Bannack Survives

I have learned that Montana has had 3 capitals over time. I just finished a book about the Irish on the American frontier, and it told me that there were 3 big Montana towns on this frontier. The first was Bannack, the 2nd was Virginia City, and the 3rd became the present capital.

I had never heard of Bannack, which grew to a town of 10,000 before the mines that supported it began to close and people began to leave in the 1940s. It survives today as a ghost town in a state park. Bannack was founded in 1862 thanks to the efforts of Sidney Edgerton. A lawyer, he survived a Montana winter on the frontier in 1863, and in the spring he went to Washington where he became an advocate for the new territory of Montana. The President at the time was Abraham Lincoln, and he named Edgerton governor and Bannack the temporary new capital of Montana. Virginia City became the capital for 10 years beginning in 1865. Pronounced He-LAY-NA, Helena became the official capital of the state in 1889. Gold had been discovered in all 3 locations. I have toured this capital in my travels.

Bannack went into decline after becoming a well-preserved ghost town. In 1863 its population grew to 3,000, and it eventually became a place where 10,000 people once lived. The nearby town of Dillon, 25 miles from it, grew to 4,000 as Bannack went into decline and Dillon became the county seat. Bannock was eventually declared a National Historic Landmark. It had once supported 3 hotels including the still existing Hotel Meade. People lived in Bannock until the 1970s, and its current population is said to be 12.

Bannack is now part of a very amenity-driven state park near Grasshopper Creek. People like the area for bicycling, bird watching, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. The still-existing Hotel Meade is said to be haunted by several ghosts. This hotel is a 2-story brick building not built until 1875. It has also been a hospital and courthouse during its existence, but now it functions mostly as a place to scare people who enter it as part of a self-guided tour of a ghost town with 60 original structures that have been preserved but not renovated. Bannack attracts tourists who come looking for ghost encounters mostly between Memorial and Labor Day.

Hank

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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