The pleasantness of the mild micro-climate in the Tobacco Valley has been recognized since Native Americans planted and grew a native strain of tobacco in this valley. David Thompson, early fur trader and explorer arrived in this area in the early 1800’s looking for a pathway and water route to the Pacific Ocean. Thompson and his party were dependent upon the natives for knowledge of native plants, medicinal plants, and hunting methods of local wildlife to survive. Upon finding the Indians growing this strain of tobacco, the explorer named it the Tobacco Plains and the name has stuck to this valley ever since. Thompson’s trading post originally located at the confluence of the Fisher and Kootenai Rivers had been moved up near the Tobacco Plains closer to British Territory later around 1811.
History and Heritage are valued in Kootenai Country Montana, and in 1971 the Tobacco Valley Board of History, a non-profit all volunteer organization was established to organize and preserve local history. It’s mission being “to encourage and act on publication of historical works, restore and preserve buildings, artifacts and monuments, and to retain living links with past culture and heritage through established programs.” And they have done a great job!
At the Tobacco Valley Historic Village, buildings include the old Rexford Railroad Depot, relocated during the construction of the Libby Dam on the Kootenai River. Also log cabins with furnishings and artifacts, a 100-foot high fire tower, and the old Rexford Catholic Church named Our Lady of Perpetual Mercy. In addition, one can view and explore the original Fewkes General Store, which now serves as a museum and contains extensively cataloged archives of photo’s and documents. The depot also houses the logging museum. There are ten buildings with contents in all, and the reconstruction and maintenance is paid for by private donations and contributions from Lincoln County electric Co-Operative.
The grounds are well maintained and available for both private and public events. The Historic Village is also a source of Visitor Information. The grounds are open all year, but the buildings are open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The beautifully kept grounds are adjacent to two trails. The Eureka Riverwalk Trail and the Eureka Kootenai Rails to Trails.
The village also features a native plant collection and display. This exhibit is designed to teach the curious about the plants themselves and the extreme necessity for Native Americans and early fur traders/explorers and early settlers to know all they could about native plants, medicinal plants, local wild animals, harvest, processing and preserving for food, shelter, and living needs.
The Tobacco Valley Board of History conducts fund raising efforts such as rummage, bake, and book sales as well as their Christmas Bazaar. All and any forms of help are appreciated. The Tobacco Valley Quilters quilt in the schoolhouse building on Friday nights from spring to fall and specialize in homemade, hand quilted quilts. If you are coming into Eureka from the south on Highway 93, the historic village is located just off the highway at 4 Dewey Avenue, Eureka, MT. 59917. Phone number is (406) 297-7654. It is right across from Riverside Park. For more information write the Tobacco Valley Board of History, P.O. Box 1452, Eureka, MT. 59917. You can also call the director Linda Young at (406) 889-3492 or Secretary Joan Shirley at (406) 882-4688.
The history of the Tobacco Valley is rich and interesting, from the Native Americans to the David Thompson Explorations to the early loggers and miners, to the steamship traffic and log barges. Come in to the beautiful Tobacco Valley in rugged Kootenai Country Montana and get a feel for this proud history and heritage by visiting the Tobacco Valley Historical Village.