The Untold Story Of The Montana City That Vanished Overnight
Here in Montana, we love to preserve our local history. That’s one of the many reasons you’ll find an abundance of ghost towns scattered throughout the state, each with its own unique past. But while most Montanans can tell you the story of Bannack or Virginia City, the story of Elkhorn is a little less popular. Now a designated state park, this former town was once a lively spot.
Elkhorn is located in Jefferson County, about 50 miles south of Helena.
The remnants have been well-preserved, and the site was designated a state park in 1980.
Peter Wys, a Swiss immigrant, was the first to discover silver in this area.
In 1868, the first mine was started, and by 1875, Elkhorn was settled.
In 1890, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed, creating a high demand for Elkhorn's silver. The town's population was soon booming.
During its peak, the town had over 2,500 residents. There was also a school as well as a hotel, a church, shops, and even a brothel.
Elkhorn was populated mostly by families of married European immigrants, which was different from most of Montana's mining towns.
They used to gather at the Fraternity Hall, which remains the most well-preserved building in the ghost town to this day.
And while Elkhorn didn't actually vanish overnight, the turn of events that led to its demise did happen rather quickly.
First, a terrible diphtheria epidemic struck Elkhorn in the winter of 1888–1889, killing many residents (especially children). Soon after, railroad service to Elkhorn was halted. By then, the desire for silver had decreased, the mining industry wasn't doing as well, and the town's population diminished to almost zero immediately.
The Elkhorn Mine was once one of the nations's richest and longest operating silver mines.
And even though those days are long gone, it's wonderful to see this former town so well-preserved, with a permanent spot in our history books.
Have you ever been to Elkhorn?
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