Water is the life blood of Montana. During the state's early settlement, the rivers provided transportation and trading routes; later they sustained the livestock and crops of ranchers and homesteaders; and they still provide Montana's base for agriculture, industry, and tourism. The Milk River that parallels Highway 2 from Glasgow to Hinsdale is one of the most important rivers in the north central part of the state.
One of the earliest Milk River users was Augustin Armel (AKA Hamel) who arrived about 1820. He worked at all the major American Fur Co. posts on the Missouri River until the 1850s. In 1855, he opened Hammell's House, the first trading post on the Milk River, located about 7 miles southwest of here (near Vandalia). Tom Campbell's House followed, built near the same site in 1870. Neither lasted very long, and no physical remains of them have been found.
Later comers to this region raised mostly cattle, sheep, and wheat. They needed water on more of the land than was blessed with it and today you can see the irrigation system along Highway 2. The Lower Milk River Valley Water Users Association promoted the construction of the Vandalia Dam and Canal in the early 1900s. Area rancher, H. H. Nelson, interested in attracting settlers, became involved in irrigation after establishing Vandalia in 1904. Nelson was director
and superintendent for construction of the dam at Vandalia and the canal that runs from there east to Nashua. The dam was completed in 1917. Nelson's hopes for a sizable settlement at Vandalia never materialized.