We welcome our guest blogger, Janalyn Voigt!
Virginia City, Nevada is one of the West’s famous ghost towns, but Virginia City in Montana is less known. That’s a shame because this Montana town played an important part in the history of Montana Territory.
The year was 1863 when a group of miners led by William (Bill) Fairweather passed through Alder Gulch. Following a scrape with Crow Indians, the men were on their way home to Bannack City, a boomtown where miners flocked after the discovery of gold in nearby Grasshopper Creek. Fairweather’s group paused in Alder Gulch near the headwaters of the waterway known as the Stinkingwater (now Alder Creek). The men aimed to mine enough gold to pay for tobacco. They found that many times over. The men had chanced upon the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains.
The men tried to keep their discovery to themselves, but flashing money around Bannack revealed their secret. When they set out again for Alder Gulch, they set off a ‘stampede’ of hopeful miners. Virginia City went up within weeks. Men arrived daily to seek their fortune.
Bannack was winding down as a source of easy gold. With most of the population living in Alder Gulch. Virginia City replaced Bannack as the capital of Montana Territory in 1864. The town served in that capacity until 1875, when the territorial seat was moved to Helena.
I discovered Virginia City while on a summer road trip through Montana with my family. After a long drive through the Beartooth Mountains, we’d passed only one roadhouse. I enjoy wilderness areas, but it was a relief when Virginia City unfolded before us in the late afternoon sun. We stopped at the gas station, where I picked up a brochure that told of outlaws, stagecoaches, and vigilante justice.
Robbers Roost particularly awed me. The brochure informed me that this notorious roadhouse several miles from town was where outlaws rode out to rob gold-laden stagecoaches bound for Virginia City. I felt the weight of history and an unction to tell the story of this place.
Several years later, I returned to Virginia City on a research trip for a western historical romance series that would do just that. It was autumn, so late in the season that snow was falling. The town’s sparse bed and breakfasts were closed until spring, but my husband and I managed to wangle a bed for the night in a renovated cabin. The next day dawned bright and clear. We climbed boot hill to the outlaw gravesite located outside the main cemetery where law-abiding citizens were buried.
A stroll through the cemetery took me past the grave of Thomas J. Dimsdale, the mild-mannered author of The Vigilantes of Montana, an eyewitness account of the vigilante activities in the area. Released in 1866, it was the first book published in Montana.
After reading his account, I felt acquainted with the man. It seemed strange to find him lying in a grave. The brevity of life struck me anew, and I was glad to come down from boot hill.
As Virginia City dwindled in the rear-view mirror, we drove through a landscape marred by tailings, large piles of rocks deposited by the mining operations all along Alder Gulch. There was little left of the settlement dubbed ‘Fourteen-Mile City.’
How about you? Have you been to a ghost town?
To one lucky person who leaves a comment,
Janalyn is giving away a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card.
Bio: Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read classics to her as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with her own made-up tales. Her sixth-grade teacher noticed her love of storytelling and encouraged her to become a writer. Today Janalyn is a multi-genre author. Janalyn writes the kind of novels she likes to read – epic adventures brimming with romance, mystery, history, and whimsy. She is praised for her unpredictable plots and the lyrical, descriptive prose that transports readers into breathtaking storyworlds. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary. Learn more about Janalyn and her books at http://janalynvoigt.com.