Virginia City, Montana

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Virginia City, Montana
Virginia City, Montana.jpg
Virginia City from a nearby hillside
Madison County Montana Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Virginia City Highlighted.svg
Location of Virginia City, Montana
Coordinates: 45°17′39″N111°56′28″W / 45.29417°N 111.94111°W / 45.29417; -111.94111 Coordinates: 45°17′39″N111°56′28″W / 45.29417°N 111.94111°W / 45.29417; -111.94111
CountryUnited States
State Montana
County Madison
Area
[1]
  Total0.95 sq mi (2.46 km2)
  Land0.95 sq mi (2.46 km2)
  Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation
5,761 ft (1,756 m)
Population
 (2010) [2]
  Total190
  Estimate 
(2019) [3]
216
  Density227.37/sq mi (87.83/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain (MST))
  Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
ZIP code
59755
Area code(s) 406
FIPS code 30-77125
GNIS feature ID0778036

Virginia City is a town in and the county seat of Madison County, Montana, United States. [4] In 1961 the town and the surrounding area were designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Virginia City Historic District. [5] The population was 190 at the 2010 census.

Contents

History

Founding

Thomas Francis Meagher House, Virginia City Thomas Francis Meagher House Virginia City Montana.jpg
Thomas Francis Meagher House, Virginia City

In May 1863, a group of prospectors were headed toward the Yellowstone River and instead came upon a party of the Crow tribe and was forced to return to Bannack. On May 26, 1863, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold near Alder Creek. [6] The prospectors could not keep the site a secret and were followed on their return to the gold bearing site. A mining district was set up in order to formulate rules about individual gold claims. On June 16, 1863 under the name of "Verina" the township was formed a mile south of the gold fields. The name was intended to honor Varina Howell Davis, the first and only First Lady of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Verina, although in Union territory, was founded by men whose loyalties were thoroughly Confederate. Upon registration of the name, a Connecticut judge, G. G. Bissell, objected to their choice and recorded it as Virginia City. [7]

Within weeks Virginia City was a boomtown of thousands of prospectors and fortune seekers in the midst of a gold rush. The remote region of the Idaho Territory was without law enforcement or justice system with the exception of miners' courts. In late 1863, the great wealth in the region, lack of a justice system and the insecure means of travel gave rise to serious criminal activity, especially robbery and murder along the trails and roads of the region. Road agents as they became known were ultimately responsible for up to 100 deaths in the region in 1863 and 1864. This resulted in the formation of the Vigilance committee of Alder Gulch and the infamous Montana Vigilantes. Up to 15 road agents were hanged by the vigilantes in December 1863 and January 1864, including the sheriff of Bannack, Montana and alleged leader of the road agent gang, Henry Plummer. [8]

The Montana Territory was organized out of the existing Idaho Territory by Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 26, 1864. [9] Although Bannack was the first territorial capital, the territorial legislature moved the capital to Virginia City on February 7, 1865. [10] It remained the capital until April 19, 1875 when it moved to Helena, Montana. [11] Thomas Dimsdale began publication of Montana's first newspaper, the Montana Post, in Virginia City on August 27, 1864. [12] Montana's first public school was established in Virginia City in March 1866. [13]

Gilbert Brewery, Wallace Street, Virginia City, founded in 1866 by Henry S. Gilbert (1833-1902) Gilbert Brewery Virginia City Montana.jpg
Gilbert Brewery, Wallace Street, Virginia City, founded in 1866 by Henry S. Gilbert (1833-1902)

Ghost town

In the 1940s, Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town, putting much needed maintenance into failing structures. The ghost town of Virginia City began to be restored for tourism in the 1950s. Most of the city is now owned by the state government and is a National Historic Landmark operated as an open-air museum. Of the nearly three hundred structures in town, almost half were built prior to 1900. Buildings in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques stand next to presently active restaurants, gift shops, and other businesses.

The Historic District of Virginia City and Nevada City is currently operated by the Montana Heritage Commission. The Commission operates gold panning, the Nevada City Music Hall and Museum, and the Alder Gulch Railroad. [15] [16]

Virginia City also has a Boothill Cemetery. [17] The 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad transports passengers by rail to the nearby ghost town of Nevada City, Montana, and back.

The backdrop as well as the staged bar photos used in fine art pieces by David Yarrow is located in Virginia City at the Pioneer bar. [18]

Filmography

The film The Missouri Breaks (1976) was partly filmed in Virginia City. [19] The bar scenes in Little Big Man (1970) were filmed in the Bale Of Hay Saloon, a long time Virginia City landmark and watering hole.

Notable people

Geography

Virginia City is located at 45°17′39″N111°56′28″W / 45.29417°N 111.94111°W / 45.29417; -111.94111 (45.294107, -111.941230). [22]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.95 square miles (2.46 km2), all land. [23]

Climate

According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Virginia City has a borderline humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) bordering on a cold semi-arid climate (BSk) and a subalpine climate (Dfc). [24] The data below are from the Western Regional Climate Center over the years 1893 to 2016. [25]

Climate data for Virginia City, MT
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)65
(18)
64
(18)
71
(22)
81
(27)
91
(33)
100
(38)
103
(39)
98
(37)
94
(34)
85
(29)
70
(21)
62
(17)
103
(39)
Average high °F (°C)32.6
(0.3)
36.4
(2.4)
42.6
(5.9)
52.5
(11.4)
62.0
(16.7)
70.8
(21.6)
81.0
(27.2)
79.3
(26.3)
68.6
(20.3)
56.8
(13.8)
42.1
(5.6)
34.1
(1.2)
54.9
(12.7)
Average low °F (°C)11.6
(−11.3)
14.2
(−9.9)
19.7
(−6.8)
27.8
(−2.3)
35.9
(2.2)
42.7
(5.9)
49.7
(9.8)
47.8
(8.8)
39.4
(4.1)
30.9
(−0.6)
20.6
(−6.3)
13.7
(−10.2)
29.5
(−1.4)
Record low °F (°C)−40
(−40)
−39
(−39)
−19
(−28)
−11
(−24)
12
(−11)
23
(−5)
27
(−3)
24
(−4)
8
(−13)
−10
(−23)
−25
(−32)
−38
(−39)
−40
(−40)
Average precipitation inches (mm)0.66
(17)
0.51
(13)
0.98
(25)
1.39
(35)
2.23
(57)
2.48
(63)
1.47
(37)
1.27
(32)
1.37
(35)
1.05
(27)
0.86
(22)
0.68
(17)
14.95
(380)
Average snowfall inches (cm)9.3
(24)
7.0
(18)
10.6
(27)
8.4
(21)
4.5
(11)
0.7
(1.8)
0
(0)
0
(0)
1.3
(3.3)
3.7
(9.4)
8.9
(23)
10.2
(26)
64.6
(164.5)
Source: https://wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?mt8597

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.
1880 624
1890 6758.2%
1900 568−15.9%
1910 467−17.8%
1920 342−26.8%
1930 242−29.2%
1940 38057.0%
1950 323−15.0%
1960 194−39.9%
1970 149−23.2%
1980 19228.9%
1990 142−26.0%
2000 130−8.5%
2010 19046.2%
2019 (est.)216 [3] 13.7%
U.S. Decennial Census [26] [27]

2010 census

As of the census [2] of 2010, there were 190 people, 102 households, and 55 families residing in the town. The population density was 200.0 inhabitants per square mile (77.2/km2). There were 171 housing units at an average density of 180.0 per square mile (69.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 91.6% White, 0.5% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 7.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.6% of the population.

There were 102 households, of which 17.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.1% were non-families. 42.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.86 and the average family size was 2.49.

The median age in the town was 51.3 years. 15.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 3.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.1% were from 25 to 44; 39.6% were from 45 to 64; and 18.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 49.5% male and 50.5% female.

2000 census

As of the census [28] of 2000, there were 130 people, 72 households, and 32 families residing in the town. The population density was 140.4 people per square mile (54.0/km2). There were 122 housing units at an average density of 131.7 per square mile (50.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 94.62% White, 2.31% Native American, 0.77% from other races, and 2.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.77% of the population.

There were 72 households, out of which 18.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 1.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.2% were non-families. 47.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.81 and the average family size was 2.52.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 14.6% under the age of 18, 0.8% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 46.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $30,000, and the median income for a family was $46,250. Males had a median income of $37,500 versus $19,167 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,182. There are 5.7% of the population living below the poverty line, including those under eighteens and over 64.

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Henry Plummer

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.

Alder Gulch

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 Bannack. 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.

Wilbur F. Sanders

Wilbur Fisk Sanders was a United States Senator from Montana. A leading pioneer and a skilled lawyer, Sanders played a prominent role in the development of Montana Territory and the state's early political history.

Nevada City, Montana Unincorporated Community in Montana, United States

Nevada City is an unincorporated community in Madison County, Montana, United States. In the 1880s, it was one of the two major centers of Commerce in what was known as one of the "Richest Gold Strikes in the Rocky Mountain West", sharing this role with its sister city Virginia City. Since the late 1990s, Nevada City has become a tourist attraction for its collection of 19th century buildings within or surrounding the Nevada City Museum & Music Hall.

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.

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.

References

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  24. Climate Summary for Virginia City, Montana
  25. "VIRGINIA CITY, MONTANA - Climate Summary". wrcc.dri.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
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