The “Milltown Flat,” “The Flat,” “Riverside Flat,” and “Finntown” are several names referring to the area now known as “West Riverside.” The names refer not to the location west of the Blackfoot River, but to the extension of the Riverside (Milltown) community into the area in 1910.
The first settler, however, was John Richlie who was said to have been traveling from Missouri, found an abandoned trapper’s cabin, and decided the land was good for homesteading. In 1884 he sent for his wife Adelia and his mother-in-law, Barbara Zaugg and her children, Celia, Martha, Emma, Emil, and Arnold. Arnold was 12 when the family arrived in Montana. When John and Adelia Richlie moved to the DeSmet area, Mrs. Zaugg “proved up” on the homestead which extended from Pine Grove east to the river.
In order to farm, the Zauggs had to clear-cut much of the land by hiring loggers with oxen. In 1910, Barbara Zaugg had the land surveyed and filed a plat “West Riverside Addition” with the County in 1911. Lots were then sold to families. This was significant because in 1910-1911 the Western Lumber Company relocated to Milltown from Lothrop, near Alberton.
Unlike ACM, the Western Lumber Co. did not provide housing for its supervisors. Managers and workers alike were able to purchase their own land and build homes in West Riverside. Many of the Western Lumber Co. laborers, including a sizeable number of Finns, took advantage of this opportunity. In 1914 the Western Lumber Co. moved Finn Hall from its former location (about where the Bonner Interstate exit ramp is today) to 4th Street and West Riverside Drive. Until the mid-1950s it was a social center, athletic club and popular dance hall.
Meanwhile, the Zauggs continued farming, producing and selling fruit, vegetables, pork, and milk. In 1962, the original homestead near the base of Woody Mountain was sold to Ken and Ellen Zimmerman. The farmhouse and stone milk house remain today. The barn and surrounding ground were purchased by the Hellgate Lions, remodeled, and used as a community hall and playing fields for local Little League teams.
West Riverside has remained largely residential and the farmland and pastureland have been replaced by dwellings. When the Champion plywood plant opened, it brought the need for workers and in the 1970’s several new “trailer courts” were established to meet the housing needs for mill workers. This was a significant change in the Bonner area population which had been largely composed of long-time residents.
Another significant change occurred when Champion International sold land in West Riverside. Town Pump purchased and located in the old Western Lumber Co. area and owns the vacant land between 1st Street west to the Two Rivers Bank. In 2014 Harris Manufacturing of Oregon purchased the “West Log Yard” area between 1st street east to the river.