Big Sandy was named for a creek near the town. The Indians called the creek Un-es-putcha-eka, which translated from the Blackfeet language as "Big Sandy Creek."
Big Sandy is one of the storied towns of the Old West. Charlie Russell worked on ranches near here. Rusty Brown's saloon and other old-time buildings are gone, but the region remains a meeting ground for fact and fiction. Big Sandy was the prototype for "Dry Lake," the town B. M. Bower featured in her Flying U novel. The novelist lived in this town in the middle of the open range country. In John Willard's notes is this statement: "Big Sandy was cow town of long tradition and a freighting center when goods were unloaded at the Coal Banks Landing just south of here on the Missouri River. Material for Fort Assiniboine were delivered at Coal Banks by river steamer, then freighted overland to the fort."
A saloon was opened in a tent near McNamara and Marlow’s freight depot in 1886, and then another saloon, the Log Cabin, was put up. The railroad came and located its deport and water tank near the water source and the McNamara freight depot. In 1887, Big Sandy consisted of those two depots, a warehouse, a boxcar for the section foreman to live in, and nine saloons, which, except the Log Cabin, were tents with wooded floors or small shacks. In 1889 the Spokane Hotel was built to accommodate increased business—cowboys, settlers, and railroad men. By 1912, it had become a homesteaders' boom town and the Great Northern moved its depot into town. Before that a horse-drawn bus met all trains. For fifty cents a passenger could ride the 1 ½ miles to Big Sandy. By 1919 many of the homesteaders were broke and left. Then big farm units absorbed the inadequate homestead acreages and by 1928, the country was prosperous again. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company)
Today, Big Sandy is a small farming community near the beautiful Bear Paw Mountains off US Highway 87. While there, visit the Big Sandy Historical Museum, which is located in the old Great Northern Railroad depot and see the largest collection of early pioneer photographs in Chouteau County. Be sure to visit the old jailhouse and tourist center as well. If wildlife viewing is what you had in mind, Lonesome Lake northwest of town offers great viewing opportunities.