Bannack Historic District

Bannack epitomizes the tough, primitive towns that sprang up with gold discoveries. Its story also illustrates a century of survival, through boom and bust periods associated with resource extraction and technological advances. On July 28, 1862, prospectors John White and company made a lucky strike, triggering Montana’s first major gold rush. Miners—many from Idaho’s crowded Salmon River diggings—swarmed over the Continental Divide. By spring 1863, Bannack had 3,000 inhabitants. The town saw six vigilante hangings, including that of its infamous sheriff, Henry Plummer. Briefly designated capital of the new Montana Territory in 1864, the first legislature met here in a crude log cabin. While other gold strikes stole Bannack’s initial population, the town rebounded in the 1870s and served as the Beaverhead County seat until 1881. The Masonic Lodge Hall/School (1874), Methodist Church (1877), and the Hotel Meade built as the Beaverhead County courthouse (1875) reflect this period. Evidence of hydraulic, dredge, and hard rock mining interrupt the landscape. Montana’s first quartz claims initiated hard rock mining here in 1862 and stamp mills soon operated alongside placer mining. Changing technologies produced new boom periods and other changes to Bannack. Electrification of the mines in 1930 brought electricity to the town. Despite its varied fortunes, the community held together while local mills operated sporadically until World War II. The State of Montana acquired most of the town in 1954, and a few residents remained until the early 1970s. Bannack features multi-period buildings spanning the primitive 1860s, urbanized 1870s-1880s, and early twentieth century. In 1961, Bannack earned status as a National Historic Landmark.

Images

Bannack, Montana looking west

Bannack, Montana looking west

Bannack, Montana, circa 1900. Looking west up the stream, west mountains in the distance. The dredge (on the left) was launched in 1895 Catalog #940-695 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Streetview, Bannack

Streetview, Bannack

Bannack, Montana, 1860s. Catalog #940-703 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified Photographer View File Details Page

Main Street, Bannack

Main Street, Bannack

Bannack, Montana - Main Street, 1920. Buildings left to right: Courthouse, Hotel Goodrich, unidentified, and Graves Store. Catalog #940-715 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Photograph by E.C. Schoettner; Butte; Montana View File Details Page

Legislative Hall, Montana Territory

Legislative Hall, Montana Territory

First Legislative Hall of Montana Territory, 1863. Bannack, Montana. Catalog #940-701b | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

First governor's residence

First governor's residence

Residence of Montana's first governor, 1863, when Bannack was the territory capital. Catalog #940-707 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified photographer View File Details Page

Courthouse, Bannack

Courthouse, Bannack

Bannack, Montana, courthouse. [1860s] later the Hotel Meade. Catalog #940-704 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Photographer H.W. Brown; Bannack MT View File Details Page

First Montana jail

First Montana jail

First Montana jail, constructed in 1862. [photograph from the Delta Kappa Gamma scrapbook of Lucia Darling 1942.] Catalog#940-711 | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, Montana | Creator: Unidentified phtoographer View File Details Page

Bannack-Bon Accord Drifting Machine

Bannack-Bon Accord Drifting Machine

Bannack-Bon Accord Drifting Machine [no date] Catalog #PAc 80-61 Drifting | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Photograph Archives, Helena, MT | Creator: Photograph by Tribune Pub. Co.; Dillon; MT View File Details Page

Map of Bannack City, Montana [Territory]

Map of Bannack City, Montana [Territory]

Sketch map was copied from a map owned by James U. Sanders, and includes some topography, streets and wagon roads, placer- and quartz-gold workings and mills, water-supply ditches, and buildings keyed to an accompanying list descriptive of historical events between 1863 and 1866. Additional lists provide supplemental information. Digitized copy available on the Montana Memory Project. | Source: Montana Historical Society Research Center Library | Creator: Thompson, Francis M. View File Details Page

Audio

Bannack's Masonic Lodge

Audio recording about the Bannack Masonic Lodge which also functioned as Bannack's school. Prepared and recorded by Montana Historical Society staff member Ellen Baumler. Presented on the Soundcloud channel "Montana History on the Go" 2015. | Source: Montana History on the Go | Creator: Ellen Baumler View File Details Page

The Meade Saga

Audio recording about the hardships endured by the founders of the Meade Hotel. Prepared and recorded by Montana Historical Society staff member Ellen Baumler. Presented on the Soundcloud channel "Montana History on the Go" 2015. | Source: Montana History on the Go | Creator: Ellen Baumler View File Details Page

Henry Plummer

Audio recording about the Bannack Masonic Lodge which also functioned as Bannack's school. Prepared and recorded by Montana Historical Society staff member Ellen Baumler. Presented on the Soundcloud channel "Montana History on the Go" 2016. | Source: Montana History on the Go | Creator: Ellen Baumler View File Details Page

Street Address:

Bannack, Montana [map]

Cite this Page:

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Bannack Historic District,” Explore Big – Montana's Historic Places, accessed March 24, 2017, http://explorebig.org/items/show/2212.

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