Located on Grasshopper Creek, this ghost town came into being after gold was discovered in the area in 1862 and got its name from the Bannock Indians. Before the capital was moved to the city of Virginia, Bannack was the capital of Montana Territory for a short while and this was in 1864.
The area where the town of Bannack was located was quite remote such that the only connection that existed between the town and the rest of the world was the Montana Trail. When this town hit its peak, the population stood at 10,000 inhabitants and there were several establishments here.
These included 4 saloons, 3 hotels, a billiard hall, 3 bakeries, a brewery, 3 blacksmith shops, a grocery store, 2 stables, a restaurant and 2 meat markets. Some business establishments here had false decorations on them and it would was hard for some to identify what exactly they were composed of, though all had been built of logs.
Dr. Erasmus Darwin Leavitt was one of the founders of the town of Bannack who was a physician that opted to go into mining for a while, when he arrived here in 1862. It is said that in the course of time, Dr. Leavitt realized that he gained more recognition as a physician rather than a miner and that allowing another person to take over his pick and shovel as he took time to concentrate on his profession, was more profitable.
Thereafter, Dr. Leavitt left the town of Bannack for Butte, Montana where he practiced medicine professionally, for as long as he lived. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Henry Plummer who was the town’s sheriff was a secret leader of a ruthless band of road agents in the area.
It has also been said that these road agents were responsible for the murder of more than 100 individuals along the trails leading to Salt Lake City, at Bannack gold fields and within Virginia City. Since a total of 8 deaths only have been documented for this area, the general conclusion by a number of today’s historians is that the gang never existed and that the nature of the said gang led by Mr. Plummer is actually questionable.
The other thing that brings a new twist to the whole story is the fact that Plummer and 2 of his compatriots were hang to death without undergoing trial on 10th January 1864. The site where the town of Bannack stood once is now the Bannack Historic District where 60 historic log, brick and frame structures are available for exploration.
Most of these have been preserved in the best way possible and in 1961; this area was declared a National Historic Landmark. Different from other sites of its kind, the ghost town of Bannack is not popular among tourists but continues to attract historians and natives to what is now the Bannack State Park.
A historical reconstitution known as “Bannack Days” is held here yearly on the 3rd weekend of July, in which an old-timely breakfast is served in the old Meade Hotel to try and mimic how life was in the past in Bannack Town, when it was filled with life and activity.