The Good-Time Ghosts

By Debra D. Munn

It's ironic that Garnet, the best-preserved ghost town in Montana, was never built to last. Gold miners intent on making quick fortunes weren't interested in constructing houses, stores, and saloons sturdy enough to weather the decades. Instead, they wasted little time in erecting temporary shelters, often with no foundation but the bare ground, before returning to the far more important task of extracting minerals from the surrounding mountains. For who could predict how long it would be before the rich deposits played out and it was time to move on again?

Yet, almost one hundred years after the founding of the town in 1895, quite a few of those hastily built structures remain, lovingly restored and protected by the Garnet Preservation Association and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Kelly's Saloon, the J. K. Wells Hotel, the blacksmith shop, several of the miners' cabins, and other buildings still stand in Garnet. Only the people who lived and worked in them have gone—but not without leaving some psychic echoes behind.

After the BLM took on the job of protecting the town from further decay and vandalism, it hired Michael Gordon to serve as caretaker during the winter of 1971-1972. For a four- or five-day period that season the temperature plummeted and held steady at thirty degrees below zero, so cold that snow took on the consistency of sugar and never packed down so that snowmobiles could travel on it.

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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