Nevada City Ghost Town and the Headwaters of the Missouri River


Today’s Mileage:     108           Total Miles Driven:2626

We slept very well in the Fairweather Inn! It’s supposed to be haunted but we weren’t disturbed!  We had our own breakfast out on the front balcony – on our own again.  A lot of the attractions and restaurants closed or started cutting back at Labour Day.  So, our only restaurant choice in Virginia City was the Bale of Hay saloon, but all they offered was waffles and pancakes.  I really don’t eat that sort of thing.  The Inn had a guest kitchen where we could help ourselves to good coffee, so we had that plus raisin bran and milk.  It was really nice.  A hot day today – 38C.  Building up to a sudden break into autumn possibly.

Anyway, we set off about 945 to visit Nevada City, the true ghost town about 1.5 miles away.  Our first stop was River of Gold, the mining exhibit/museum.   Not a good start…. it had closed last weekend!  So, no fortune to be found today….  The exhibits were all still outside – being massive historic mining equipment!  So we walked around and read the information boards.  Just so strange to imagine up to 35000 people living along this gulch in the 10 years from about 1864.  There must have been enormous problems with that sort of huge population growth in such a remote area in such a short time.

We moved on to Nevada City proper.  This is a national heritage site and being a proper ghost town (no one lives here unlike Virginia City), it is enclosed behind a fence, and you pay $6 to get in.  There are over 50 buildings preserved.  Some are in their historic place; some have been rescued from nearby locations.  It was so interesting!  We loved it.  At weekends and in the summer season, there are people in historic dress acting as re-enactors in various locations.  But today, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

We saw small homes, from proper shacks, to larger cottages owned by richer townsfolk and miners.  We saw the Chinatown.  There was a very large Chinese population in Montana territory in the 1860s and they laboured.  We saw school houses.  One had an English schoolmaster who was described as a very gentle man!  Barns, blacksmiths, stores, bath houses, carriage sheds, a post office, newspaper office, saloons, gold assay office…  etc .  A fascinating slice of life.  Of course it’s not THAT old to us Brits.  We lived in a house 100 years older than this town… but still.  It was interesting to read about the emergence of the Montana Vigilantes from this area.  In 1864 when these towns began, the Idaho Territory (modern day Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) was not a state, not subject to federal law and indeed was pretty lawless.  The Vigilantes formed up to police and administer justice in the territory.  Murderers were caught.  Murderers were lynched.  We saw the plaques.  Apparently transgressors would have 3-7-77 chalked on the door of their cabin.  Apparently (some dispute) this meant that they had 3 days, 7 hours and 77 seconds to get out of town.  To this day the troopers of the Montana Highway Patrol still have 3-7-77 on their uniforms as do other divisions of the Montana military.  There are quite a few other interpretations of the 3 numbers…..

Lots of interesting information to be gleaned.  Nevada City has strong connections to Jane Canary aka Calamity Jane who is thought to have lived here as a child with her siblings.  One of our favourite halls held a collection of antique music machines: painos, Wurlitzer pianos and organs, fairground music machines.  Some of them still operated and we had fun playing them!  Anyway, Nevada City was well worth a visit even if we didn’t get the chance to pan for gold.

We set off north east towards Bozeman, across cattle country again, great grassy hills studded with sage brush.  We stopped for lunch at Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks.  Back on the track of Lewis and Clark again.  This is the place they camped and hunted for game and rested at in 1805 having travelled upstream tracing the course of the great Missouri River.  This is indeed the spot where the Missouri is formed from the confluence of three rivers: the Jefferson, The Madison and the Gallatin rivers.  The Missouri River then flows on for 2,300 miles till it merges with the Mississippi.

The state park was quite lovely with multiple river access points and tree shaded picnic grounds.  We had a lovely picnic lunch here under the trees.  Then, we walked to various viewpoints to see the confluence and the Missouri flowing away….  It was pretty fast moving…. not one you’d particularly want to paddle in.  Fascinating though to think of that party of brave explorers camping there, having rowed their way upriver against the tide…. in some respects the hardest part of their journey still ahead and unknown.

We got to Bozeman, our overnight stop at around 3pm.  I had found a nail bar which offered the SNS nail colour treatment I use and had a manicure.  Bob dropped me there and went to the Residence Inn and checked us in.   Then Bob and I went to Walmart for a quick shop for supplies.  Back at the Residence Inn (super comfy as usual) I did a big load of laundry.  Good to get that done.

Cooked in our suite – chilli, cauliflower rice, ice cream.  Caught up with some downloaded tv.

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