Garnet is one of Montana’s most intact ghosts town situated in a remote valley located at the head of First Chance Creek, 6,000 feet up in the green pine forested mountains east of Missoula. It symbolizes an important era in Montana’s hard rock mining history. Like many of Montana’s ghost towns, Garnet was founded because of mining and this little town was known for gold. They started working on the I-90 side of the mountain, which is the south side, and they placer mined all the way up to the current location. The town sprung up essentially overnight. Enterprising miners were more interested in extracting the riches below ground than building above. As a result, buildings grew quickly, most lacking foundations. They were small and easy to heat. Yet, a century after Garnet emerged, remnants of the town stand, hidden high in the Garnet Mountain Range. Today, substantial effort of the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Association has gone into stabilizing and protecting the remaining historic structures.
The Story Of Garnet Garnet was named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stone first mined there before gold was found. The surrounding mountains were rich in gold-bearing quartz. A thousand years ago these mountains sat between two rivers, the Clark Fork and the Black Foot Rivers. They were used primarily by the Native Americans to hunt and gather berries. There are no indications that camps or villages were in existence in the Garnet Mountains.
In the 1800s miners migrated north from played-out placer mines in California and Colorado. In 1865, gold discovered in Bear Creek. Placer mining of gold or other minerals is done by washing the sand, gravel, etc. with running water, but by 1870 most area placer mining was no longer profitable. In 1886, first quartz lode mining in Garnet Mountains. Although miners had located gold-bearing quartz veins, the lack of decent roads and refined extracting and smelting techniques, made further development unfeasible at that time. Silver mines elsewhere started to draw the miners out of the Garnet Mountains, but in 1893, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act set off a panic throughout the region. Silver mines closed, and within weeks thousands of unemployed miners were on to gold mining in the Garnets. Miners began to trickle back.
At the head of First Chance Gulch in 1895, Dr. Armistead Mitchell erected a stamp mill to crush local ore. Around it grew the town, which was originally named Mitchell, but in 1897 became known as Garnet. Soon after Mitchell erected his mill, Sam Ritchey hit a rich vein of ore in his Nancy Hanks mine just west of the town. (The Nancy Hank mine continued to work, on and off, until 1954.) The “boom" began. By January 1898 nearly 1,000 people resided in Garnet. There were four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor’s office, an assay office, numerous miner’s cabins, thirteen saloons and a school with 41 students comprised the town. Eager miners and entrepreneurs built quickly and without planning, resulting in a haphazard community where most of the buildings stood on existing or future mining claims.
The “boom" was short. By 1900, many mine owners leased their mines out, the gold having become scarcer and harder to mine. By 1905, many of the mines were abandoned and the town’s population had shrunk to about 150 according to 1910 census.
A devastating 1912 fire in the business district destroyed may commercial buildings and dealt a crushing blow to Garnet. The United States’ entry into World War I in 1917 drew most remaining residents away to defense-related jobs. Cabins were abandoned, furnishings included, as though residents were merely vacationing. However, Frank A. Davey still ran a store, and the hotel remained intact.
In 1934 when President Roosevelt raised gold prices from $16 to $35 an ounce, Garnet revived. A new wave of miners moved into abandoned cabins and began re-working the mines and dumps. By 1936, Garnet had grown to some 250 residents. During this era, miners also constructed a number of new log cabins. Life was good in Garnet.
Then, in 1939, World War II drew the population away again. Wartime restrictions on the use of dynamite made mining almost impossible. The post office closed for the last time in 1942. Only a few hardy residents remained, including Frank A. Davey. After his death in 1947, his general store’s contents were auctioned off in 1948. Still, much of the historic fabric of Garnet remained. But, souvenir hunters soon stripped the town, not only of loose items, but of doors, stained glass, artifacts and woodwork, including the beautifully crafted oak banister and spindles in the Wells Hotel.
In 1972, with no remaining residents, Garnet lode mining claim donated to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by Davey’s heirs—preservation of Garnet began. Garnet is now recognized as one of Montana’s most intact ghost towns, and thousands of visitors make the trek up the steep mountain roads each year to experience history first-hand.
p.s. The annual celebration the third Saturday of each year is Garnet Day. Garnet’s historical dwellers and other visitors come to this town to celebrate.
These hushed woods once echoed with the rumble of wagons chock-full of gold ore.
Each Empty Building Tells A Story
It’s hard to believe that this hidden alcove was home to 1,000 people in 1898.
Restoration work began in 1972 by the Garnet Preservation Project. The public donated $90,000 worth of artifacts. The structures being restored include the Dahl Saloon, Kelly’s Bar, Frank A. Davey’s Store, and the J.K. Wells Hotel. Now, the Bureau of Land Management, along with the Garnet Preservation Association, work together to protect and stabilize about 22 remaining buildings. Interpretive sites are scattered throughout town.
1. The Dahl Saloon, often called “The Joint” by locals, was built by Ole Dahl in 1938. It stands on the site of a log saloon/restaurant that was run in the late 1800’s by Mel Stairs. When Mel left, Charlie Davis, a teamster who owned a livery stable and drove ore wagons, took over. Ole Dahl’s Saloon operated until the middle of the 1960s. The saloon is now the site of Garnet’s Visitor Center. The visitor center, open daily from June through September, has information about 19th century life here.
2. Kelly’s Saloon is a two story frame building built before 1898. The owner at that time was Robert Moore and it was called the “Bob Moore Saloon.” On October 21, 1898, L. P. Kelly purchased the saloon from Moore for $1,500. Part interest in the business was sold to Thomas Fraser, and it became known as the “Kelly and Fraser Saloon.” In 1907, Nellie Fraser sold it to Ward Mulleneux who resold it to the Montana Liquor Company in 1908, but Kelley continued to operate the saloon. It was one of the thirteen bars in Garnet during the boom period that offered “male-oriented” entertainment.
3. The exact founding date of Frank A. Davey’s Store is unknown, but it was one of the earliest in Garnet, built about 1898. Typical of western general stores of the time, Davey’s Store sold, among other things, dry goods, shoes, jewelry, canned goods, mining tools, and cuts of meat. The store boasted a hardware section and an office that weighed gold. In the 1910s it functioned as a post office. The meat and other perishables were stored in an icehouse that also contained three secret compartments built into the back wall. There, gold would safely await shipment down the hill. The annex was added to the east side of the store to keep a supply of essentials such as flour and sugar. These items were only sold in emergency situations, a policy that angered many of the townspeople. Frank A. Davey operated the store until 1947. Before moving to Garnet, Davey worked in the grocery department of the Missoula Mercantile which is now Macy’s. Davey had received the patent for the Garnet Claim, so a majority of the town was built on his land. But it never made him rich. When he died in 1947 while walking to one of his claims, it was the Elk’s organization that buried him because his assets could not covered the cost. His belongings, along with the store items, were auctioned off in July of 1948. This officially marked the passing of Garnet into a ghost town.
4. The J. K. Wells Hotel was built in the winter of 1897 and was the most impressive building in Garnet. Mrs. Wells designed it after a hotel she owned in Bearmouth. With its elaborate woodwork, it was equal to the luxurious buildings in Helena.
Before weather and vandals took their toll, the entry was through beautifully carved doors with stained glass windows. To the left was the ladies parlor, on the right stood the hotel office, and moving forward the guest would enter the grand dining room. Such events as the Grande Masquerade, the Hard Times Ball, and the St. Patrick’s Day Calico Ball were held in this room.
Although this was a very modern building, there were no plaster walls or insulation. The walls were covered by cloth backed wallpaper. Heating a large building required two stoves in the dining room. Upstairs rooms were heated by rising warm air. Access to these rooms was by an oak staircase. Miners who could not afford a private room would rent floor space on the third floor. Lines divided the floor into spaces for the men to lay out their bedrolls under the sky lights.
The outhouse was behind the hotel and could be reached by descending a few steps from the second floor. The interior of the lower regions was heavily whitewashed for the ultimate in sanitary conditions.
After the Wells Hotel closed in the 1930s. Frank A. Davey moved into the kitchen. Davey maintained several rooms for visiting friends, but in unkept rooms mushrooms grew out of the still-made beds. When Davey died in 1947, everything left in the hotel was sold at an auction.
(right) 8. The blacksmith shop opened between 1896 and 1900. The best blacksmith in town was Billy Liberty. He made horseshoes and common forged items as well as ore wagons. Billy worked for the mines twofold by also driving ore wagons to the mills. He also drove the stage to Bearmouth for Frank A. Davey in the early 1920s.
(left) 9. This log barn was built between 1896 and 1900 to be a stable. There is a loft above the stables for storing feed for the horses.
13. The Post Office (front) was built between 1896 and 1900 as a miner’s cabin. In the 1930s, Nels Seadin was Postmaster when he moved into the Adam’s house. After his death in 1939, Walter Moore took over.
14. The Adams house was built between 1896 and 1900. It was among the nicer homes in Garnet, although constructed from logs, not boards, as it appears. A covered passageway led to the woodshed and outhouse. Mrs. (Jennie) Adams filled her parlor with plants which further added to home’s fine appearance, as did a white picket fence around the front yard. The family lived there from 1904 to 1927. Mrs. Adams had the Post Office in the house until 1910. I 1927 a second family Nels and Lena Seadin moved in.
17. The Bill Hubner cabin was built in 1949 and now serves as the staff office. Hubner and his son rebuilt the Mussigbrod mill and planned to live in this cabin, but never did.
19. This log and frame cabin was the residence of Ole Dahl. Ole and Marion Dahl moved into this cabin in 1938 and built their own saloon, Dahl’s Bar, just down the street. They added a kitchen to the rear of the cabin, a garage and a shed that housed the generator that provided electricity to the hose and saloon. Marion Dahl was living in Garnet as late as 1960s. This cabin can be rented in the winter.
(front) 20. This log building constructed between 1896 and 1900. It originally was quite a nice cabin, but during World War I, Frank A. Davey acquired it and turned it into a livery shed. By removing a few logs, Davey could store his stage coach inside. Known as a “democrat,” the coach was actually a spring wagon with two seats and a fancy name. Charlie Moore operated this business for Davey for four years.
(back) 21. The Hanifen house was a unique 1 1/2 story, board and batten structure built in the early 1900s by Hugh Hanifen. He lived in it until 1916. Mrs. Cleary, a school teacher, lived there until 1926. It represents one of the nicer homes in Garnet, being built with vertical boards instead of the typical logs. The house also has a ten food ceiling in the kitchen – a mark of a fine home during the Victorian Era. This kind of construction made heating the home expensive.
22. People return to Garnet after President Roosevelt announced a price increases for gold and it became profitable to mine again. Glen and Edith Have lived in Kelley’s Saloon while they built this frame house in 1937. This structure has three rooms; a bedroom, a kitchen, and a front room used as a living room. The home had modern conveniences such as a radio, a washing machine, a sink, and a kerosene-powered refrigerator.
Do You Want To Sleep With The Ghosts? Garnet is open to visitors all year. During the summer, the ghost town comes alive with tourists eager to glimpse into the past. However, the two roads leading into Garnet are closed to wheeled vehicles from January 1st to April 30th, so the only way in is by foot or by snowmobile. For the adventurous, a winter visit to Garnet is a chance to better understand the trials and challenges experienced by Montana settlers during the long, dark days. Two rental cabins are available December through April; arrangements need to be made in advance by calling the Missoula Field Office BLM. Because of the popularity of some weekends, reservations are given by a lottery system. Each cabin is furnished with cooking utensils and a propane stove. Neither has electricity or indoor plumbing. Outhouses and potable water are near the cabins. Dahl Cabin (19): It has three full size beds and two cots that will readily accommodate up to six persons. Rental: $40 a night. McDonald Cabin (15): It is a single room with two double beds (four persons would find it cozy but pleasant). Rental: $30 a night
p.s. 開車進入Garnet的道路有二，千萬要選Montana Route 200，而不是Interstate 90！切記！！