Bannack, Montana

Last updated
Bannack Historic District
Bannack, Montana (25064171061).jpg
Main street in Bannack
USA Montana location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Beaverhead County, Montana
Nearest city Dillon, Montana
Coordinates 45°09′40″N112°59′44″W / 45.16111°N 112.99556°W / 45.16111; -112.99556 Coordinates: 45°09′40″N112°59′44″W / 45.16111°N 112.99556°W / 45.16111; -112.99556
Area1 mile
NRHP reference # 66000426
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLDJuly 4, 1961 [1]

Bannack is a ghost town in Beaverhead County, Montana, United States, located on Grasshopper Creek, approximately 11 miles (18 km) upstream from where Grasshopper Creek joins with the Beaverhead River south of Dillon. Founded in 1862, the town contemporarily operates as a National Historic Landmark and is managed by the state of Montana as Bannack State Park. [2]

Ghost town City depopulated of inhabitants and that stays practically intact

A ghost town is an abandoned village, town, or city, usually one that contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, prolonged droughts, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, pollution, or nuclear disasters. The term can sometimes refer to cities, towns, and neighbourhoods that are still populated, but significantly less so than in past years; for example, those affected by high levels of unemployment and dereliction.

Beaverhead County, Montana County in the United States

Beaverhead County is the largest county by area in the U.S. state of Montana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 9,246. Its county seat is Dillon. The county was founded in 1865.

Montana State of the United States of America

Montana is a state in the Northwestern United States. Montana has several nicknames, although none are official, including "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State", and slogans that include "Land of the Shining Mountains" and more recently "The Last Best Place".



Founded in 1862 and named after the local Bannock Indians, it was the site of a major gold discovery in 1862, and served as the capital of Montana Territory briefly in 1864, until the capital was moved to Virginia City. Bannack continued as a mining town, though with a dwindling population. The last residents left in the 1970s.

Montana Territory territory of the USA between 1864-1889

The Territory of Montana was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1864, until November 8, 1889, when it was admitted as the 41st state in the Union as the state of Montana.

Virginia City, Montana Town in Montana, United States

Virginia City is a town in and the county seat of Madison County, Montana, United States. In 1961 the town and the surrounding area were designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Virginia City Historic District. The population was 190 at the 2010 census.

At its peak, Bannack had a population of about ten thousand. Extremely remote, it was connected to the rest of the world only by the Montana Trail. There were three hotels, three bakeries, three blacksmith shops, two stables, two meat markets, a grocery store, a restaurant, a brewery, a billiard hall, and four saloons. Though all of the businesses were built of logs, some had decorative false fronts.

Montana Trail

The Montana Trail was a wagon road that served gold rush towns such as Bannack, Virginia City and later Helena, Montana during the Montana gold rush era of the 1860s and 1870s. Miners and settlers all travelled the trail to try to find better lives in Montana. The trail was also utilized for freighting and shipping supplies and food goods to Montana from Utah. Bandits and Native Americans, as well as the weather, were major risks to travelling on the Montana Trail.

Among the town's founders was Dr. Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, a physician born in Cornish, New Hampshire, who gave up medicine for a time to become a gold miner. Dr. Leavitt arrived in Bannack in 1862, and alternately practiced medicine and mined for gold with pick and shovel. "Though some success crowned his labors," according to a history of Montana by Joaquin Miller, "he soon found that he had more reputation as a physician than as a miner, and that there was greater profit in allowing someone else to wield his pick and shovel while he attended to his profession." Subsequently, Dr. Leavitt moved on to Butte, Montana, where he devoted the rest of his life to his medical practice [3]

Cornish, New Hampshire Place in New Hampshire, United States

Cornish is a town in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 1,640 at the 2010 census. Cornish has three covered bridges. Each August, it is home to the Cornish Fair.

Joaquin Miller American judge

Cincinnatus Heine Miller, better known by his pen name Joaquin Miller, was an American poet and frontiersman. He is nicknamed the "Poet of the Sierras" after the Sierra Nevada, about which he wrote in his Songs of the Sierras (1871).

Butte, Montana Consolidated city-county in Montana, United States

Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana, United States. In 1977, the city and county governments consolidated to form the sole entity of Butte-Silver Bow. The city covers 718 square miles (1,860 km2), and, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 33,503, making it Montana's fifth largest city. It is served by Bert Mooney Airport with airport code BTM.

Bannack's sheriff, Henry Plummer, was accused by some of secretly leading a ruthless band of road agents, with early accounts claiming that this gang was responsible for over a hundred murders in the Virginia City and Bannack gold fields and trails to Salt Lake City. However, because only eight deaths are historically documented, some modern historians have called into question the exact nature of Plummer's gang, while others deny the existence of the gang altogether. In any case, Plummer and two compatriots, both deputies, were hanged, without trial, at Bannack on January 10, 1864. A number of Plummer's associates were lynched and others banished on pain of death if they ever returned. Twenty-two individuals were accused, informally tried, and hanged by the Vigilance Committee (the Montana Vigilantes) of Bannack and Virginia City. [4] Nathaniel Pitt Langford, the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, was a member of that vigilance committee. [5]

Henry Plummer American sheriff

Henry Plummer (1832–1864) was a prospector, lawman, and outlaw in the American West in the 1850s and 1860s, who was known to have killed several men, some in what was considered self-defense. He was elected sheriff of Bannack, Montana from 1863 to 1864, during which period he was accused of being the leader of a "road agent" gang of outlaws known as the "Innocents," which preyed on shipments from Virginia City to other areas. In response some leaders in Virginia City formed the Vigilance Committee of Alder Gulch, and began to take action against Plummer's gang, gaining confessions from a couple of men they arrested in early January 1864. On January 10, 1864 Plummer and two associates were arrested in Bannack by a company of the Vigilantes and summarily hanged.

Innocents (gang)

The Innocents were an alleged gang of outlaw road agents in Montana Territory who operated during the gold rush of the 1860s, preying on shipments and travelers carrying gold from Virginia City, Montana. According to the early chronicler Thomas Dimsdale, the gang attempted to steal gold while it was being transported; they killed many travelers who resisted. Sheriff Henry Plummer of Bannack, Montana was accused of leading the group, and was executed by a group of vigilantes from Virginia City in January 1864, along with several other alleged gang members.

Salt Lake City State capital city in Utah, United States

Salt Lake City is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah. With an estimated population of 190,884 in 2014, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a population of 1,153,340. Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City–Ogden–Provo Combined Statistical Area, a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along a 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,423,912. It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin. It is also the seat of Salt Lake County, the most populous county in Utah.

State park

Sixty historic log, brick, and frame structures remain standing in Bannack, many quite well preserved; most can be explored. The site, now the Bannack Historic District, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. [6] [7] The town is presently the site of Bannack State Park. Though not particularly popular among tourists, this site remains a favorite for natives and historians alike.

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Only some 2,500 of over 90,000 places (~3%) listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

Bannack Days

Every year, during the third weekend of July, this abandoned town witnesses a historical reconstitution known as "Bannack Days". For two days, Bannack State Park officials organize an event that attempts to revive the times when Bannack was a boom town, re-enacting the day-to-day lives of the miners who lived there during the gold rush. An authentic, old-timey breakfast is served in the old Hotel Meade, a well-preserved brick building which was for many years the seat of Beaverhead County, before Dillon, Montana, became the seat of the county. [8]


The mines surrounding Bannack are located on both sides of Grasshopper Creek, which flows southeastward through the district and into the Beaverhead River about 12 miles downstream. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dillon, Montana City in Montana, United States

Dillon is a city in and the county seat of Beaverhead County, Montana, United States. The population was 4,134 at the 2010 census. The city was named for Union Pacific Railroad President Sidney Dillon.

Nathaniel P. Langford Explorer, businessman, historian and vigilante

Nathaniel Pitt Langford was an explorer, businessman, bureaucrat, vigilante and historian from Saint Paul, Minnesota who played an important role in the early years of the Montana gold fields, territorial government and the creation of Yellowstone National Park.

John Bozeman American pioneer in Montana (1837-1867)

John Merin Bozeman was a pioneer and frontiersman in the American West who helped establish the Bozeman Trail through Wyoming Territory into the gold fields of southwestern Montana Territory in the early 1860s. He helped found the city of Bozeman, Montana in 1864, which is named for him.

Beaverhead–Deerlodge National Forest forest in Montana, United States

The Beaverhead–Deerlodge National Forest is the largest of the National Forests in Montana, United States. Covering 3.36 million acres (13,600 km2), the forest is broken into nine separate sections and stretches across eight counties in the southwestern area of the state. President Theodore Roosevelt named the two forests in 1908 and they were merged in 1996. Forest headquarters are located in Dillon, Montana. In Roosevelt's original legislation, the Deerlodge National Forest was called the Big Hole Forest Reserve. He created this reserve because the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, based in Butte, Montana, had begun to clearcut the upper Big Hole River watershed. The subsequent erosion, exacerbated by smoke pollution from the Anaconda smelter, was devastating the region. Ranchers and conservationists alike complained to Roosevelt, who made several trips to the area. (Munday 2001)

Monida Pass

Monida Pass is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of the northwestern United States, at an elevation of 6820 ft above sea level on the Union Pacific Railroad and 6870 ft on adjacent Interstate 15.

Alder Gulch valley in Montana, United States of America

Alder Gulch is a place in the Ruby River valley, in the U.S. state of Montana, where gold was discovered on May 26, 1863, by William Fairweather and a group of men including Barney Hughes, Thomas Cover, Henry Rodgers, Henry Edgar and Bill Sweeney who were returning to the gold fields of Grasshopper Creek, Bannack, Montana. They were on their way to Yellowstone Country from Bannack but were waylaid by a band of Crow Indians. After being ordered out of Crow hunting grounds, they crossed the East Slope of the Tobacco Root Mountains and camped for the night in Elk Park, where William "Bill" Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold, while the remaining party was out hunting for meat. Agreeing to keep the new discovery quiet the group of miners returned to the town of Bannack for supplies. However, word leaked out about the new strike, and miners followed the Fairweather party out of town. The party stopped at the Point of Rocks, part way between Bannack and Alder Gulch, and established the Fairweather Mining District in a miners meeting. It was agreed that the discoverers were entitled to two claims and first choice. The first stampede of miners reached Alder Gulch June 6, 1863, and the population swelled to over 10,000 in less than 3 months. The "Fourteen Mile City" ran the length of the gulch, and included the towns of Junction City, Adobe Town, Nevada City, Central City, Virginia City, Montana, Bear Town, Highland, Pine Grove French Town, Hungry Hollow, and Summit. Upon arrival the miners lived in brush wickiups, dugouts and under overhanging rocks until cabins could be built. The first structure built in Virginia City was the Mechanical Bakery. Virginia City, and Nevada City were the centers of commerce during the height of the Alder Gulch gold rush. In the first year the area had over 10,000 people living there. Montana Territory was established in May 1864, and the first territorial capital was Bannock. The capital then moved to Virginia City, where it remained until 1875. The Alder Gulch diggings were the richest gold placer deposits ever discovered, and in three years $30,000,000 was taken from them, with $10,000,000 taken out in the first year. Nowadays, except during summertime, the streets of Virginia City are usually quiet and relatively few visitors find their way to the 16 ton granite monument that marks the spot of that incredible discovery of May 26, 1863.

Badger Pass is a high mountain pass in Beaverhead County, Montana. It is located between Bannack, Montana and Dillon, and traversed by Montana Secondary Highway 278.

Sidney Edgerton Union United States Army officer

Sidney Edgerton was an American politician, lawyer, judge and teacher from Ohio. He served during the American Civil War, as a Squirrel Hunter. During this time, Edgerton served as a U.S. Congressman. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln appointed him the first Chief justice of the Idaho Territorial Court. Edgerton lobbied for the creation of separate territories, out of the Idaho Territory, and in 1864, Abraham Lincoln appointed Edgerton as the first Territorial Governor of Montana. During his term as Territorial Governor, he was an alleged member of the infamous Montana Vigilantes, and was reputedly among its founders.

Polaris is an unincorporated community in Beaverhead County, Montana, United States. Although it is unincorporated, Polaris has a post office with a ZIP code of 59746. Polaris lies in the heart of beautiful Grasshopper Valley, along the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, southeast of Wisdom, Montana.

Samuel Thomas Hauser American Industrialist and 7th Governor of the Montana Territory

Samuel Thomas Hauser was an American industrialist and banker who was active in the development of Montana Territory. In addition to his many business interests, he was appointed the 7th Governor of the Montana Territory, serving from 1885 to 1887.

George Lane, better known as Clubfoot George, was an alleged outlaw who was hanged on January 14, 1864 in Virginia City, Montana. Lane was later alleged to have been a member of a criminal gang known as the Gang of Innocents and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out by the Montana Vigilantes, a committee which functioned during Montana's gold rush in 1863 and 1864.

Montana Vigilantes

The history of vigilante justice and the Montana Vigilantes began in 1863 in what was at the time a remote part of eastern Idaho Territory. Vigilante activities continued, although somewhat sporadically, through the Montana Territorial period until the territory became the state of Montana on November 8, 1889. Vigilantism arose because territorial law enforcement and the courts had very little power in the remote mining camps during the territorial period.

Granville Stuart American diplomat

Granville Stuart was a pioneer, gold prospector, businessman, civic leader, vigilante, author, cattleman and diplomat who played a prominent role in the early history of Montana Territory and the state of Montana. Widely known as "Mr. Montana", Granville's life spanned the formative years of Montana from territorial times through the first 30 years of statehood. His journals and writings have provided Montana and western historians unique insights into life in the Northern Rockies during the second half the 19th Century.

This is a Timeline of pre-statehood Montana history comprising substantial events in the history of the area that would become the State of Montana prior to November 8, 1889. This area existed as Montana Territory from May 28, 1864, until November 8, 1889, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Montana.


  1. "Listing of National Historic Landmarks by State: Montana" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  2. "Bannack State Park". Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  3. Joaquin Miller (1894). "Erasmus Darwin Leavitt". History of Montana. USGENWEB Montana Archives.
  4. Hough, Emerson (1907). The Story of the Outlaw. New York: The Outling Publishing Company. pp. 105–126.
  5. Olin D. Wheeler. "Speech to the Montana Historical Society, April 8, 1912". Nathaniel Pitt Langford: The Vigilante, the Explorer, the Expounder and First Superintendent of Yellowstone Park. Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 631–668.
  6. "Bannack Historic District". NPGallery. National Park Service. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  7. Blanche Higgins Schroer (September 1975). "Bannack Historic District". National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. National Park Service. and Accompanying 11 photos, from 1975.
  8. "Bannack Days". Bannack State Park and Bannack Association. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  9. Spectrum Engineering & Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau Montana 1992, p. 1.