Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the intriguing ghost town of Virginia City, Montana continues to captivate visitors with its rich history and well-preserved buildings. This once thriving mining town offers a unique opportunity for those interested in the Old West and the Gold Rush era.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the history, attractions, and activities that make Virginia City, Montana a must-visit destination for history buffs and adventure-seekers alike.
The Birth of Virginia City, Montana
A Rich History
The history of Virginia City, Montana is deeply intertwined with the discovery of gold in the area. On June 16, 1863, gold was found in Alder Gulch, sparking a massive Gold Rush that would change the course of Montana’s history. The town was initially called “Verona,” a misspelling of “Varina,” after the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
However, the town was later renamed Virginia City by a stubborn Unionist judge, Dr. G. G. Bissell.
During the Civil War, Virginia City, Montana found itself in a strategic position as a gold-producing territory. The majority of its citizens were Southern sympathizers, making it a Confederate stronghold in Union territory. This tension between North and South would play a significant role in shaping the town’s early history and its lawless reputation.
Virginia City, Montana, was a lawless town where outlaws and criminals thrived. In response, a secret society of vigilantes was formed to protect the town and its valuable gold resources. This group, composed mostly of Masons, Republicans, and Northerners, took justice into their own hands by hanging or strangling mostly non-Masonic Democrats with Southern sympathies.
The vigilantes’ actions and the town’s turbulent history are still a subject of historic debate and intrigue, adding to the allure of this fascinating ghost town.
Activities and Attractions
Exploring the Ghost Town
Visitors to Virginia City, Montana can enjoy a variety of activities and attractions that showcase the town’s rich history. The town has been meticulously preserved, allowing guests to experience authentic Old West architecture and way of life.
Many of the commercial buildings in town have been restored for visitors to explore, while others serve as museum pieces with exhibits that transport you back in time.
Virginia City Players: Vaudeville Show
Don’t miss the Virginia City Players’ vaudeville show for a taste of entertainment from the Gold Rush era. Performed in a quaint, old-timey building, this comedy show features a mix of music, improv, and theatrics that will delight audiences of all ages.
Experience the thrill of a stagecoach ride as you journey through the streets of Virginia City, Montana. This popular attraction offers a unique way to explore the town and learn about its storied past.
Historic Fire Truck Tour
Hop aboard a vintage fire truck for a narrated tour of Virginia City. This unique experience provides a fun and educational way to explore the town’s historic sites and learn about its rich history.
Consider taking the Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad from Virginia City to nearby Nevada City for a scenic adventure. This historic train ride transports passengers through beautiful mountain landscapes and offers a glimpse into the past as you travel between these two fascinating ghost towns.
Boot Hill Cemetery
Venture to the top of Boot Hill Cemetery for a stunning view of the valley below. This historic cemetery is the final resting place for many of Virginia City, Montana’s early outlaws, offering a sobering reminder of the town’s turbulent past.
Cousin’s Candy Shop
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Cousin’s Candy Shop. This charming old-time candy store offers a delightful assortment of treats, from fudge to nostalgic candies, that will delight visitors of all ages.
Old Time Photo
Capture the spirit of the Old West with a visit to the Photographic Emporium, where you can dress up in period clothing and have your photo taken. This unique experience makes for a memorable souvenir from your time in Virginia City, Montana.
Exploring Nearby Nevada City
A Preserved Ghost Town
Just a short drive from Virginia City, Montana, you’ll find the preserved ghost town of Nevada City. This town, which is now a Montana state park, offers visitors the chance to explore a true piece of Old West history. With an entry fee, you can wander through the streets of this once-thriving town and imagine life during the Gold Rush era.
Historic Buildings and Exhibits
In Nevada City, you’ll find numerous historic buildings and exhibits that showcase the town’s past. Some of the highlights include the Music Hall, which houses a remarkable collection of vintage music machines, and the Nevada City Living History Museum. This outdoor museum offers a glimpse into the daily life of the town’s residents during its heyday.
Lodging and Accommodations
For those looking to spend the night in Virginia City, Montana, several historic hotels exist, including the Fairwater Inn and the Nevada City Hotel. Both establishments offer a unique and authentic Old West experience, with vintage furnishings and modern amenities to ensure a comfortable stay.
If you prefer a more rustic lodging option, consider staying at a nearby campground or mountain-style motel, such as The Sportsman Lodge in Ennis. These accommodations provide a cozy and affordable alternative to the historic hotels in town.
Virginia City Montana is a truly remarkable destination that offers a rare glimpse into the Old West’s rich history. From exploring the well-preserved buildings to experiencing the various attractions and activities, a visit to this ghost town is sure to be a memorable adventure.
Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of the Gold Rush era, or simply looking for a unique getaway, Virginia City, Montana is a must-visit destination.