Bannock (Est. 1862)

Bannack, Montana, located 25 miles southwest of Dillon, is the site of many firsts in Montana history. Including the first gold rush, school, territorial capitol, quartz lode discovery and the nation’s first electric dredge.

Bannack was designated as a state park in 1954, after a long and evolving history that began with the discovery of gold along Grasshopper Creek in 1862. The finding brought miners from every part of the country to the area. The new camp was named for the Bannock Indians, descendants of the Shoshonean who lived in the Great Basin.

The population rose to nearly ten thousand people and was connected to the outside world by the Montana Trail. There were wooden built hotels, bakeries, blacksmith shops, stables, meat markets, grocery and supply stores, saloons along with a brewery and billiard hall in its booming days.

Mining camps were scattered along the banks of the Grasshopper, during the gold rush, to where the stream joins the Beaverhead Rover.

Montana Territory came into existence on May 26, 1864, and Bannack, a bustling gold town by then, was briefly declared the Territorial Capitol.

Among its infamous early residents were Sidney Edgerton the first Territorial Governor of Montana who was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln; Chief Old Snag of the Bannock; Nathaniel Langford and Colonel Wilber Fisk Sanders of the Northern Overland Expedition that ended near Grasshopper Creek; Sheriff Henry Plummer and the Road Agents; and the Vigilantes that became notorious for creating their own rules of justice in opposition of murder, pillage and assault, as no duly appointed judiciary or court trials were yet set in place in this new territory.

The last residents of Bannock left in the 1970’s.

To this day, Bannack is an exceptional example of historic preservation as well as one of the nation’s premier ghost towns. Sixty log, brick, and frame structures remain standing in Bannock. Most of them can be explored by visitors.

Annually during the third week of July state park officials organize a two-day celebration known as Bannock Days. During this time, an authentic old-fashioned breakfast is served in the Hotel Meade along with historical re-enactments portraying the day-to-day lives of those who lived there long ago.

Bannack is proudly considered the cradle of our state’s history and Montana’s “First Best Place.”