Latitude / Longitude:
4,557 ft (1,389 m)
Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
Bearcreek is an incorporated town in Carbon County, Montana, United States. It is part of the Billings, Montana Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 79 at the 2010 census. Bearcreek uses the Mayor/Council form of government.
The town of Bearcreek was named for Bear Creek, which runs through the middle of town. Bearcreek came into existence due to coal mines and grew rapidly following the building of a short line railroad connecting the Bearcreek mines to the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1906. Between 1906 and 1953, the mines at Bearcreek produced large volumes of coal, which was a higher grade than other regional sources, from the extensive underground coal mining deposits. The mines were located along the creek and also in the surrounding coulees. The development of the coal mines after 1906 drew miners to the area. They came from other parts of America, and from Serbia, Montenegro, Germany, Scotland and Italy. The recent immigrants built separate ethnic-based communities in the steep coulees that run down into Bearcreek, with names like Washoe, New Caledonia, Chickentown, Scotch Coulee, International, and Stringtown. At one time in the 1920s and 1930s the population of Bearcreek combined with the other surrounding small communities was close to 3,000 persons.
Today, the many surrounding communities that made up Bearceek are almost completely gone, with only a few houses marking Washoe, currently the largest of them. In the last decades there is some growth of the tiny remaining community of Bearcreek thanks to its proximity to Red Lodge which has developed an economy to serve tourists who come to ski, or to use summer cabins, or to pass through to Yellowstone Park.
Bearcreek owes its existence to area coal mining that began in the 1890s to supply coal for the Northern Pacific Railway and the Anaconda Company. The Bearcreek Post Office was established on November 22, 1905 with Sarah Criger as the town’s first postmaster. The town was platted and incorporated after the arrival of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern Railroad in 1906.