The Dust Bowl Years
For a time the weather cooperated with the homesteaders in eastern Montana. Then, from the late 1910s to the mid-1920s, nature shifted gears. In 1916, Shelby, on the Hi-Line, received more than 15 inches of rain; in 1919, the third year of intense drought, the town received less than seven inches. Drought continued, coupled with high winds and grasshoppers. Range fires ruined crops and destroyed communities. Sixty thousand people had left Montana by 1925, representing 11,000 abandoned farms; 214 state banks failed, and Montana led the nation in bankruptcies. A few years later, disaster struck again. The stock market crash, combined with a second severe drought during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, eliminated many more farmers and ranchers.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition