Southwest Montana Ghost Towns
Bannack State Park
|Bannack is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the country. It is unique, preserved rather than restored; protected rather than exploited."
Bannack State Park is a registered historic landmark and the site of Montana`s first major gold discovery on July 28, 1862. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack`s population to over 3,000 by 1863. As the easy to work gold deposit were exhausted, Bannack`s bustling population steadily declined. The town became a state park in 1954. There are over 50 buildings that line Main Street with their historic log and frame structures that recall Montana`s formative years.
There is a 14 day camping limit and fees for camping. Fishing, camping, picnicking, bicycling, hiking, wildlife viewing, interpretive programs, photography and cultural events are all available. Guided tours and gold panning are offered in the summer. The campgrounds include vault toilets, grill/fire rings, firewood, picnic tables, trash cans, drinking water, and access to Grasshopper Creek for fishing. The Visitor Center is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Coolidge Ghost Town
|Coolidge was a small town created by a former politician and the site of Montana`s largest and final silver development.
William R. Allen, a Republican who had been elected Montana`s lieutenant governor in 1908 created the Boston-Montana Development Corporation and began buying mining claims in the Elkhorn Mining District. Allen quit politics in 1913 to devote his time to the company.
As early as 1919, the community of Coolidge had begun to thrive and at this time work was beginning on the mine tunnel. Allen was said to have named the town after his friend Calvin Coolidge. It was rumored that the future President was an investor in the Boston-Montana Development Corporation.
By 1922 the town had both telephone service and electricity provided by a power line running from Divide over the hill to Coolidge. With more families moving to Coolidge, the school district was organized in October 1918. A post office was established in January of 1922. Residents were entertained at the pool hall, or skiing and sledding during the winter.
By the time the mine tunnel and operation were ready to go, the national economy took a downturn and silver prices plummeted. In 1923, the whole operation had gone into receivership. W.R. Allen lost his personal fortune and control of the property. In 1927 a Montana Power Company dam failed and water washed out twelve miles and several bridges of Boston-Montana`s railroad. The school district was abandoned and in 1932 the post office was discontinued and the mail was ordered to Wise River.
Coolidge is located south of Butte. From I-15, travel west on SR-43, then south onto NF-73 (Wise River Polaris Road).
||South of Wise River
|A town-sized open-air museum with over 100 buildings from the gold rush era. Experience
this 1800s town with thousands of artifacts, living history and gem mining every weekend
throughout the summer.
|Named after Tecumseh “Pony” Smith, discoverer of the placer gold deposits in 1867.
Although Pony has seen better days, this picturesque little town refuses to die. Many old
abandoned buildings remain including the Morris State Bank and the Morris Elling stamp
mill. Located six miles southwest of Harrison on route 283