Petroleum harvest : farming, oil, and power in Montana's central and eastern oil booms, 1919-1950s
Dixon, Amy Belynne
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Montana history is marked by resource development. Today, Montana oil production predominantly occurs in the state's eastern half within the Williston Basin. However, state commercial oil development began in the small community of Cat Creek in central Montana in 1920, and oil production began in eastern Montana during the 1930s. Early decades of oil production in both central and eastern Montana engendered community infrastructure and identity shifts away from agriculture toward oil. However, Cat Creek oil production during the 1920s was more equitable for homesteaders than in eastern Montana because central Montana development began in the hands of locally operated companies and homesteaders rather than large corporations. Furthermore, homesteaders who remained in eastern Montana for the advent of early Williston Basin oil production settled under authorities that separated mineral from surface resource rights. Both factors resulted in central Montanans' comparatively positive collective memory of oil production. Oil is sunlight energy converted into social and economic capital. In both central and eastern Montana, homesteaders shaped, and were shaped by, oil as a finite energy resource.