoot Angler & Supplies, [www.blackfootangler.com] supplying the needs of fishermen and hunters. With its total of 50 residents, Ovando remains a slow paced, easy going, and friendly place to stay.