Virginia City, Montana
Thousands came to Virginia City searching for gold in 1863-64. Many of them came from Bannack Montana which had been the site of a gold rush the previous year. Virginia City is at the upper end of Alder Gulch which had one of the richest deposits of placer gold ever discovered in Montana. An almost 20 mile stretch of valley from Virginia City to the Ruby River became densely populated with miners who dug through it's alluvial deposits. Virginia City became the commercial center of the district and the capital of Montana Territory. The boom ended almost as quickly as it had begun. By the 1870 census Virginia City had a population of 867. The Montana Territory capital which was moved from Bannack to Virginia City in 1865, was moved again to Helena in 1875, as Virginia City's fortunes declined.
Mining activity continues to this day in the Alder Gulch district. Industrial scale dredging along the streambed started in the 1900s and has disfigured many miles of the valley bottom with dredge tailings. A string of towns sprang up along Alder Gulch and the Ruby River during the boom. Some of those towns survive today and others have disappeared entirely. I have a few pictures of Nevada City and Alder on this site. I didn't see many interesting places to explore or photograph on my trip through the area in 2014.
The the 1940s Charles Bovey began buying properties in Virginia City and preserving them. Into the 1950s he and others began promoting Virginia City as an "Old West" destination for tourists. At that time it had a population of around 300. After Bovey's death the state of Montana began buying properties in Virginia City. The town is now generally managed by the Montana Heritage Commission but there are many private properties mixed in with the state owned properties. Virginia City today is a successful tourist attraction. It has a very commercial, theme park like character. The town's store fronts are a mixture of public exhibits, old west themed gift shops, cafes and other businesses. It was fairly crowded when I visited.
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