Industrialization came to the farming communities around the Confluence beginning in the late 1800s. All of the major players of early Montana industrial history – Andrew B. Hammond, Marcus Daly and his Anaconda Company, two major railroads, the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Milwaukee Railroad, and Senator William Andrews Clark, and later Montana Power – all came to have a role in the area at the Confluence.
As part of the nation’s industrialization, these men dammed the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers to produce electricity for a mill, and for Milltown, Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley. They built two huge lumber mills within a half mile of each other – providing mine timbers and wood products to Marcus Daly’s and William Clark’s mining operations in Butte, and turning huge quantities of trees from adjacent forests into lumber for the railroads and the settlers moving west. Lumber was shipped to both coasts. Two railroads were built through the Confluence, facilitating the rapid change. A lumber railroad was constructed to enable the logs to be brought out of the woods all year. A flour mill existed for a few years.
Andrew Hammond was the first to influence the area. It was his energy in the partnership of the Montana Improvement Company that was the driving force behind the building of the Bonner Mill. He crossed paths with Daly but had left the area before the turn of the century.
The history of Bonner and Milltown was molded by the activities of Montana’s ambitious and often ruthless “Copper Kings,” Marcus Daly and William Andrews Clark. Daly and Clark concentrated their efforts on controlling Montana politics and the mining towns of Butte ("the richest hill on earth") and Anaconda; smaller communities downstream were simply useful tools for their fortune-building ambitions.
The well-documented rivalry between the two men played out in Bonner and Milltown, albeit on a smaller scale than elsewhere. Here they competed for the same timber resources, they had sawmills within a half mile of each other, and their nearby flour mills competed for the same Bitterroot wheat. For a brief time Clark had the greater stronghold, but ultimately the legacy of Daly and his Anaconda Company "won" and held control of Bonner and Milltown for many years.
The major industrialists at the Confluence are described in this section.