A history of:
Wisdom, Montana & The Big Hole Valley
Tucked away in a valley in southwestern Montana, the Crossing Bar & Grill at Fetty’s is located in the town of Wisdom, population 100. The valley, often knows as a “hole” by the early trappers and miners was one of the largest in the area, hence the name the Big Hole Valley.
For centuries the valley was a seasonal home to the Nez Perce, Salish and Kootenai Indian tribes. It is unlikely that these peoples wintered in the valley, due to harsh conditions. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, were the first white men to visit the valley. When the expedition discovered the mouth of the Big Hole River, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark named it the Wisdom River after Jefferson’s attribute of wisdom; the name did not stick. Later, Clark traveled back through the valley on the way home with Sacajawea and a small contingent.
Trappers moved into the valley following the expedition, and in the 1860’s miners first found gold on the west side of the valley. The gold strike at Pioneer, a long abandoned gold mining town in Ruby Creek, is probably the second gold strike in the state of Montana. Unfortunately, the strike was unproductive and the miners moved on to places like Bannack and Virginia City. Following the gold strike in the 1860s until the 1880’s miners continued to poke around and found scattered low grade deposits.
Al Noyes and his wife Hattie arrived in 1882 as the first permanent white settlers. Hattie platted the town of Wisdom out of her homestead and sold lots; she must have known the Lewis and Clark story. Prior to the establishment of Wisdom the place was known as “the Crossings,” for it was where most cattle were crossed on the Big Hole River. Wisdom was on the map. Around the turn of the century, population peaked with perhaps 1,000 residents in and around the valley. The town supported several bars and hotels, a pharmacy, car dealership, churches, hotels, a bank and many small businesses. Cheese and butter were shipped out of the valley to the miners in Butte and Gibbonsville. Cattle were trailed to the railroad in Divide and Armstead for shipping. Timber in the surrounding hills was milled and used to construct fences and homes. Wisdom was located on the Yellowstone Road, an early attempt at tourism from Glacier to Yellowstone National Parks. Gravel roads served the community until the 1960’s. As manpower and horse power were replaced with larger and larger motorized equipment, small ranches became unprofitable and were consolidated into larger ranches. The gold played out as federal timber became in short supply and as larger communities offered better shopping and more jobs, Wisdom began to shrink.
The Crossing Bar & Grill at Fetty’s
The Havig family purchased Fetty’s Bar and Café on December 3, 2010. The Crossing Bar & Grill at Fetty’s was opened January 14 after several weeks of remodeling and cleaning. Prior to owning Fetty’s the Havigs owned the Big Hole Crossing Restaurant in Wisdom for 16 years. During the night of May 31 and early morning of June 1, 2010, an electrical short on the fireplace mantel started a fire that destroyed the business and the Wisdom River Gallery, which shared the building. The building owners decided not to rebuild the restaurant, which presented the challenge of finding a new location for the business.
After weighing several options, including a new building and a new restaurant, Dennis and Diane bought the “diamond in the rough,” Fetty’s Bar and Café. In an effort to tie the two businesses together and inform customers of new ownership and the Big Hole Crossing reputation, the business was renamed the Crossing Bar & Grill at Fetty’s.
The Crossing offers great daily and nightly specials and, of course, a variety of desserts, all made in our kitchen by hand. Fresh breads, bagels, and cinnamon rolls are made daily as well as a number of delicious homemade soups. Every Saturday evening, one can expect Certified Angus Prime Rib of Beef, and Sunday boasts homemade chicken noodle soup. Diane’s philosophy has always been to use the best products and make simple home cooked meals from scratch. The Havig family looks forward to meeting and serving you in their new location.