Courtesy of Cascade County Historical Society
In early 1879 Paris Gibson came to Fort Benton from Minneapolis, Minnesota after he lost his fortune in the Panic of 1873. He had built the first flour mill in Minneapolis, the Cataract Mill, as well as the North Star Wollen Mills. His interest in coming to Montana Territory was for the purpose of raising sheep.
In Fort Benton he opened a lumber yard and a real estate office and also established a sheep camp on Belt and Otter Creeks. By 1880, he had established other camps as well and by 1885 the sheep of the Paris Gibson Company were noted throughout the territory for their wool.
In 1880 he found the opportunity to visit the great falls of the Missouri with his son, Theodore, and was taken aback by the splendor of the falls and the surrounding scenery. In November 1882 he made the trip again and at this time realized, because of the water, the potential of the area. With financial backing from his friend, James J. Hill, Gibson platted the townsite in 1883 and named it Great Falls.
In 1888 the townsite was transferred to the Great Falls Water Power and Townsite Company. Gibson was elected the vice-president of the company as well as the first mayor of the new city.
He was elected to the United States senate in March 1901 and served until 1905 where he urged progressive views on conversation, reclamation and homestead legislation.
Gibson died in 1920 in Great Falls and is interred at Highland Cemetery.
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