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POWER, Thomas Charles

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POWER, Thomas Charles. (near Dubuque, IA, May 22, 1839--Helena, MT, Mar. 16, 1923) Power attended public school and graduated from Sinsinawa College with a degree in engineering. He worked as a surveyor in Dakota until 1860 and from 1861 and 1867 was involved in trade along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (1)

In 1867, Power traveled up the Missouri River to Fort Benton, Montana Territory and opened a general mercantile firm in partnership with his brother, John W. POWER. T.C. Power and Brother and I. G. Baker and Company dominated trade and freighting on the northern plains by the mid 1870s. In the late 1870s, Power bought out Baker's interest in a steam ship line and built the company into one which dominated trade on the Upper Missouri. In 1879, he formed the first of several stagecoach lines which served much of northern and central Montana and, eventually, linked with the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad at Billings. (2) Power was president of T.C. Powers & Co. and T.C. Powers Mercantile Company of Fort Benton, Montana. After settling in Helena, Montana in 1876, Power started T. C. Power and Browhich, a prominent mercantile company which served the northwestern United States and western Canada. He also served as president of the American National Bank of Helena. Companies in which Power invested included the Judith Mercantile and Cattle Company in Fergus County, organized as the Judith Cattle Company in the summer of 1878 by T. C. Power and Brother, J.H. Knight, and H.P. Brooks; T. C. Power and Brother Lumber; Power Mercantile; Power Motor Car Company in Helena, Montana; the Sun River Stock and Land Company; the N.S. Ranch; Crown Butte Ranch; the PN Ranch with G.R. Norris; Escallier Sheep Company; Power Implement Company in Bozeman, Montana; Power-Morgan Company in Chouteau, Montana; Power-Wilson Company Garage; Belgrade Company, Ltd.; and the Trident Store Company. (3)


As a Republican, Power served as a delegate to the 1884 Constitutional Convention, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1889, and was selected one of Montana's first U.S. Senators in a bitterly fought election in the Montana legislature. He served in the United States Senate from January 2, 1890 to March 3, 1895 as one of the state's first two senators. The town of Power, Montana was named in his honor. (4)



1. Klasen, Henry C. "Shaping the Growth of the Montana Economy: T. C. Power & Bro. and the Canadian Trade, 1869-93," Great Plains Quarterly, 1991 p. 6 Online: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1609&context=greatplainsquarterly

2. "Power Family Photograph Collection," Archives West, Online: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv25601

3. Ibid.

4. Guide to the Thomas C. Power papers 1867-1950 nwda-db.wsulibs.wsu.edu/findaid/ark:/80444/xv64648