Wish you were here…Shelby Montana


ImageToday I thought I would take a virtual journey to Shelby, Montana. Why? The town started as an inspiration for the fictional town in my Golden Heart entry. I needed a small town where everyone knew everyone, a town with a privately run prison and located near the Canadian border.  Luckily, this town served all these requirements. 

But as I said, my fictional town of Summerland, Montana is only loosely based on Shelby but the real town has an interesting history. And although the story was inspired by a dream, it seems an incident similar to my story already happened.

Shelby is located approximately 35 miles from the Canadian border and has a population around 3,300 people. In contrast to the rest of the State, the economy in Shelby is better by far despite having less college educated percentage of the population. It is in the top ten percent for having well paid men, which make up a majority of the population.


So for a heroine looking for love, the prospects seem above average, right? Unfortunately for my heroine, the biggest employer in town is the prison and her father is the warden. She promised him long ago to not get involved with anyone who works for him; which means, of course, the man who attracts her interest works at the prison.

photo courtesy of BigSkyFishing.Com

Some interesting facts about Shelby: the event it is most famous for is a heavyweight boxing championship fight on July 4, 1923. While an excellent idea to put the town on the map and draw tourists, a series of unlucky circumstances starting with the reported cancellation of the fight left the town without the expected tourist and most of the people who did see the fight were locals and got in without paying by knocking down a fence and rushing the entrance. This left the town broke, but still on the map.

photo of arena built to hold 40,000 people for boxing match that no one came to see

It is located only an hour and a half from Glacier National park so it still draws tourists to the various hotels. It has two major train routes running through it so there is no shortage of people passing through the small town.

Mountain goats at Glacier National Park

Crossroads prison in Shelby

My story ends with a prison break involving hostages, as fate would have it the Montana State prison did have an escape attempt in 1908 where the inmates killed the deputy warden and took several guards and the warden as hostage. While this might not seem very romantic, if you change the circumstances and have the heroine as hostage and the prison guard she loves as her savior, you have the happy ending every real romance story should have.

one railyard in Shelby photo coutesy of http://www.bigskyfishing.com

Photos courtsey of www.bigskyfishing.com

So from Shelby, Montana…wish you were here.

5 Responses

  1. Hey Lizbeth. Good wishes for the Golden Heart. Didn’t know anything about the area until October when I was doing research for my NaNoWriMo. The Big Sky Country is one of the locales for FINDING EVE. Finished the novella but not Nano. Again, best wishes for you. Rita Bay

    • Hey, if you finished anything it’s a big deal. NaNo is for fun, if you focused on what was your true endeavor you are ahead of the game.

      I agree it’s a beautiful place…a bit cold for my taste, but I bet summers there a a lot easier to handle than the heat and humidity of the south. Good luck with FINDING EVE.


  2. Best of luck with the Golden Heart entry, Elizbeth! Love the pics and info about Shelby. Amazing how we can find pieces of real life to solidify our stories.

    Love to see you posting again!

    • Thanks Runere.
      Hope to make it a regular thing again.

      And it was very strange finding out about a real prison escape with the warden as hostage. Who knows, since I usually sleep with the tv on maybe there was some history show talking about the event and it just seeped into my dream in a different form.

      Hope to see you soon.

  3. Love this. Hoping for awesome scores for the GH for you!

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