Jeff & I love a good road trip! It’s great family time together. As my father is getting on his years, we really focus on creating memories with him. I knew he loved Montana history, and last year he shared that he’d like to visit more ghost towns. So here we go, to Bannack, Montana.
Modest Miner’s house
Bannack was the first territorial capital of our state & the first major gold rush area of Montana! Today, Bannack is a historic ghost town. 👻
Jeff is so excited, he’s never been to a true ghost town! Armed with a map, his camera & water, we headed out on the road to Bannack.
It’s a gorgeous time of year to drive through scenic Montana country. Our Spring rains bring the most beautiful green! If you don’t get out to enjoy it in June, you’ll miss it. July, drought sets in and all will be golden amber.
After a beautiful, rainy 2.5 hour drive, we arrived at Bannack State Park.
The history of the area is quite interesting. Lewis & Clark had voyaged through the area previous to the gold rush. But it was John White from Colorado that discovered considerable quantities of gold in what he named “Grasshopper Creek”.
Grasshopper Creek, flooded from Spring runoff
White filed one of the first mining claims in what would become the State of Montana, in 1862. The mining camp came to be known as Bannock, with an O. A corruption of a near by Indian tribe name, Banate. But when paperwork was submitted to Washington D.C. for their post office, a clerk misspelled it! Thus becoming Bannack.
Word traveled fast about the gold mining & within 6 months the town had a population of 3,000!
Jeff being weighed at the Assay office
It was everything you’d expect from an old west mining town. Hangings, Saloons & “ladies of negotiable virtue”.
belly up to the bar at Skinner Saloon
But Bannack also had a baseball team, school, ice skating and a Free Mason Society.
Scoolhouse & Masonic Lodge
desks in schoolhouse
There was also a jail, but the funny thing was... in a gold rush, finding someone to watch over prisoners was impossible. Why waste time when they could be out panning for nuggets! Offenders were usually warned, banished or hanged. Swift justice.
Room with a view
Jeff contemplating his crimes
For it’s first 15 years, Bannack was free of any house of worship. It is said that when the first minister came to town, he went to the saloon on Sunday. When he announced who he was the bartender silenced the rowdy bar. Brother Van sang for them. As most mining towns were starved of good entertainment, he was allowed an hour, thus becoming their first sermon.
Preach it Jeff!
At the end of the day, we had spent 3 hours walking through 26 abandoned buildings. Each one a unique look at what life was like in an old Montana mining town. Here is a photo finish of all the things that captured my eyes.
Wagon, of course
Beautiful antique stove
What the heck is this thing? Looks brutal
I’m drawn to geometry! Woodwork on cabinet
Eyecatching patterns on milled log walls
Intricate detail on door hinge. Hotel Meade
Jeff riding the wagon wheel
I’m so confused
Hope you enjoyed a tour through historic Montana with us!