Our History and Exhibits

In 1909 the Flathead Indian Reservation in NW Montana was opened to Homesteaders by Congress under the Dawes Act with the best land allotted to the Indians and surplus lands to be sold to the Homesteaders. Of the 1.2 million acres comprising the Reservation, 451,000 acres were deemed available for homestead entry with an additional 60,000 acres set aside for townsites, reservoirs, power sites, educational and religious functions and other special purposes. More than 80,000 people registered for lands on the Reservation with 3,000 names drawn in a lottery fashion in Missoula and Kalispell. Of those 3,000 only 403 people selected homesteads and made the required down payment. Subsequent name drawings did not exhaust the supply of homestead lots remaining and so midnight on October 31st the remaining units were thrown open to the public with squatter’s rights prevailing and a land rush ensued.

See firsthand examples of these early Homesteaders efforts to survive, even thrive, in a challenging environment by visiting our charming and educational museum

The Polson-Flathead Historical Museum began through the efforts of J.F. ‘Faye’ McAlear in the early 1970s and is focused on the Native Americans, pioneers, and homesteaders who first inhabited the region as the only museum like it in the area. A few of the many items on exhibit that draw our visitors are:

Click to enlarge

• The Trading Post, originating from the 1880s
• Stagecoaches, a chuckwagon and buggies used as transportation
• A pioneer kitchen from ‘the good old days,’
• ‘The Flathead Monster,’ this 7 ½ ft sturgeon was caught from Flathead Lake in 1955
• Calamity Jane’s saddle from her “Last Ride”
• Fire Fighting equipment and antique working reucks

The Museum is open 10a – 4p Monday-Saturday from 1 June – 30 September every year. We look forward to seeing you soon!

The Museum is seeking Polson High School yearbooks for all years
If you wish to date a yearbook please contact us.

Contributions and Donations

• There are several ways to donate to the museum. We are happy to accept suitable donations of artifacts that have ties to the early Flathead Valley settlement including Native American artifacts (which we consult with the SKF tribe as to appropriate display and descriptions), Pioneer and Homesteader Days. For your donation to be considered please contact us.

• The Museum is always grateful for monetary donations. Please make your check payable to the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum and mail it to the museum at PO Box 206, Polson MT 59860 or pay online option is coming soon.

• Consider the PFHM in your estate. The Museum has been here since 1973 and is a living, growing history of our unique Reservation and homeland.

Can Recycling

Museum Aluminum Beverage Can Recycling

You are invited to participate in our Aluminum Beverage Can Recycle project. Our goal is to supplement our operating budget with revenue earned from your participation in our recycling effort. Our 2016 year to date net revenue from this project is $737 from over-winter can accumulation (October-May) and one trip the recycling center with 1700 pounds of beverage cans. At 24 cans/pound this load translated to over 40,000 cans. The cans were transported (thanks to Wes Delaney) in his 36 foot fifth wheel cattle hauler trailer packed with cans to the trailer ceiling.

Recycling aluminum is a cost effective effort. About 60% of aluminum produced is recovered in the recycling effort. This number can be improved with your participation. Just elect to save your empty beverage cans and drop them off at the Museum. We ask that you do not commingle other aluminum products, such as cat food cans, aluminum foil, aluminum food trays, etc with aluminum beverage cans. The recycler will not accept these items with aluminum beverage cans and this foreign aluminum becomes counterproductive to our effort.

As you see by our kennel accumulation of cans, we anticipate a bountiful can harvest this summer that will translate to a $2500 revenue line item for the Museum. We thank you for your participation and hope that you enjoy your Museum.

We bet you can!

Trading Post

Our Own Trading Post


  • Our Books
    • The Fabulous Flathead
    • Goldenrod Girl: a Kansas Prairie Child and Montana Homesteaders Wife
    • Others by local authors as available
  • Museum Postcards
  • Admission Tickets to the Museum
  • Membership
  • Donations

These Books are currently for sale in the Bookstore.


Our Exhibits

• The Trading Post, originating from the 1880s this was the main store for locals in the valley. It was moved to the Museum in the 1980s and is stocked as it would have been years back
• Stagecoaches, a chuckwagon and buggies used as transportation by those living in or travelling through the valley
Old time fire trucks and passenger automobiles from the early 1900s
• A pioneer kitchen from ‘the good old days,’ a real-life example of how the pioneer family cooked, preserved food and washed clothes with very few labor saving devizes such as we know today
• ‘The Flathead Monster,’ this 7 ½ ft sturgeon was caught from Flathead Lake in 1955, the only sturgeon caught to date despite numerous ‘Monster’ sightings in the lake every year
• Calamity Jane’s Saddle from her last ride after participating in Wild Bill Hickocks’ Wild West Shows. She is buried next to “Wild Bill”.
• Rudolf, the huge Highland Bull that pulled many wagons over the years and many other items donated by generous area residents, many descendants of pioneers that make the museum a living example of early life in the Mission Valley
• Rare photos of the region and the steamboat heydays, and much more