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The Mines & Town Of Garnet Montana

After the California gold rush had calmed down and the rush was over, a lot of miners headed north into the mountians of Idaho and Montana. It was here in these mountians of Montana that a placer gold discovery in 1862 sparked a brief gold rush, drawing thousands of fortune seekers to the area. Miners worked the creeks and benches of this area for a couple of decades but it wsn't until the late 1890's that hard rock deposits were started to be mined. Then in 1895 Armistead Mitchell set up a stamp mill the head of First Chance Gulch to service some of the mines in the area. Soon after Mitchell erected his mill, a prospector by the name of Sam Ritchey hit a rich vein of ore in his Nancy Hanks mine just west of the town and that is when the real boom began.

At first the town was called Mitchell but because miners were finding bright red stones known as garnets, they changed the name of the to Garnet. This town and area became home to several productive mines including the Nancy Hank mine. This mines reportedly yielded about $300,000 worth of gold, while an estimated $950,000 was extracted from the other mines in the Garnet area. By this time there was nearly 1,000 people resided in Garnet. There were four stores, four hotels, a couple of barber shops, a school with 41 students, a butcher shop, a doctor’s office and over a dozen saloons along with a red light district.

Another significant mine in Garnet was the Ruby Mine, which was famous for its high-quality garnets. These garnets, prized for their deep red hue, were used in jewelry and adornments across the nation. However like most old mining towns the boom soon turns into a bust and by 1905 a lot of the smaller mines were shutting down due to lack of mineable ores. This caused a lot of the miners and town folk to leave but others stayed on. Then in 1912 a fire swept through the town’s business district and destroyed many of the shops and stores. At this time most of the remaining people decided to pack up and move on leaving a population of about 150.

Then in 1934 President Roosevelt raised the gold price from $20 to $35 an ounce, the town of Garnet started back up. A whole new wave of miners moved into abandoned the old cabins and began working the old mines and dumps. Mining these old ore bodies was still profitable until the start of the second world war when the use of dynamite was no longer allowed because of the war effort and once again ming came to a stand still.

By the 1940s, Garnet was nearly deserted, and the post office officially closed in 1942. The once-thriving mining town known for it's shiney red precious stones had become a ghost town.

Today, Garnet is preserved as a ghost town and is part of the BLM's Garnet Preservation District. Visitors from all over the world come to experience a glimpse into the past, walking the same streets as the miners who once sought their fortunes here.