Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Almost Ghost Town–Toston, MT

Toston, MT  High 88  Low 63

All throughout the USA are small towns that have been left behind by the passage of time. Some were bypassed by new highways, some were booming until the gold or silver ran out, others are dying a natural death of kids moving to the big city and the older folks moving to senior living arrangements.

I love exploring these small towns and learning about their history and why they existed in the first place. So I will be sharing some of their stories with you as we travel.

Toston, MT sits on the banks of the Missouri River about 10 miles south of Townsend. The town is named after Thomas Toston, their first postmaster, who also ran a ferry across the river.

The schoolhouse which is now a private residence.




An abandoned church


When gold-rich pyrite ore was discovered in the Elk Horn Mountains near Radersburg (another almost ghost town), a smelting plant was built in Toston which ran from 1883-1899. The Northern Pacific Railroad (which is now the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe) line runs next to Toston. The only thing left of the smelter is this sign next to the post office.


When the ore ran out Toston had a second economic boom during the homesteading era when state officials built a new steel truss bridge over the Missouri River.


The Toston Bridge kept the town alive since its location meant that all traffic between Helena and Bozeman  passed over the bridge and through the middle of town.  In 1955 a new bypass bridge was constructed and Toston began a decline that has slowly drained away most of its population.  At the 2010 census, it had 108 residents and it looks like even fewer today.

My brother-in-law told me about hanging out at the Toston Bar many years ago. The owner had a pig who used to wander through the bar and enjoyed sharing beer with the patrons. He enjoyed a wonderful life until he died of old age. The Toston Bar no longer exists.

The new highway bridge.


Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery passed this way on their westward trek and made nine camps on the short stretch of the Missouri River between the Toston Dam and the south end of Canyon Ferry.

Yorks Islands Landing is a popular place for fishing and floating the river.



There are several small islands in the river which Lewis and Clark named Yorks 9 Islands in honor of Clark’s slave. The journals often mention York who was the first black man to travel to the Pacific Ocean and return to tell the tale.

There are small campgrounds at both Yorks Islands and the Toston Dam Recreation Area sites.

Toston Dam Recreation Area



The water is definitely higher behind the dam.


Lewis and Clark camped here on the Missouri River on July 25, 1805. The rocky cliffs on either side of the river were a landmark that the Indians had described to them when they were in North Dakota.

A train passing by the cliffs on the east side of the river.


We had a lot of fun wandering around Toston and hope to find a few more places like this to share with you.


  1. I like the little towns too. It's amazing the people that crossed country and stayed in these places. Their life sure was rough compared to what we have it. Just think ... no air conditioner!

  2. Interesting; keep those towns coming.

  3. So much fun exploring these small town and learning of the boom of days go by.

  4. I love reading stories about Lewis and Clark. I just can image how they felt when they traveled across this gorgeous country of ours. Beautiful area.

  5. Thanks Sandie, that was fun. We must visit some day. We know a fine tour guide ��

  6. Thanks Sandie, that was fun. We must visit some day. We know a fine tour guide ��

  7. We enjoy those kind of towns-thanks for sharing.

  8. I love these old towns too.

  9. I love little towns like that and found them in my travels across country on U.S. and State routes. It's too bad I didn't stop more often and find out the history, but when driving alone you aren't as likely to stop for things like that. I look forward to hearing about more towns along your way. Love the pig in the bar story, by the way.

  10. Lewis and Clark and a near ghost town, doesn't get any better

  11. Oh guys...I love that pig-in-the-bar story. Just imagining it makes me laugh.

  12. I like learning about the history of these places.

  13. How is Skittlez getting along alone? she looks good in the picture waiting on donuts :) Lovely pics of old houses!!!


Thanks for visiting today. I look forward to reading your comments. Have a beautiful day.