Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Story of Garnet: Montana's Best-Preserved Ghost Town...

Gather around my friends for I'm about to tell you a wonderful ghost story...

In 1898, Garnet was a booming gold camp with nearly 1,000 residents.  The hushed     woods once echoed with the rumbling of wagons chock-full of gold ore.  Teamsters urged horses down muddy streets.  Mine hoists clanged.  Whistles blew.  Children raced to school.  The town included four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, a school, a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor's office, an assay office, and thirteen saloons.  The surrounding mountains were rich in gold-bearing quartz so Garnet grew rapidly until about 1905 when many of the mines were abandoned.  The 1910 census found only 150 residents.  In 1912, fire destroyed many of the commercial buildings and by the 1920's Garnet was a ghost town...

Today, we need our imagination to hear the piano tinkling when we enter into Kelly's Saloon or to feel the heat of the forge at Billy Liberty's blacksmith shop.  When we climb the stairs of Mrs. Well's fine hotel, we have to picture it when the wallpaper was all in tact and beautiful, the tables all set, the beds all made up, ready for her guests...

Twenty-two buildings they were able to preserve, which is quite a lot considering that many were lost in the 1912  fire.  In 1934 when President Roosevelt raised gold prices from $16 to $35 an ounce, Garnet revived.  With the higher price and new extraction and refining technology available, a new wave of miners moved into abandoned cabins and began re-working the mines and dumps.  By 1936, Garnet had grown to some 250 residents.  During this era, miners also constructed a number of new log cabins.  Life was good in Garnet. 

It was not to last, however, with the onset of war drew the population away again.  By 1942 the post office closed and only a few hardy residents remained.  Soon, souvenir hunters began stripping the town of loose items, even doors, stained glass, artifacts even woodwork.  The Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Assn. stepped in to secure title to properties, with the goal of protecting, stabilizing and eventually interpreting this important physical reminder of our mining heritage.  Garnet is now recognized as one of Montana's most intact ghost towns, and thousands of visitors make the trek up the steep mountain roads each year to experience history first-hand. I'm sure glad we did!

Garnet Ghost Town MT

Kelly's Saloon (c1898), Garnet Ghost Town MT

Ole & Marion Dahl's 1930s Tavern or "Speakeasy", Garnet Ghost Town MT
The Honeymoon Cabin (c1896) Newlyweds could live rent free until another newly couple came along       
The J K Wells Hotel (c1897) was the most impressive bldg in Garnet

Billy Liberty's Blacksmith Shop (c1896), Garnet Ghost Town MT 
Last looks...Garnet Ghost Town MT

...on the road in Montana,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

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