Our Summer 2010 Trip...Headed West This Time travel blog

the view from our RV park at our "back yard"

sunset at our RV park in our "front yard"

another view of the beautiful sunset

another type of town art - it was boots in Cheyenne and...

this cafe is supposed to have good food, but we are eating...

downtown Ennis, MT

a view of the Madison Valley as we drove up to Virginia...

more Madison Valley

outside of Virginia City is the site where the first gold was...

VA City is one of the best preserved intact gold rush era...

a view of Virginia City from above - at Boot Hill Cemetery

another view from Boot Hill

still looking down from Boot Hill - that's the county courthouse still...

look at the dark clouds in the background - this was the...

looking down at more of Virginia City, again from Boot Hill

the gravestones for the 5 road agents hanged were not added until...

it was in this building in 1864 that 5 men were hanged...

the country courthouse was built in 1875

the local Episcopal Church was built in 1867 and has been in...

lots of opportunities for tourists to tour around town

some of the stores still have old goods intact from when they...

Fred is like a kid in a candy store when we find...

Fred outside his favorite business in town - there are several saloons...

many of the buildings have been in use ever since the gold...

the town still has over 70 historic buildings

it would be fun to stay in this old historic inn, but...

one of several saloons in town

the sunset wasn't as great tonight, but still pretty

another part of the sunset

the next day in Virginia City - this is where the burlesque/vaudeville...

this is one the first stores built in Virginia City in 1863

merchandise left in the old dry goods store when it closed in...

this is where Dr. Byam lived in 1863 - it is one...

this hotel was moved to Nevada City after the original burned -...

this old hotel still welcomes guests from May to October, but closes...

the parlor of the Nevada City hotel - still used by guests

the Nevada City saloon

inside the saloon in Nevada City

during the re-enactment weekend - lots of volunteers to show what life...

this is the group that did the re-enactment of the miners' court...

this next bunch of photos shows Nevada City today - all are...

the park curator wants to raise money to fix this old house...

Nevada City became almost a ghost town after the gold rush ended;...

one of the barns in Nevada City

the RR tracks cut Nevada City in half when the tracks were...

this is the wagon shop in town

this is some type of old abandoned equipment - Fred thinks it...

this log home had boards tacked onto the logs in the front...

inside the Chinese laundry building

when the Chinese grocery store closed in the 1940s, all the goods...

another barn - I loved looking at all the wagons and outbuildings...

this is inside a very old school from the 1860s - note...

this is the outside of the school with the blackboard door

this is one of the buildings guests can rent and stay in...

outside of another very old school - this one is in better...

inside of the school that was in better shape - it was...

another home from the gold rush period in the 1860s

this was one of the larger homes lived in by a more...

this is one of the homes lived in by a miner not...

outside the Nevada City saddlery

inside the saddlery in Nevada City

outside of the "cheap cash" store - closed with all its goods...

materials left when the "cheap cash" store closed

more materials just left - the people who bought the building kept...

this is one of the oldest homes original to Nevada City -...

this was home to descendants of the Finney family until 1951 -...

a few of the many automatic playing machines collected for the Nevada...

these stereoscopic machines still work - for only a nickel too!

the 2nd saloon in Nevada City - this one still serves drinks;...


We’ve moved on to Montana now for a couple weeks. Our first stop is outside the small town of Ennis, in the southwest part of the state, along the lovely Madison River, and very near two historic gold mining towns, Virginia City and Nevada City. We are staying in a great park with wide sites, lots of grass and shared common areas, and spectacular views of the mountains both in front of and in back of the park. The sunset our first night was almost as pretty as the one we saw in Laramie, and I can’t wait to see more! This is yet another place we traveled by in 2006 on our way to Glacier National Park with a bunch of our Harley friends, but we only were here for about an hour and a half - and it's been on our list to explore more ever since, so this week we are able to do so!!

We wandered around Ennis for a couple of hours after we set up the RV – it is an OK town, although not as intriguing as Sheridan was. What make this area wonderful are the mountains and the river! Also, as a history buff, I have really enjoyed spending a lot of time in Virginia City and Nevada City. In fact, we went over three days in a row and kept finding more we enjoyed seeing!

Virginia City has a population of 150 year round residents who live in the west's best preserved gold mining town from the 1860s. We walked the same wooden boardwalks that vigilantes once patrolled and saw where road agents were hanged. As the literature about the town stated, we were transported to a time when rowdy miners mingled in saloons and restaurants, often gambling away the money they earned in placer gold mining. We drove out to the discovery site where the placer gold was first found in 1863; although the “mother lode” or source of the gold vein was never located, during the gold rush in this area, over one hundred million dollars worth of gold was mined!!

There are over 100 historic buildings in the town, many still complete with artifacts and furnishings. Some of the buildings have been re-purposed as gift shops, antique stores, art galleries, etc. but others still have the wares that were in the stores the day they closed! There is a locomotive, a stagecoach, and an old fire truck that will take tourists on a guided tour of the town, but we opted to take a self guided tour since the town isn’t big and the visitor center offered an excellent map with all the historic buildings clearly marked and explained. There are two live theater shows available, an old hotel, several saloons and restaurants, plus lots of unique gift and specialty shops. We also saw an old-fashioned bakery and a wonderful candy shop!

Nevada City is located just a mile from Virginia City and was also a gold mining town in Adler Gulch. There are fourteen historic buildings original to the town, plus a collection of more than 100 other historic buildings saved from locations all over Montana that were moved to the town back in the 1940s. Virginia City and Nevada City both remind me of a town Wilma and I visited in California, Columbia, which is also a real town and a state park all at the same time. Only one person actually lives in Nevada City now, but several people have homes right outside the town, so although it is often billed in advertisements as a ghost town, it really isn’t a true ghost town at all. The town provides a great backdrop for state run living history weekends. We went to watch a re-enactment of a miners’ court about disputed gold claims. The re-enactment was based on actual events from Nevada City’s records. We learned that in 1863, Nevada City was officially part of the Territory of Idaho and was located in a region so remote that it had no courts or statutes, so miners organized mining districts, passed their own laws and elected officials. Everything from mining titles to murder trials fell within the jurisdiction of the miners’ courts.

We discovered that the Nevada City Music Hall has one of the largest public collections of automated music machines in North America. A couple named Charles and Sue Bovey began collecting the machines in the 1940's; they are also responsible for moving many of the historical buildings to Nevada City from other parts of the state. The Sullivan Saddlery, moved with its contents from Fort Benton to the Great Falls fairgrounds, became the first building of their “Old Town.” Some buildings came from West Yellowstone and even from Yellowstone Park, while others were moved from small towns around Montana. In 1997, the State of Montana purchased the Bovey properties in both Virginia City and Nevada City and now Nevada City is run as a state living history park.

We learned a lot about the history of the area from a long talk with the park curator. For example, Alder Gulch was the scene of Montana's greatest placer gold rush, touched off by the discoveries of miners Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar. By the fall of 1864, nearly ten thousand people crowded the surrounding hillsides. Small settlements were so numerous and so scattered that people called the area "Fourteen-mile City." Virginia City and its neighbor, Nevada City, were the main centers of commerce and are the locations most tourists visit now, since many of the other towns have totally died away. At its peak, Nevada City boasted dozens of stores and cabins that extended back about six blocks. The homestead where the Frank Finney family lived until 1951 is still there. Frank came to Alder Gulch in 1864, established a placer claim and brought his bride to a cabin on Nevada City’s bustling main street. Since the “mother lode” was never found in this area, by 1869 the population had fallen to just over 100, although there were still three general stores and two saloons in town. By 1872, the town still had a miners’ store, a brewery, a blacksmith, a butcher, livery stable and Masonic hall, but by 1876, Nevada City was nearly a ghost town.

Back in 1863, Nevada City’s main street was the setting for the miners’ court trial of George Ives for the brutal murder of Nicholas Thiebalt. The trial was a dangerous undertaking because emotions ran high on both sides of the law. Wilbur Fisk Sanders carved a place in Montana history for himself when he served as Ives’ prosecutor. Judge Don Byam sat in a wagon and the jury made a half circle around a big log fire. One eyewitness estimated that nearly two thousand people from all over the region were at the trial. Ives was convicted and hanged. This event was the catalyst for the forming of the Vigilance Committee, or Vigilantes, who were key players in the turbulent times ahead. They hanged 24 men in a month! We saw Dr. Byam’s home in Nevada City, the building in Virginia City where five of the road agents the Vigilantes captured were hung, and also visited the Boot Hill cemetery outside of town where all five road agents were buried. Many of the Virginia City residents didn’t want their family members buried with the road agents, so they started a new cemetery and that’s where most of the townspeople are buried now.

Saturday afternoon we were chased away from Nevada City and Virginia City by a huge thunderstorm, complete with high winds and hail and lots of rain! The thunderstorm blew over in a couple hours and we relaxed at the RV the rest of the evening. I found a little Episcopal church to attend Sunday morning in the neighboring town of Jeffers. The folks there were very friendly and invited me back to the Parish Hall for treats after the service. Then in the afternoon we went back over to finish wandering through Nevada City’s buildings. We ate supper at a great restaurant in Virginia City (super tasty trout for me!) and then attended the burlesque show housed in the old brewery - that was loads of fun!



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