Montana’s Tiniest Town: Population 19
Ever been to Ismay? No? Neither have I. Located basically in the middle-of-nowhere, Ismay is about 35 miles southeast of Fallon and 31 miles northwest of Baker in the southeast corner of Montana. It's about 1/2 way between Billings and Bismark as the crow flies. Unless you are from Ismay or have family in the area, you'll probably never really have a reason to visit. Since the current population is listed at just 19 residents (2010 census) the odds of you having friends or family in Ismay are extremely slim.
This tiny town is not on a highway, so you won't pass thru on your way to somewhere else. There are no bars in Ismay to get one of those awesome, tiny-town Montana steaks or burgers (that you'll find at nearly every small town bar in the state). For food or beverages, you'll have to travel 14 miles down the road to the nearest bar in Plevna, MT. Named the Plevna Bar, I called them to chat about the area. Before I could even get past my introduction, the gal that answered the phone cut me off and said, "You'll have to talk to Dale and he's not here till Thursday." Before she hung up on me, I asked her if she had any insight to the lonely little town of Ismay and she said, "nope." Click. Maybe they're friendlier in person?
You may remember when Ismay changed its name to Joe, Montana back in 1993. It was quite the publicity stunt, but it did not have any long term benefits to the town, other than raising some money for the volunteer fire department. One of its only public buildings, the Ismay post office burned to the ground in January of this year. Plans are supposedly in place to rebuild. The town is so isolated that it doesn't even have a Google "street view." It's too far out there for the Google camera car to drive by, I guess.
The town got its start during the westward land expansion in the late 1800s to early 1900s, driven by incentives from the railroad and various Homestead Acts. Homesteaders arrived to get their free land (usually 1/2 sections, or 320 acres) only to realize that it was nearly impossible to eke out a living on the arid land. In the 1950 census, Ismay still had 277 residents. That number has dropped every decade since. Tiny towns are neat in a lot of ways, but Ismay may be a little too small for me.