Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Virginia City, Montana

on January 2, 2013

Oh! I was so carried away with the Grizzly Encounter last blog, I completely didn’t mention that some great friends from Seattle met us in Bozeman, to go to the Grizzly Encounter – Brian, Taunya, and kids (Kelsey and Kade).

So, after we went to the Montana Grizzly Encounters, we headed off to Virginia City.  If you come from the east, like we d2115id, you will take Montana highway 287 (MT-287), and you will go east from Ennis., up and up and up!  (Apparently, Ennis is around 5000 feet (1524 meters) above sea level, but the high point of the road is over 6900 feet (2115 meters) above sea level, and you climb about 8 miles (12.87 kms).  You drop down a tiny bit, into Virginia City, which is at  5761 ft (1756 meters). (This, although fascinating in general, really matters when you are pulling a trailer!! And remember! What goes up, must come down – we almost melted our brakes on the way down the hill on the other side.)altitude

What would possess people to cross this divide on foot, by horse, or by horse and buggy? (or maybe mule and buggy?)
CarriagesSleigh

Dreams of gold (I learned that phrase in Italian – it’s “sogno d’ oro” and they use it to say “good night” – like “sweet dreams”.)

Miland's Shoe Store (?) Circa 1868

Those dreams of riches and grandeur and fame drove the gold rushes (including the Black Hills, the California, the Alaskan…etc.)

Apparently, in May 1863, a group of hopeful gold miners, who had encountered a series of misadventures (including being captured by warriors of the Crow Nation and missing an important rendezvous with a larger prospecting party) set up camp beside a stream they’d been following, on their way to the gold-mining camp – Bannack. (Bannack, by the way, had only been founded the year before, in 1862.  Google Maps says that, by foot, it’s about 71 more miles.)

Four of the six prospectors in the group went off to do some gold panning before dinner, and BillBuford Block (Wells Fargo Coffee House)? (1888, 1889) Fairweather and Henry Edgar stayed behind to take their turn doing chores in camp. Bill went to find a spot to picket the horses, and discovered instead – the mother lode!

The Virginia City website (maintained by the Virginia City Preservation Alliance) explains that “What Bill had discovered would prove to be one of the richest gold deposits in North America, and would be the seminal event in the history of Montana.”

Gold miners and prospectors came in droves – within weeks, thousands had arrived. At its peak, it was an actual city – a thriving, forward moving city of 30,000!  In 1865, in became the Capitol city of Montana Territory.

Through a string of political decisions, the name of the site was named Virginia, and ultimately, Virginia City.

mercantileDuring it’s heyday, the Report of the United States Assay Office estimates that at least $90,000,000 in gold had been mined between 1863 and 1889.  (According that report, that would’ve been approximately the modern-day equivalent of $40,000,000,000. (You can do your own math on what that is per ounce…)The Boardwalk

Being the thriving location that it was, electricity was brought in for lighting, in 1892 (which is pretty amazing, considering the first lightbulb was just invented in 1878 – by 1880, they had lightbulbs that would last about 1200 hours!).

The telephone service arrived in 1902, with 28 telephones. (Also, not too bad, when you consider that Alexander Graham Bell got his telephone to work in 1876….However, the Virginia City website tells us that Cell service didn’t arrive in Virginia City until June 2010…)

But! if you think that’s interesting, how about this: by 1865, they had camels that they used for freighting!

In 1944, the Historic Landmark Society was established by Charles & Sue Bovey, to save and restore Virginia City (and Nevada City). Then, the State of Montana purchased it and established the Montana Heritage Commission, in 1997.

Today, the City consists some wooden boardwalk sidewalks,  a saloon, a theater, some gift stores, historical buildings for viewing, and a population of approximately 132 people.

They have live theater at the Opera House – while we were there, they (the Virginia City Players) were performing a story about “Davy Crocket”. Opera HouseConcessionsOpera House seating

We, unfortunately, couldn’t stay through the evening to go to the theater, nor could we stay to do gold panning or garnet mining (that’s my subtle way of introducing Garnet mining into the conversation)…

BUT, we did stay long enough to experience the Bale of Hay Saloon.  The food was delicious, the owners were friendly and fun (two sisters who moved there from…I forget where…I want to say Colorado, but that might be wrong…), and the highlight of all highlights (for me, anyway) is that Daisy and Coco (our miniature dachshunds) got to come in, too! The Saloon even keeps water dishes for dogs at the end of the bar!
Coco at the tableDaisy & Coco

You can also take train rides between Virginia City and Nevada City (Nevada City is there right-next-door historical mining town), a stagecoach tour, a 1941 Fire Engine Tour, and various walking tours.
fire truck toursstagecoach tour

Taunya, Kelsey & Kade took the train ride, and we picked them up at the local ice cream shop on the way through – on our way to Lewis & Clark Caverns.

http://www.virginiacitymt.com/History.asp

Sunday – Lewis and Clark Caverns!

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2 responses to “Virginia City, Montana

  1. Shannan says:

    The ‘girls’ got to go in…? Is this a first for them?

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