This ghost town was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1961 and is the former home of the frontierswoman by the name Calamity Jane. This town came into existence after Henry Edgar and Bill Fairweather discovered gold near Alder Creek. It was the capital of Montana Territory until 19th April 1875 when the capital relocated to Helena, Montana. Having let the word out about their new discovery, prospectors followed them back to the site.
As they settled in the new environment, a mining district soon came up to aid in formulation of rules regarding individual gold claims. Finally, a township was formed south of the gold fields on 16th June 1863 under the name “Verina.” The name was in honor of Varina Howell Davis who was the first Confederate State of America First Lady. This was during the American Civil War and she was the only lady in the team.
However, at the time of registration, the name “Verina” was objected by Judge G.G. Bissell who recorded it as Virginia City. Soon, thousands of fortune seekers and prospectors made their way to Virginia City turning it to a boomtown. The downside was that the town was in a territory that had no justice system or law enforcement in place though there were active miners’ courts on the ground.
This meant an increase in criminal activity within the town and its environs driven by insecure means of travel and great wealth and this was in late 1863. Criminal activities in the region were rampart on the roads and along the trails where a total of 100 individuals met their death between 1863 and 1864 in the hands of a group that came to be known as road agents.
Henry Plummer was the gang leader and together with the sheriff of Bannack, Montana, a total of 15 road agents he was put to death by hanging when the infamous Montana Vigilantes and Vigilance committee of Alder Gulch were formulated. Virginia City was also home to the first public school in Montana which was established in 1866.
After a period of success and with a population of 10,000 individuals, the glory of this town started fading away and it was soon deserted turning it into a ghost town. Charles and Sue Bovey came to its rescue in the 1940s and started by attending to the failing structures in the once busy town after buying it.
It was restored for tourism in the 1950s and currently operates as an open-air museum. A visit to the area will reveal a number of attractions including the narrow gauge Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad that ferries passengers to the ghost town of Nevada and back, gold panning – a historic hotel where one gets a chance to experience the longest operating live summer theater company and there is also the Boothill Cemetery that serves as the other attraction.
This historic establishment is operated by the Montana Historic Commission which also operates gold panning. Most of the buildings you will encounter around here were built before 1900 and there are close to 300 of these in this ghost town.