An interesting historical area located along the Missouri River in central Montana (in what is now Fergus County) was the unique flats where Fort Carroll and Rocky Point developed.
Rocky Point was a crossing on the Missouri River, was just below the mouth of Rock Creek. There was a shale reef at this point which provided a solid bottom and a low-water ford. The flat area on the south side of the Missouri river became one of the many woodchopper camps along the river, while Fort Carroll was a trading post was built about 5 miles from Rocky Point in 1873 by Matt Carroll and his associates of the old Diamond R cattle company. Fort Carroll served as a trading post to the Metis and local ranchers who were settling the region, and for a time it was a busy stop for overland travel and for the river trade too.
Freight would often unload from steamboats at the post and would travel on long, Metis ox cart trains, often moving goods three hundred and fifty miles to the miners in the Rocky Mountains. The ox cart trains would wind their way across the bad lands of northern Fergus country into the good grass country, the Judith Basin, passing Camp Lewis (now known as Lewistown) on out through Judith Gap and up the Musselshell valley, then on into Helena.
Every type of the westerner of that day might be seen at the trading post: Cowboys, cattle rustlers, half-breed hunters, miners, gamblers, and adventurers of every class. It was a busy place, with the arrival of the big bull outfits from Helena and the loading of freight from the boats to the endless line of wagons that made up the outfits. Every kind of business prospered, too; the saloon and the gambling joints doing more than all of the others combined. The post was the supply point for a vast territory as it was the head of navigation it was the same busy place, for the steamboats could come up the river late in the fall and the freight outfits could haul their cargoes as long as the boats could deliver them.
In 1875, the obstructions in the river channel had been cleared so that the boats could go up river as far as Fort Benton, and Fort Carroll died as quickly as it came into existence. The buildings were deserted; the population moved away.
Even after the demise of Fort Carroll, Rocky Point thrives for a few more years. In 1880, C.A. Broadwater, Helena merchant and entrepreneur, moved to Rocky Point and erected a building. He named the settlement Wilder after his business partner Amherst Wilder. He requested military aid and a detachment of 19 men was sent to this post probably from Fort Maginnis.
In 1885, Rocky Point consisted of one store, one hotel, one feed stable, two saloons, a blacksmith shop and the ferry run by Jimmy Taylor. The store was run by R.A. Richie and a warehouse 40 ft. x 90 ft. was run by M.F. Marsh who also ran his bar and hotel.
Rocky Point was recognized as a meeting point for many thieves and scoundrels. In 1884, local newspapers mention a series of horse-related crimes that resulted in the lynching two half-breeds. One of the horse thieves was a Scotch-Metis named McKenzie, who was accused of stealing a little blue mare from a prospector. Apparently McKenzie befriended the prospector, who was working the south side of the Missouri River. The prospector reported that as he was getting his supper, a stranger walked up saying his horse had run off. The prospector gave him supper and invited him to spend the night. In the morning the stranger was gone along with the little blue mare. The prospector walked ten miles to Rocky Point where he informed the authorities to be on the lookout for the thief and the horse.
group of cowboys and ranchers began scouring the country. One rider topped a ridge and spotted McKenzie with the blue mare and another horse. The rider captured him and took him to Rocky Point. McKenzie was given supper the evening before he was to be hanged. While eating his supper, he saw a fiddle hanging on the wall so he asked if he could play it. The fiddle was taken down and McKenzie started to play. He entertained everyone that evening with his beautiful playing.
The next day McKenzie was taken to Fort Maginnis where he was hanged.
On the next morning one of the local ranchers was riding in his wagon with his girl. He asked if she would like to see a man who had been hanged and she said "yes" thinking he was joking. As they topped a rise they saw a grove of cottonwood trees and something among hanging them. The woman expressed sadness for the poor man, and the rancher finally said, "He did play his fiddle right well, didn't he?"
See more: Forgotten towns of Fergus. By Johnny Ritch, FROM THE DEMOCRAT NEWS (July 4, 1957 newspaper reprinted) Dec. 17, 1912
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities