Competition to supply the mining camps was fierce in Montana in the 1860s. Many opportunists realized that the real money was not in mining for gold, but in "mining the miners" by providing essential goods and services. Fort Benton dominated upper Missouri trade. Steamboat landings and trading posts established downriver of the world's innermost port sought to circumvent Fort Benton's monopoly. The mouth of the Musselshell River, about 35 miles north of here, was ideal for a landing. Above there the river was treacherous and unreliable, but below the Musselshell, rapids were fewer and the water deeper. Consequently, the mouth of the Musselshell was a busy place in the 1860s.
The Rocky Mountain Wagon Company built a log cabin and stockade there in 1866. Called Kerchival City after a steamboat captain who promoted the venture, the owners hoped that ships and mining camp traders would funnel freight, passengers and gold through them rather than Fort Benton. The scheme was unsuccessful - the steamboats would not stop and the Lakota Indians harassed the residents. By 1868, the settlement was all but abandoned, a monument to a failed dream of opportunity and wealth. It was at Kerchival City that one of Montana's most colorful characters, John Johnson, earned the sobriquet "Liver-eating" after a bloody skirmish with the Lakota in 1869.