Bannack was established in in 1862 following discovery of gold in Grasshopper Creek. It is now a ghost town. It was named for the Bannock Indians who lived in the area. When an application was made for a post office the next year, the name was misspelled somewhere in the process.
The town is now a Montana State Park. Their task is to preserve rather than reconstruct. Most of the buildings are in good shape.
This was the first governor's mansion in Montana. Sidney Edgerton, Montana's first governor, arrived in Bannack in 1864 with his wife Mary and their four children.
This building was built in 1864 as the Beaverhead County Court House. By 1881 the gold rush was over and the county seat was moved to Dillon. The building was bought in 1890 by John Meade and remodeled into a plush hotel.
Some of the hotel's past grandeur can still be seen in this grand stairway. Traces of the wallpaper and linoleum flooring can be seen in several of the rooms. The hotel operated off and on until the 1940's.
For the less affluent visitors to town, there was a rooming house across from the hotel. The building was acquired by the Gibsons in 1890 and provided rooms for the prospectors in from the diggings. It also served as a temporary schoolhouse in the 1940s.
Next to the rooming house was the blacksmith shop. Obviously part of his work was branding irons. You can see where he tested them on the walls of his shop.
After Henry Plummer was elected sheriff in 1864, he had this jail and another, smaller one built. They were seldom used since most offenders were warned, ran out of town, or hung. No one wanted to guard prisoners when there was gold to be found.
Plummer also had these gallows built. Ironically, they were used to hang him when it was discovered that Plummer was the head of the Road Agents that had been robbing banks and stages in the area. When the honest people in the town got tired of being robbed, they formed a vigilante group and cleaned house.
In August of 1877, Bannack had a major Indian scare. The Nez Perce under Chief Joseph had just defeated General Gibbon at the Battle of Big Hole and were known to be moving toward Bannack. The Indians camped for a couple of days in the hills several miles east of town and left without ever being seen. In town at the time was a circuit riding preacher by the name of William Van Orsdel, known as Brother Van. Brother Van took advantage of their fear to talk the townspeople into building this church for him.
One of the park rangers was driving this truck. It seems obvious that the Parks Department is having some budget problems.
We have seen several "ghost towns" during the past year. Bannack is by far the most interesting and the best preserved.
As were were leaving the area, something happened to cap off an interesting and exciting day. We were traveling along state highway 43 headed for Butte. As we came over a hill we saw a small plane skidding down the highway toward us.
The pilot and his wife were uninjured and told me what had happened. The airport they were headed for was socked in and they were redirected to another field. They couldn't find the field and were almost out of fuel. The pilot decided to land on the road. The skid marks on the road showed that he made a perfect touchdown. The only problem was that he forgot to put the gear down.