A Visit to a Living Ghost Town…
On one of our days visiting Montana, we were looking about for something to do while we were waiting for Yellowstone’s West Entrance to open and decided to take a drive around the countryside. Little did we know the unexpected adventure that awaited us. Our first indication that something was out of the ordinary was a drive past a large old log structure with a sign out front stating “Robber’s Roost.” Upon further exploration, we confirmed that the place had, indeed, been a hideout for outlaws in the distant past.
We continued our drive after stopping to snap a photo of the structure and entered Virginia City, MT, home of one of the most colorful pioneer mining camps that ever existed. After a bit of research we learn that dramatic tales of the early days in this vicinity are common. The town bills itself as a living ghost town as a remarkable gold deposit was discovered in nearby Alder Gulch in the spring of 1863 leading to a stampede of gold seekers. Population of this 14 mile stretch along the Gulch ballooned and various “cities” blossomed forth as trading and amusement centers for free handed miners.
Virginia City was the best known of these and this sole survivor became the capitol of the Montana Territory in 1865. While the money had been plentiful to build the structures in the town, once the gold expired, there was insufficient cash to keep them up and update them. Therefore, the town currently is home to approximately 150 hearty souls, but exists largely in the same form as it did in the 1800s.
We further learned that between 1863 and 1889, by which time the gold had largely run out and population had dwindled, $90,000,000 worth of gold was removed from the deposit. This is the equivalent of $40,000,000,000 in today’s dollars! By 1875, the population had decreased sufficiently that the capitol was moved to the now larger city of Helena.
We spent several hours exploring Virginia City and were quite taken with the place. Being an actual living town, there were a number quaint shops catering to visiting tourists, such as the Virginia City Bank, Restaurant and Rank’s Drug Store and Mercantile. We spent the greatest amount of time in the Mercantile, as it contained various items not found in your typical tourist attraction, including pioneer goods and clothing at reasonable prices. Twenty miles west of Yellowstone as the crow flies, 90 miles by car, Virginia City, MT is definitely worth the trip.
For more information read more about Montana campgrounds and things to do in Montana.