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College of Montana

Deer Lodge, Montana




“The Pioneer Work of the Presbyterian Church in Montana” by George Edwards contains a history of the early life of the college up to 1906.  There is also a sketch in the 1907 issue of Our Presbyterian Colleges. Montana newspapers such as the Anaconda Standard contained numerous articles on the activities and problems of the school.  Montana Historical Landscape has images of Trask Hall on line.



Originally called Montana Collegiate Institute, College of Montana is the oldest higher education institution in Montana Territory.  Founded in 1878, it was purchased by the Presbytery of Montana in 1882 and renamed College of Montana. According to Edwards, after Montana attained statehood in 1889 and created state-supported colleges, College of Montana lost support. Forced to close in 1900, it did not reopen until 1906.  While it was highly praised for its service to the territory—for a time its School of Mines was the only one in the copper region—and for the contributions of its graduates, it never attained either high enrollment or stable finances.  Even with an accredited academy, the school’s enrollment never reached 200 and was only 101 (with 15 college students) in 1896.


In 1913 the College of Montana listed three courses of study—classical, leading to an A.B. degree; literary, leading to a Ph.B. degree; and scientific, leading to a B.S. degree.  Of eleven listed faculty members, six taught typical liberal arts subjects including sacred literature and chemistry, one taught mining and civil engineering, one taught typing and shorthand, and three taught vocal or instrumental music.


At that time the college also boasted of a night school, a commercial department, and a school of oratory which had provided two of the past three state champions. Advertisements noted that it provided a rewarding social life for students with chapters of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A, and a monthly calendar of receptions, teas, lectures, and recitals. 


College of Montana was unable to finish the 1916-17 school year.  In 1923 the school’s assets were merged with Montana Wesleyan College forming Intermountain Union College in Helena.


Trask Hall Image by Carroll Van West  < accessed 11-9-2017

Bricks and Mortar

The first building of College of Montana was Trask Hall, built in 1878—in time for the  opening of Montana Collegiate Institute.  Made of locally quarried granite and bricks from Helena, it served as classroom building.  North Hall, (built in 1888) contained the women’s dormitory, the dining hall, and the conservatory of music.  A matching building, South Hall, contained college offices, the men’s dormitory, the mining and engineering departments and the academy.  A gymnasium was added in 1913.


After the merger with Montana Wesleyan, the campus was sold to the Deer Lodge school district.  Trask Hall was placed on the National Register in 1982.  It is still in use today.




The first recorded football result for College of Montana was a loss to Montana Agricultural College (now Montana State) in 1904.  Most games were with area high schools—Anaconda, Powell County, and Butte.  College opponents included schools that are today Western Montana and Carroll.  C.O.M. teams also played independent sides such as Milwaukee Shops, Anaconda Athletic Club, and Butte All-Stars.


The 1916 football team played six games, winning five.  The only loss was to Western Montana.


Having a new gymnasium in 1913, C.O.M. fielded both men’s and women’s basketball teams.  Opponents were most often area high school teams.





The 1915 College of Montana basketball team. Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Guide;view=1up;seq=188 accessed 11-9-2017

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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