Located about twenty miles from Missoula, Montana lies the ghost town of Granite County. Far out on the dirt Garnet Range road, an abandoned mining town lies in nearly perfect condition, reminding visitors of rowdy days past. Built in the 1860s, the beautiful mountains, rich in gold bearing quartz, and the forest laid the perfect foundation for the tiny town.
At over 6,000 feet, the town was originally called Mitchell in 1895 after the first man to enter and start the town. At the head of First Chance Gulch, Dr. Armistead Mitchell erected a stamp mill to church the local ore. Soon, the town built up around the mill after Sam Ritchey hit a vein of ore in the Nancy Flanks mine. His discovery started the boom and miners flocked from all over the country in hopes of striking it rich.
The town was originally ten buildings and was named Garnet after the rich, ruby colored stone commonly found in the area. In 1898 over 1,000 people lived and mined in the town. With focus on getting set up quickly, many of the buildings were raised without foundations. They were small and easy to heat, but there was no focus on ensuring the buildings were long lasting. When a fire broke out in 1912, half the town was destroyed and never rebuilt. Despite the fire and the quickly raised buildings, the town is still accessible today and considered one of the state’s best preserved. 16,000 visitors travel each year to get an experience of the old west.
Other establishments in the area included brothels, schools, 13 saloons, union hall, food stores, barber shops, mercantile stores, a butcher, a doctor, a candy store and 3 hotels. Hotel goers could stay for about two dollars a night. Poor miners often opted to save the money, paying just twenty-five cents to stay in the attic. The town was bustling until the lack of roads, supplies, extracting techniques, and the silver mines drawing people out, resulted in the death of Garnet after just twenty years. The town was abandoned until 1934 when gold prices were raised and Garnet was revived. Abandoned cabins were taken back over until World War II resulted in Garnet’s second death.
Today, visitors to Garnet are able to stay in the old buildings of the once bustling Garnet. They are furnished although there is no electricity or running water. For thirty or forty dollars, a night, they can stay in the McDonald Cabin, built in the 1930s or the Ole and Marian Dahl house which is down the street from the saloon and built in 1938. While they settle in for the night, the town seems to come alive and take visitors on the ride of their lives.
Honoring its reputation as one of the most actively haunted places, there are three “hot spots” in Garnet. One is the Wells hotel, where a woman is commonly seen in the upper windows. Kelly’s Saloon commonly has reports of an old time piano playing; despite the fact the piano was removed in the early 90s. Finally, Davey’s Store, where Frank Davey commonly appears and attempts to scare people away. The crabby businessman died in 1947 but still maintains his crabby demeanor even into the afterlife.
Other instances include seeing footprints disappearing into buildings, without return footprints coming back out, music playing without a source, noises, men’s voices, sounds of partying and fighting, and knocking. In the blacksmith shop, the forge can commonly be heard pounding and horses and wagons can be heard trampling about. Transparent figures in period clothing are seen, as well as orbs, both in the town and showing up in pictures. People feel a presence as soon as they step foot in the town and rumors suggest the place is the most active in the Winter months.