Within a year, some
10,000 people were living in a number of mining camps lining the gulch and
in 1864 Congress created the new territory of
separating it from
the site of the first gold strike in the area, became the territory’s
first capitol. However, just a year later,
Virginia City had
gained so much influence that the capitol was moved. Rapidly
becoming the territory’s social center and transportation hub, the
shanties and tents were replaced by permanent buildings and
Virginia City became home to
first public school, newspaper, and telegraph.
Virginia City and
nearby Nevada City
became known as the site of the richest placer gold strike in the
Rocky Mountains. In the first three years alone,
$30 million worth of gold was removed from the gulch.
a few of the miners made their fortunes in the gold fields, and even more
businessmen became wealthy, there was yet another group who planned on
gaining riches another way. These were the many road agents
operating in the area Though historians dispute this today, the
robbers and thieves were said to have been led by none other than the
Sheriff, himself –
time, miners, freight haulers, and stagecoaches lost anything of value to
the bandits lurking about the trails to and from
Virginia City. As a result, a secret society of vigilantes was formed to stop the
outlaws. Lynchings became the common event of the day as the
vigilantes hunted down the road agents, one by one, and stringing them
up in the streets of Virginia City and
Bannack. Though history now questions whether the many crimes were committed by
highwaymen or perhaps the
themselves, their is no question that the settlement was extreme in its
lawlessness and violence.
Virginia City had began
to boom, when the city began its gradual decline. When gold was
Gulch in what is today Helena, the fickle miners began to move. Though
gold continued to be found in the area, by the early 1870’s
population had been reduced to only a few hundred. In 1875, the
territorial capitol was moved to Helena and
was on her way to becoming a
mining continued for years, it was never as profitable as the placer
mining. From 1898 through 1922, floating dredges destroyed several
of the small mining camps along Alder Gulch, leaving in its wake, mounds
of tailings and dredge ponds. The original settlement of nearby
Nevada City was totally eradicated by the dredging operations. However,
was spared because it had not been established upon gold-bearing gravel. During the decades of dredge mining, the area produced approximately $7
million in gold.
amount of gold played out, so did the dredging operations. However,
when the price of gold rose significantly in the 1930’s, dredge mining was
revived once again, only to be ceased in the next decade with the advent
of World War II.
Today, a few
small mining operations continue in the
area; but primarily, any remaining gold is searched for by hobbyists.
City is now one of the most preserved " ghost
thanks to the efforts of Charles and Sue Bovey. Mr. Bovey, a
rancher and state legislator, along with his wife, Sue, first visited
Virginia City in 1944. Though suffering from neglect and weather, the town still
stood largely intact thanks to the absence of major fires and later
Captivated by the historic city, the Boveys began to raise money for
preservation, collected artifacts, bought buildings which they
preserved, and reconstructed others which had been destroyed.
Nevada City, which had been
almost totally obliterated by dredge mining, was
entirely rebuilt. Today,
Nevada City stands as an outdoor historical
museum, with numerous historic buildings, artifacts, and furnishings.
Another project taken on by the Boveys was
a tourist court called "Daylight Village." Lodging was badly needed in
the up-and-coming revived ghost town at the time, and the lodging
facility was established in 1946 on the eastern edge of
Virginia City to meet the demand.
The "village" was comprised of
false-fronted motel units, that were fronted by weather-beaten lumber.
The painted signs represented businesses advertised in the 19th
century editions of the Montana Post. The motel units were
hidden behind the false fronts. Like other Virginia City buildings,
Daylight Village transported visitors back to the past. The village,
which included some 40 buildings, no longer operates. Falling into
disrepair, the buildings have not been maintained, as they are not
considered "historic" and there are no funds for renovation. Still,
they are an interesting view and make for great photo opportunities.
By 1978, the Boveys
owned one-third of the town; but, in the same year Charlie Bovey passed
away. His wife, Sue, died in 1988. Just one year later, many of
the Bovey-owned properties were placed up for sale.
Legislature voted to purchase the
Bovey properties in both
Virginia City and
along with the majority of the artifacts. Today, the state owns
about half of the historic structures in
Virginia City and all of the
community of Nevada City. The
Heritage Commission was formed to manage the properties.
In addition to the more than 200 historic
buildings that are preserved for tourists,
Virginia City offers a number
events for visitors that include the Heritage Days & Victorian Ball in
Players’ variety productions at the Opera House, a narrow-gauge
railroad, and the Brewery Follies at
first brewery. Also provided for the some 70,000 visitors who
each year, are museums, shops, restaurants and accommodations.
Virginia City was designated a National Historic
Landmark in 1961 and listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 1976. Today,
Virginia City boasts a population of
some 150 year-round residents and about 300 summer residents. It is
located about 65 miles southwest of Bozeman,