Saturday, May 20, 2023

The OTHER Virginia City (part 1)


Virginia City; image courtesy of SchmuckyTheCat at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Other Virginia City

This article isn’t about a Nevada ghost town. Nope. We’re here to discuss the OTHER Virginia City, the one that began as a Wild West boom town during the OTHER gold rush. That’s right. This post isn’t about California or Alaska either.
The Montana gold rush began on July 28th, 1862, when a miner named John White struck gold on the banks of Grasshopper Creek. This discovery spurred 3,000 gold seekers to the banks of Grasshopper Creek—the site of White’s discovery. The town of Bannack went up to sustain them, but more kept coming.
Bannack City, Montana
Bannack City, Montana; image courtesy of Mr Hicks 46, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The next year, on May 26, a small group of Bannack miners rode off to explore the surrounding area. Barney Hughes, Thomas Cover, Henry Rodgers, William Fairweather, Henry Edgar, and Bill Sweeney strayed into Crow territory. They found the tribe unamused by their presence but escaped with their lives. Before heading back to Bannack, the miners set up camp in Alder Gulch. On impulse, some of them decided to pan for gold at the headwaters of Stinking Water (a stream more attractively renamed Alder Creek in later years). Their hope to glean enough gold for a little tobacco was more than satisfied.

Upon returning to Bannack, the men splashed around their new-found lucre, making such extravagant purchases that others guessed their secret. When they tried to sneak out of town to go back to their new claims, their neighbors dogged them. They gave up and led a miner’s stampede from Bannack to Alder Gulch. "In order to work the claims they had to go to Bannack to procure a stockof supplies. They decided to tell a few of their friends, so that they too could share in the good fortune. Such wonderful news could not be kept a secret. It spread like wildfire and when the six men were ready to return to their prospect the whole town, was prepared to follow them. It was a strange procession: Every horse that could go was out —oxen that would carry a pack were cinched and packed . . . and miners afoot, with blankets on their backs, and coffee pots, frying-pans, picks, shovels hanging to them, brought up the rear of the stampede.(Quotation from a newspaper clipping in the posses-sion of the Historical Library in Helena via "The Story of Montana"Word spread, and more hopefuls began arriving. They came in droves, traveling by wagon and steamboat--ten thousand strong. Prospectors snatched up claims and set up “Fourteen Mile City” on the banks of Alder Creek.

Old Prospector panning for gold at Alder Creek
via Wikimedia Commons

Virginia City, Montana sprang from this fevered growth. It grew in prominence, and on February 7th, 1865, displaced Bannack as the capital of Montana Territory. Today, Virginia City is one of Montana’s partially—occupied ghost towns. Tourists can step back in time at the Thompson-Hickman museum, go horseback riding, screen for rubies, pan for gold, ride in a stagecoach, watch a comedy cabaret or a play, purchase authentic 19th-century clothing, enjoy a scoop or two of handmade ice cream, lift a glass in an authentic Wild West saloon, book a bed-and-breakfast, and ride a steam train the two miles to neighboring Nevada City, another ghost town. Personally, it’s enough to walk down the street and gawk at the original buildings, including the hanging house. But we’ll describe the town’s buildings and more of its history in part two, coming June 20th.

Montana’s Virginia City once housed road agents, lawmen, miners, and vigilantes—not to mention its share of women, both reputable and otherwise. The town’s history makes great fodder for historical romance, and I could not resist it. I first drove through this ghost town on a family trip. My fascination with Viriginia City resulted in the Montana Gold series. Check out the details at the end of this post.

Tell me, if you visited Montana's Virginia City, what would you do first?

What's New with Janalyn Voigt

Spring arrives like a whirlwind in my world. It sweeps me into a flurry of garden preparation, vacation planning, and this year, several book launches. I was just settling in after The Whispering Wind released in April when my publisher informed me of plans to release the first four books of the Montana Gold series as a boxed set. And so, I'm planning for an unexpected launch that will happen quite soon. This is the hectic and somewhat madcap life of an author. 

I wouldn't trade it.

If you want to know more about me, you are welcome to visit the website for Janalyn Voigt books. While you are there, consider subscribing for all my news, occasional articles, and to learn of specials on my books.  

Hills of Nevermore (book 1) - Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on protecting her?
Cheyenne Sunrise (book 2) – After her wagon journey goes terribly wrong, a woman disillusioned in men must rely on a half-Cheyenne trail guide.
Stagecoach to Liberty (book 3) – A young Hessian girl must decide to trust a handsome Irish stranger or remain with her alarming companions.
The Forever Sky (book 4) - Can a young widow with no faith in love hope for a future with the man who broke her heart?
The Promise Tree (book 5) - A preacher’s daughter shouldn’t encourage a troublemaker’s advances—no matter what her wayward heart desires.
The Whispering Wind (book 6) - A beautiful woman can have her pick of suitors but never the man she wants.

The Montana Gold series explores faith, courage, and love in the Wild West. Learn more about the books>>



  1. Thank you for posting. Like you, the first thing I might do is wander the main street and visit the different buildings. Screening for rubies sounds exciting too!

  2. Hi, Connie. I'm looking forward to next month's post on the buildings. Any red gemstone screened in Alder Creek would most likely be a garnet. They aren't as common in the state overall. The nearby Ruby River actually got its name from early pioneers mistaking garnets for rubies. Still, screening for rubies would be a fun outing.