Nevada City - Outdoor History Museum
Just 1 ˝ miles west of its more popular neighbor of
Virginia City, the old mining camp of
Nevada City got its start at the same time when gold was discovered in
Alder Gulch in 1863. In fact, numerous settlements were established all
along Alder Gulch, including the camps of Summit, Adobetown, Central City,
and Junction, with
Virginia City in the middle. The scattering of mining
camps and buildings that sprawled up and down the gulch for some 14 miles,
was also known as Fourteen-mile City.
Nevada City was comprised of placer miners working several
mining districts including Browns Gulch just south of the town and Granite
Creek, about two miles northwest of Nevada City. These and other claims
would all later become part of the
Virginia City Mining District.
In the beginning, the
entire entire mining district was part of
Idaho Territory and
Virginia City became the Montana
territorial capitol in 1865, there was no law except that of the miner’s
Numerous buildings have been dismantled from
areas and have been restored on Nevada City's back streets. July, 2008, Kathy Weiser. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
On December 19, 1863, Nevada City’s main
street was the setting for the miners’ court trial of George
Ives who brutally murdered a popular Dutch man named Nicholas Tibalt. The trial, which lasted three days and was attended
by as many as 2,000 area residents, finally found that Ives
had shot Tibalt before stealing his gold and several mules. After the miner’s jury found Ives guilty, proceedings
immediately began to hang him. Within no time, a 40-foot pole
was run through the window of an unfinished house nearby and a
rope fastened to its end. Just 58 minutes after his
conviction, Ive’s life ended on December 21, 1863. This first trial,
conviction, and execution would become the catalyst for
forming the infamous
Montana Vigilantes. Within the next month, some 24 men found guilty by
the vigilantes would also be hanged in the area.
quickly peaked, boasting dozens of businesses and cabins.
However, by 1869, the population of the mining camp had
already fallen to about 100 people, but, still sported three
general stores, two saloons, a blacksmith, butcher shop,
livery stable, brewery and a Masonic Hall. However by 1876,
Nevada City had all but become a ghost town as the miners
moved on to new finds.
It is estimated that in the first five years of
Alder Gulch’s heydays, some 30-40 million dollars in gold were
taken from the district. Although small mining operations
continued to work the original claims for several years, no
large operations occurred again until 1896, when the Conrey
Placer Mining Company was organized to dredge the gulch.
Dredges went to work in 1899, and continued for the next 24
years, processing more than 37 million cubic yards of ground
along seven miles of Alder Gulch. By the times the dredges
ceased to operate in 1923, some ten million dollars in gold
had been recovered and in their path, many of Nevada City’s
buildings were destroyed. The dredges were then disassembled, the
equipment sold for salvage and the heavy wooden barges were
left to slowly be reclaimed by Mother Nature. Other original
Nevada City buildings were destroyed when the highway was
built through the area.
However, the few original buildings that remained were save by the last residents
in Nevada City – Cora and Alfred Finney. Later,
in the 1950’s, in came a couple named Charles and Sue Bovey who
had been "collecting” old
Montana buildings since the 1940s.
Many of these buildings were first displayed at the Great
Falls fairgrounds in an exhibit known as "Old Town.”
in 1959, Bovey was asked to remove the Old Town exhibit.
Soon, careful disassembly of the buildings began to take
place, with their new home becoming that of Nevada City’s back
Placed on sites where previous buildings once stood, the
town’s original layout was retained.
In 1964, a 1.5 mile railroad
line was built; linking Nevada City to
Virginia City and
a railroad museum was stabled to protect the old railroad
equipment. The last building was moved to Nevada City in 1978.
"New” buildings were also constructed to display a town that
truly represented life in an early
settlement. In 1997, the State of
purchased the Bovey properties in both
Virginia City and
This row of buildings on
Nevada City's back streets include an original barber shop moved from
Montana and Sullivan's Saddlery, which originally housed the Indian Agency at
Montana. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
Today, the town stands as an
outdoor historical museum, with numerous historic buildings,
artifacts, and furnishings. Owned by the State of
and operated by the Montana
Heritage Commission, the old town site provides more than 90
historic buildings from various places around
original Nevada City structures and re-created buildings.
The Nevada City Music Hall, which houses the largest public
collection of automated music machines in North America,
welcomes visitors to the site. The historic building was
originally constructed in 1912 as the Recreation Hall at
Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone Park.
Across the street is the reconstructed depot and engine house,
which features a 1910 Baldwin Steam Locomotive which travels
Virginia City. Original
Nevada City buildings include the
jail were George Ives was housed, the Fenner Barn, the Star
Bakery, the Finney homestead, and Dr. Byam’s home. Byam was
the judge at the trial of George Ives. More buildings that
have been moved from other locations include the Nevada City
Emporium, an 1880s era building that came from Dillon; the
Nevada City Hotel, which once housed an 1860’s stage station
south of Twin Bridges; Sullivan’s Saddlery which once stood as
the Indian Agency at
Fort Benton, and dozens of others.
There is an admission fee
for entry. Nevada City is about 27 miles southeast of Twin
on Highway 287.
Nevada City, Montana
PO Box 338
of America, updated April, 2013.