Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bannack State Park July 21, 2010

Mainstreet in restored Bannack, Montana

Location: On the way back to Nevada from Montana, Tara and I explored Bannack, Montana, which was a vibrant mining community in the late 1800s. The old town is now a state park about 21 miles off of Interstate 15 south of Dillon. The route from I-15 is well signed and easy to follow
History: The mining boom began in the summer of 1862 when John White and William Eades discovered gold flakes in what they named Grasshopper Creek. That summer 400 men moved to the area to stake their own mining claim and make a fortune. Life in newly incorporated Bannack was tough because of its isolation. Supplies came in by wagon from Virginia City during the summer. Food prices fluctuated greatly by the availability of goods and winter brought low temperatures.
By far the most interesting story of Bannack concerned Henry Plummer and his Road Agents. Henry Plummer entered the town in 1863 and he was elected sheriff. Henry Plummer headed an outlaw gang of robbers and muderers called the Road Agents. The gang robbed wagon trains and murdered settlers on the road from Bannack to Virginia City. Vigilantes caught a few members of the Road Agents who implicated Henry Plummer as its leader. Vigilante members hanged men from cottonwoods, beams, limbs anything they could find without trial. In 1864 Henry Plummer himself died at the town gallows. In May of that year community leaders (many of them vigilantes) petitioned to seperate from the Idaho Territory. Bannack became its first capital.
At first gold was easy to find and many of the miners used a technique called placer mining (using water to wash minerals out of sand or gravel). As a result, the town prospered with saloons, mercantile and a school. However, by 1890 the easy gold in Grasshopper Creek dried up and most of the town's miners moved on to Virginia City. Dredging and underground mining continued until 1902 under the direction of the Gold Leaf Mining Company. From 1902 to 1935 the buildings lay empty until the last resident Kevin Stallings bought Bannack for $1,400
to create a historical park (Source: Montana: Mining Ghost Towns By: Barbara Fifer)
Tara and Nevada in the town jail

Bannack townsite

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