Backstory and Context
Miners flocked to western Montana in 1862 after gold was found in Bannack (which is now a state park). The next year, miners Bill Fairweather, Henry Edgar and others found gold in the Adler Gulch, what would become the most lucrative placer (a surface deposit of gold) rush in the state's history. The men attempted to keep the discovery a secret but word got out, which attracted hundreds of other miners. It is estimated that the population at the gulch grew to around 30,000 people at the rush's peak and that around $30 million dollars worth of gold was extracted in the 1860s. The total amount extracted from the gulch through the early 20th century is estimated to be of approximately $130 million dollars ($2.5 billion in today's dollars).
The people who arrived formed several communities along the gulch that stretched for 14 miles, including Nevada City and Virginia City. At its height, Nevada City featured dozens of businesses and cabins and even became the first incorporated town in the Montana Territory. Nevada City's good times didn't last, however. The population declined to 110 people by 1869 and, as noted above, the town was virtually abandoned by 1876. As for Virginia City, it became the most prosperous community and for a time was the capitol of the Montana Territory until 1875. Unlike Nevada City, it was never completely abandoned and and is now a popular tourist attraction and the best preserved of the mining towns that sprung up on the gulch.
Unfortunately, most of Nevada City and other communities along the gulch were destroyed between 1896-1923 when a mining company which dredged the ravine. The buildings that survived were bought by Charles and Sue Bovey and relocated to where they stand now on the town's old streets. A railroad for tourists was built between Nevada and Virginia City in 1964. The recreated buildings were constructed in the coming years.
Baumler, Ellen. "The discovery at Adler Gulch." Great Falls Tribune. October 4, 2016. https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/life/my-montana/2016/10/04/discovery-alder-gulch/91575474.
"History of Virginia City and Nevada City." Montana Heritage Commission. Accessed June 30, 2020. https://virginiacitymt.com/history.
"Nevada City - Outdoor Museum." Legends of America. 2008. Last Updated March 2020. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/mt-nevadacity.
Warhank, Josef & Jiusto, Chere. "Dr. Don L. Byam House." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. March 1, 2002. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/199f89b2-99f7-4467-a368-3a32086130de.
All photos via the Montana Heritage Commission