Photos By Joan and Mike Sinnwell September 2012
Nevada City MT Ghost town – Museum
I say museum because most of the buildings and artifacts are from around the state and not part of the original Townsite. All of the original town of Nevada City west of the highway was eradicated by dredging operations in the early 1900s.
The Gold Rush created this town. Alder Gulch was the scene of Montana's greatest placer gold rush, touched off by the discoveries of Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar in the spring of 1863. By the fall of 1864, nearly ten thousand people crowded the surrounding hillsides. Nevada and Virginia City Montana were the thriving centers of commerce for what was known as the “fourteen-mile city”. Nevada City was in the middle of placer camps that rapidly formed in Alder Gulch with the discovery of gold. These placer camps utilized Nevada and Virginia City as their main source to the outside world.
At its peak, Nevada City boasted dozens of stores and cabins that extended back about six blocks. By 1869, the population had fallen to one hundred ten, but there were still three general stores and two saloons. In 1872, the town had a miners’store, a brewery, a blacksmith, a butcher, livery stable and Masonic hall. By 1876, Nevada City was nearly a ghost town.
The area was remote and law enforcement, as well as established districts did not exist. The city quickly developed its own internalized government formed by the miners. This included laws, districts, trials in their own court of law, and mining titles. Nevada City’s main street was the setting for the miners’ court trial of George Ives for the brutal murder of Nicholas Thiebalt., When concluded on December 21, 1863, this event was the catalyst for the forming of the Vigilance Committee, or Vigilantes, on December 23. The Vigilantes were key players in the turbulent times ahead. They would hang 24 men in the space of scarcely a month.
Even though Nevada City was a vibrant, active community, as mining locations ran dry and the amount of gold extracted diminished, the city began to fade almost as quickly as it began. An area in which ten thousand people crowded Alder Gulch only took five years to dwindle to a mere one hundred.
Once the miners were done the dredge came, destroying the area, carving the landscape, taking with it part of history. Looking for any remains and building the highway the dredges tore through landscape as well as buildings, even homes. The city was dying. In refusing to vacate, the dredges took half of the town. During a time of destruction, history was saved by the Finney children. It is to their credit that half of the buildings in Nevada City still remain. Half of the city, along with the area of town occupied by the Finney’s was saved. Later Charlie Bovey started collecting buildings from around the state and the city became a haven for the buildings of our recent history..
Okay I will admit it. I got thrown out of this place. Then again I have been thrown out of better places as well.
Let me explain. When I arrived at the site it was closed for some preservation work. Volunteers were on site fixing things up. Being a volunteer myself and having worked on numerous reconstruction and preservation projects I felt I could enter the site safely and ask if I could take a few photos.
As I entered I met one of the volunteers who explained what was happening and she graciously volunteered to walk around with me. Then she said, “Just don’t go too far over there. That is where we are working and if the project leader sees you he will kick you out.” As we stood there she pointed in the direction of the work. I looked that way and I noticed a heavy set gentlemen almost running towards us. As I turned around to ask the lady who the gentleman was, I noticed that she had snuck off in the opposite direction.
A minor confrontation then occurred with the gentlemen puffing out his chest and attempting to demonstrate his authority. I tried to reason with the guy but logic could not prevail.
I am sure you have met someone like this. Suddenly they are put in a position of authority and it goes to their head. No logic, reasoning or rationale can overcome their desire to exert that authority.
When he ran out of answers and could not defend his position he threatened, “If you don’t leave immediately I will call the Sheriff.” I replied, “Go ahead as that would certainly be a good waste of his time.” That comment was followed by a stunned silence.
I then proceeded to stroll leisurely through the site in a direction somewhat towards the exit and I took a few photos. I really would like to see the artifacts they have at the site. Looking through the windows it looks to be an amazing site if the puffer is not around.