Bannack, Montana (composite image), July 30, 2010
The ghost town of Bannack, Montana is quite a ways off the normal tourists routes. You pretty much have to want to be going there to get there. This was our fourth visit, if memory serves me right – though it may have only been three – over a period of 30+ years. The town is a Montana state park and is well preserved, with little visible change since our first visit.
Our first trip to Bannack was in the late 70s when we tent camped in a very rustic campground adjacent to the town. This time, we were camped 65 miles away at May Creek Campground near the Montana-Idaho state line.
Bannack, Montana (Wikipedia)
Bannack is a ghost town in Beaverhead County, Montana, United States, located on Grasshopper Creek.
Founded in 1862 and named after the local Bannock Indians, it was the site of a major gold discovery in 1862, and served as the capital of Montana Territory briefly in 1864, until the capital was moved to Virginia City. Bannack continued as a mining town, though with a dwindling population. The last residents left in the 1970s.
At its peak, Bannack had a population of about ten thousand. Extremely remote, it was connected to the rest of the world only by the Montana Trail. There were 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. Though all of the businesses were built of logs, some had decorative false fronts.
Bannack’s sheriff, Henry Plummer, was accused by some of secretly leading a ruthless band of road agents, with early accounts claiming that this gang was responsible for over a hundred murders in the Virginia City and Bannack gold fields and trails to Salt Lake City. However, because only eight deaths are historically documented, some modern historians have called into question the exact nature of Plummer’s gang, while others deny the existence of the gang altogether. In any case, Plummer and two compatriots, both deputies, were hanged, without trial, at Bannack on January 10, 1864. A number of Plummer’s associates were lynched and others banished on pain of death if they ever returned. Twenty-two individuals were accused, informally tried, and hanged by the Vigilance Committee (the Montana Vigilantes) of Bannack and Virginia City. Nathaniel Pitt Langford, the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, was a member of that vigilance committee.
Sixty brick and historic log and frame structures remain standing in Bannack, many quite well preserved; most can be explored.