MADISON COUNTY, MONTANA

TOWNS AND POPULATED PLACES

Place

USGS Quad
(if known)

Comments
Abe Bucks Nest Ghost Town. Historic Post Office Opened 7/30/17 and closed 4/30/38
Adobetown Virginia City See 1895 map for location. Historic Post Office Opened as Nevada City 3/06/1865. Name changed to Adobetown 12/16/1875 and closed 2/02/1899. Reestablished 6/17/1899 and closed 10/15/1907
Alder (historical) Alder Historic Post Office Opened 5/08/1902
Alder Bucks Nest Alder takes its name from the creek named by Henry Edgar in 1863. Alder was the terminus of a branch line of the Northern Pacific and served as a shipping point for Virginia City ore, livestock and farm produce from the Ruby Valley. The Confrey Placer Mining Company, which was operating an extensive dredging project, was influential in getting the railroad into Alder in 1901. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company)

The establishment of a railroad terminal in Alder aided the assembly of the great dredges, large complicated steamships equipped with scooping or suction devices which traveled upriver while scooping dirt and gravel from the river bottom. These dredges facilitated the placer mining, which took place in Alder Gulch between 1897 and 1922. In the early 1900s the Northern Pacific Railroad built a rail line from Whitehall to Alder to transport the parts needed to construct the dredges.

Alder Gulch was one of the greatest gold producers of all time. The site of the largest placer gold strike in world history was discovered in May 1863 by prospectors returning to Bannack after they were waylaid by Indians. Alder Gulch produced 100 million dollars worth of gold by 1920. A year later the booming town of Virginia City had a population of 10,000. People lived in makeshift tents and shacks, with every third construction a saloon. The gulch was named Fairweather Mining District in 1863. Exactly one year after gold was discovered, Montana was made a territory.

Today, Alder has a gem mine open to the public. Folks can go just south of town to search for garnets and other stones. About five miles north of the town is Robber's Roost, an old stage stop. It is open to the public and features an antique store and museum. Hold-up gangs used to hang out here during the early gold rush days when stagecoaches made regular runs between Bannack and Virginia City.

Alder Gulch Alder In 1863 Bill Fairweather and his party discovered gold in southwestern Montana. They were on their way to Yellowstone Country from Bannack but were waylaid by a band of Crows. While hiding from the Indians in a gulch they found gold. They named the gulch after the alder trees lining the gulch. Alder was one of the great gold producers of all time. The site of the largest placer gold strike in world history. It produced $10,000,000.00 during the first year.

A year later the boom town of Virginia City had a population of 10,000. People lived in makeshift tents and shacks and every third construction was a saloon. The site gave birth to two of Montana's most famous towns: Virginia City and Nevada City.

The discoveries at Alder Gulch drew people away from Bannack, reducing the population, making Virginia City the territorial capital from 1865 to 1875.

Ball Place Metzel Ranch .
Bannack . Bannack is one of the best preserved of all of Montana's ghost towns. The ghost town of Bannack, the site of Montana's first major gold discovery July 28, 1862 at Grasshopper Creek , became Montana's first territorial capital in 1864. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack's population to over 3000 by 1863. When the gold ran out the town died. There are over 50 buildings that line Main Street with its historic log and frame structures that recall Montana's formative years.

Bannack Days, with historic displays, activities and events, is held the third weekend in July each year. The visitor center is open from mid-May through September. A group picnic site is available. National Historic Landmark. The park is 5,800 feet in elevation and is 1154 acres in size. There are 28 sites in the campground with vault toilets, grills/firerings, firewood, picnic tables, trash cans, drinking water and access to Grasshopper Creek for fishing. A golf course and three museums are located nearby in Dillon. Day use fees are $4.00 per vehicle and camping fee: all season. Flush toilets are located in the visitors center and escorted and unescorted tours are available.

Beacon Point Beacon Point .
Beals Harrison .
Beaverhead Rock Beaverhead Rock Historical Post Office Opened 11/02/1869 and closed 7/11/1871
Big Sky Mtn Village Lone Mtn .
Blaine Beaverhead Rock Historical Post Office Opened 6/09/1893 and closed 3/30/1935
Bowman Place Home Park Ranch .
Brandon Sheridan .
Burdick Place Metzel Ranch .
Callaway Alder Historical Post Office. Opened 9/26/1871 and closed 6/11/1872. Reestablished 2/24/1873 and closed 5/18/1874.
Cameron Cameron Post Office Opened 7/10/1890
Campbell Place Metzel Ranch .
Centerville Beaverhead Rock Ghost Town
Central City Virginia City Ghost Town
Cicero Alder renamed Laurin
Cliff Lake Cliff Lake .
Clipper Pony Historical Post Office Opened 9/03/02 and closed 6/30/04
Cowboys Heaven Cherry Lake .
Crawford Silver Star Historical Post Office Opened 12/20/1872 and closed 11/14/1873
Eau Clair Jefferson Island Ghost Town
Ennis Ennis .
Ferguson Harrison See Harrison
Fries Place Belmont Park Ranch .
Gaffney Twin Bridges See Salisbury.
Glen Station . See 1895 map for location
Grahams Place Cliff Lake .
Hale Place Home Park Ranch .
Harrison Harrison Post Office Opened as Ferguson 9/18/1896. Name changed to Harrison 7/20/1905
Harrison Mill Harrison .
Harrison (historical) Harrison Historical Post Office Opened 7/27/1870 and closed 2/26/1880. Reestablished 4/06/1880 and closed 1/04/1884. Reestablished 10/20/1884 and closed 9/16/1899.
Havana Cherry Creek Canyon Historical Post Office Opened 2/19/1873 and closed 10/19/1874
Hoffman Place Christensent Ranch .
Holden Place Christensen Ranch .
Iron Rod Silver Star Ghost Town. Post Office Opened 9/20/1869 and closed 9/12/1872. Reestablished 8/11/1876 and closed 9/04/1882
Jeffers Ennis .
Jefferson Island Jefferson Island Historical Post Office. Opened as Lahood 5/07/1909. Name changed to Jefferson Island 5/02/1912 and closed 5/31/1954
Junction Virginia City .
Kingrey Place Metzel Ranch .
Lahood Jefferson Island Name changed to Jefferson Island in 1912.
Laurin Alder As a supply center near Alder Gulch, Laurin shared in the $100,000,000 riches of the gulch.

The town was established around a trading post ran by the Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Laurin. Laurin's store prospered because of the supplies carried for the miners and the furs traded with the Indians. Laurin was sometimes called Cicero, or Lorrain.

M. Laurin was a five foot seven inch tall man, weighing in at a grand total of 350 pounds. He was a very shrewd businessman even though he couldn't read or write. It has been estimated that he built an economic empire of $500,000. Another report indicated that he owned all the stores, bridges, and most of the ranches, cattle, horses, and mules from fifty to one hundred miles of the valley. Laurin was also a money lender charging between twelve to thirty-six percent on unsecured loans.

Laurin is most known for Hangman's Tree, the place where two of Plummer's road agents were hanged. Sometimes called "Lorraine's Place".

Leary Place Home Park Ranch .
Leiterville Noble Peak .
Leonard Place Home Park Ranch .
Lewis Bear Trap Creek Historical Post Office Opened 11/14/1873 and closed 1/29/1883
Loomont Waterloo Historical Post Office Opened 4/08/12. Closing date unknown
Lorraine Alder See Laurin
Lory Alder See Laurin
Mammoth Manhead Mtn Historical Post Office Opened 8/13/1877 and closed 2/07/1879. Reestablished 6/29/1897 and closed 7/31/1908. Reestablished 5/14/1930 and closed 8/15/1931
Margana Maltbys Mound See Revenue.
McAllister Ennis Lake .
Meadow Creek Leonard Creek See 1895 map for location. Historical Post Office Opened 2/09/1869 and closed 10/04/1883. Reestablished 7/10/1886 and closed 4/15/1908
Missouri Flats Cliff Lake Ghost Town
Monida . See 1895 map for location
Morgan . See 1895 map for location. Historical Post Office Opened 5/06/1892 and closed 5/03/1893
Norris Norris PO Box Estab. 1891
Nevada City Virginia City Nevada City was a mining ghost town until the Bovey family restored it between 1945 and 1978. The entire town of Nevada City is a historical museum. Today it is a famous tourist attraction with many original log buildings and an outstanding collection of old-time music boxes, player pianos and calliopes. Also there is a narrow rail system that links Nevada City and Virginia City, with a fully restored 1910 Baldwin Steam Locomotive on weekends and a smaller train weekdays. Train operates from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day. See Adobetown for Post Office information.
Pageville Twin Bridges SW See 1895 map for location. Historical Post Office Opened 6/10/1892 and closed 3/15/1913
Point of Rocks Beaverhead Rock Historical Post Office Opened 1/20/1873 and closed 10/09/1873
Pollinger Twin Bridges See Salisbury.
Pony Pony Post Office Opened 2/28/1877
Primus Jefferson Island Historical Post Office Opened 11/11/1882 and closed 6/25/1883
Puller Springs . See 1895 map for location
Red Bluff Norris Historical Post Office Opened 12/23/1874 and closed 4/30/1901
Reeder Place Home Park Ranch .
Revenue Maltbys Mound Opened as Margana 7/09/1886. Name changed to Revenue 1/20/1887 and closed 12/16/1887. Reestablished 5/02/1888 and closed 12/03/1888
Robbers Roost . Nickname for stage station on Pete Daly's ranch
Rochester Nez Perce Hollow Historical Post Office Opened 9/07/1868 and closed 8/14/1876. Reestablished 3/09/1888 and closed 11/11/1889. Reestablished as Watseka 12/18/1891. Name changed to Rochester 6/08/1892 and closed 6/29/1918
Ruby Alder Historical Post Office Opened 5/27/1901 and closed 4/15/1924
Salisbury Twin Bridges Historical Post Office opened as Pollinger 9/02/1869. Name changed to Gaffney 10/16/1871. Name changed to Salisbury 11/01/1875 and closed 6/15/1883
Sandcreek Sappington Historical Post Office Opened 1/25/1897 and closed 10/15/1902
Schusters Place Cliff Lake .
Shaws Harrison .
Sheridan Sheridan Post Office Opened 5/22/1866
Silver Star Silver Star Post Office Opened 6/15/1869
Spalding Ennis Lake Historical Post Office Opened 12/11/1883 and closed 7/08/1886
Spanish Willow Swamp Historical Post Office Opened 5/23/1901 and closed 2/14/1911
Sterling Maltbys Mound Historical Post Office Opened 10/22/1867 and closed 4/27/1880. Reestablished 6/07/1880 and closed 8/16/1883
Stinking Water River . Renamed the Ruby River
Stringtown Harrison Ghost Town
Summit Cirque Lake Historic Post Office Opened 2/27/1867 and closed 11/29/1881
Summit Valley Jefferson Island .
Sweetwater Belmont Park Ranch Ghost Town
Tate Place Home Park Ranch .
Twin Bridges Twin Bridges Post Office Opened 7/06/1869 and closed 7/07/1873. Reestablished 8/18/1873
Varina Virginia City Original name of Virginia City
Varney Varney Historical Post Office Opened 1/20/14 and closed 1/18/44
Virginia City Virginia City Virginia City, Montana - Step back in time and relive the Montana frontier gold rush experience of the mid-to-late 1800s. Today, through various serendipitous twists of fate, the Virginia City of old survives in a uniquely engaging relationship with the present. A small, friendly community nestled amongst the renowned gold-laden hills and gulches of Alder Gulch. Virginia City remains a true historical treasure. Recognized in 1961 as a National Historic Landmark, the town has seen every form of boom-and-bust cycle imaginable. Frantically founded in 1863 in the midst of yet another western gold rush, the town and surrounding areas quickly became home to several thousand feverish fortune hunters. Virginia City because of its convenient location in the midst of the gold fields rapidly grew to become the territorial capital and ‘Social City' of the Montana frontier.

This combination of abundant economic wealth, growing political power, and limited civilizing restraints created ripe conditions for excessive behaviors amongst the early residents of this ‘wide-open town'. In this lonely, isolated and lawless town the demand for brothels, saloon, dance halls, and gambling parlors greatly exceeded the call for churches, schools, and civilized concepts of justice. Until finally in a desperate attempt to stem this tide of unrestrained lawlessness, ‘upstanding' members of the community united in response to a particularly brutal string of robberies and murders to form the Vigilantes. According to historical accounts the Vigilantes were responsible for administering a particularly effective form of frontier justice, wherein twenty-four men suspected of being road agents (outlaws) were hunted down and executed over a brief four-month period. No one was beyond suspicion, as evidenced by the fact that one of the early recipients of the Vigilante's juggernaut of justice was Henry Plummer, the local sheriff. He was hung along with his deputies from his own gallows in the nearby community of Bannack for his reported involvement as the ringleader of the gang of road agents. Five other ‘convicted' road agents were captured and hung in Virginia City. Their remains are interred in the Boot Hill Cemetery above Virginia City. After this intense period of social unrest the Vigilantes disbanded as quickly as they formed, melting back into the day-to-day fabric of this now more civilized community.

During this early period the community experienced impressive growth and cultural refinement, as the crudely constructed log cabins of the early prospectors gave way to the more deliberately and tastefully designed houses and stores of businessmen and established miners. However, as is often the case with gold rush communities, within a few years of it's founding, the ‘easy' gold played out and most of the initially large population moved on to the latest new strike. By the early - 1870s, Virginia City's status as the territorial capital was being seriously contested, until finally in 1875 the political might of the rival community of Helena and the developing gold fields of Last Chance Gulch, succeeded in finally ‘stealing' away the claim to the capital. The town continued stubbornly onward, retaining its position as the county seat for Madison County, but its spirit had been broken and by the late 19th-century was but a shadow of its former glory.

So began Virginia City's slow painful slide into obscurity. If not for the advent of new mining technology known as dredge boats - large floating mining factories that revolutionized the placer gold mining industry around 1900 and allowed further exploitation of Alder Gulch's riches, the town's colorful history would have come to a abrupt close. These large-scaled industrialized mining activities enabled deeply buried gold deposits to be profitably developed and kept the community alive until the 1940s - marking an amazing long 80-year period of active gold mining in this area. However, the advent of WW-II effectively spelled the end to Virginia City's long run as a major mining center.

The mid-1940s found Virginia City in a depressed economic and social state, the mines were closed by federal mandate as nonessential to the war effort, and the local population of able-bodied workers, both men and women, were either drafted or relocated to work in war-related industries. Virginia City was almost a ghost town. Its population was reduced to less than 100 persons, comprised mostly of elder residents waiting out the war. Then once again fate stepped in to breath new life and purpose into the old buildings of the town. Charlie and Sue Bovey, avid history buffs and antique collectors, visited Virginia City in the early 1940s and saw in the old, mostly abandoned buildings, not worthless junk, but a priceless collection of Western American history dating back almost 100 years to the very beginning of Montana's development.

Since the 1940s, thanks to the preservation efforts of the Bovey family, Virginia City has experienced yet another period of steadily growing prosperity as a major heritage tourism destination. Located only 85-miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park the town enjoys a stable population of 150 year round residents. That number effectively doubles during the active summertime period (May-September) when thousands of curious daily visitors explore the boardwalks and back streets of the town. In spite of almost 50 years of active tourism, the town still retains a compelling sense of authenticity that thrills even the most demanding modern visitor. The historic buildings and landscape of the town act as a colorful backdrop for the many engaging activities available to the inquisitive visitor. A few such examples include two professional theaters, several tour groups, steam train rides, and live demonstrations of heritage trades, i.e. blacksmithing, gold-panning, etc. Today, most of the properties and artifacts once owned and interpreted by the Bovey family have been purchased by the State of Montana to ensure their long-term care and protection. The essence of the Virginia City experience is a casual, inviting setting that lends itself to a relaxing family outing or fun-filled weekend retreat from the typical hustle and bustle of modern life.

Washington Bar Leonard Creek See 1895 map for location. Historical Post Office Opened 7/10/1884 and closed 7/02/1896
Waterloo Waterloo Historical Post Office Opened 6/23/1900 and closed 4/30/1971
Watkins Ennis Lake .
Watseka Nez Perce Hollow See Rochester
Willis . See 1895 map for location
Woodward Place Varney .
     
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