A BRIEF HISTORY OF OVANDO The area around Ovando was visited for centuries by various Native American tribes who followed " Cokalahiskit," the river trail to the buffalo, now called the Big Blackfoot River. Ranchers and loggers began arriving in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1884 the first school house was built, and by the early20th Century the town boasted two general stores, five saloons, two blacksmith shops, a church, a hotel, a drugstore, a barbershop, and a bank. It also was the headquarters for the Forest Service. A stage line and telephone company linked the town of Helmville and Drummond and made it a distribution center for the surrounding 75 miles. The anticipated arrival of the Blackfoot Railroad gave further hope for growth. However, events worked against growth for the town of Ovando. The railroad was never built and a devastating fire in 1919 destroyed much of the commercial heart of town. In addition, the Forest Service Headquarters moved, drought damaged farm and ranch productivity, and logging declined. In spite of it all, many of the pioneer ranches remain, some into the fifth generation. Today Ovando serves a surrounding population of approximately 300 people and is also a center for outdoor recreation.
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