Welcome to Bannack:The gold rush boomtown & one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Montana
Bannack is a ghost town in Beaverhead County, Montana, located on Grasshopper Creek about 11 miles (18 km) upstream from where Grasshopper Creek meets the Beaverhead River south of Dillon.
It was founded in 1862 and called after the neighboring Bannock Indians. It was the location of a big gold find in 1862, and it briefly served as the capital of Montana Territory in 1864, before being transferred to Virginia City.
Along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, Bannack State Park near Dillon, MT. US Forest Service photo, by Roger Peterson… Source
Bannack had a population of roughly ten thousand people at its height. It was extremely isolated, with just the Montana Trail connecting it to the rest of the world.
Three hotels, three bakeries, three blacksmith shops, two stables, two meat markets, a grocery store, a restaurant, a brewery, a billiard hall, and four saloons were all present. Despite the fact that all of the shops were made of logs, several had attractive fake fronts.
Along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, Bannack State Park near Dillon, MT. US Forest Service photo, by Roger Peterson.. Source
Dr. Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, a physician born in Cornish, New Hampshire, who gave up medicine for a while to become a gold miner, was one of the town’s founders.
Dr. Leavitt arrived in Bannack in 1862 and alternated between practicing medicine and gold mining with a pick and shovel.
According to Joaquin Miller’s Montana history, “while some success crowned his labors,” he “soon discovered that he had more repute as a physician than as a miner, and that there was greater profit in permitting someone else to wield his pick and shovel while he attended to his profession.”
Dr. Leavitt afterwards relocated to Butte, Montana, where he spent the remainder of his life practicing medicine.
Some suspected Bannack’s sheriff, Henry Plummer, of secretly commanding a merciless band of road agents, with early records alleging that this gang was responsible for over a hundred deaths in the Virginia City and Bannack gold fields, as well as paths to Salt Lake City.
However, because only eight fatalities are historically documented, some modern historians have questioned the actual nature of Plummer’s gang, while others have denied the group’s existence entirely.
In any event, on January 10, 1864, Plummer and two colleagues, also deputies, were hung without a trial in Bannack. Several of Plummer’s accomplices were lynched, and others were exiled with the threat of death if they returned. The Vigilance Committee (the Montana Vigilantes) of Bannack and Virginia City charged, unofficially tried, and executed twenty-two people.
The first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Nathaniel Pitt Langford, was a member of the vigilance committee.
Every year, during the third weekend of July, this abandoned town experiences a historical reconstruction known as “Bannack Days”.
Bannack State Park authorities arrange a two-day event that seeks to recreate the days when Bannack was a boom town, reenacting the day-to-day lives of the miners who lived there during the gold rush.
An real, old-fashioned breakfast is provided at the historic Meade Hotel, a brick edifice (fully restored) that was the capital of Beaverhead County for many years until Dillon, Montana, became the county seat.