Bannack is located in southwestern Montana and was named after the Bannack Indians.
In 1862, the biggest gold strike in Montana history was discovered in Bannack. The town quickly grew as hundreds of people with visions of riches rushed to Bannack, wintering in tents and shanties. As gold was discovered, violence began.
With spies planted in local businesses, such as Skinner’s Saloon, outlaws would learn when a transport was scheduled, then rob the stages as the gold was leaving town. The miners, desperate for peace, elected handsome, charismatic, and well-dressed Henry Plummer as sheriff in hopes of restoring law and order. However, travelers continued to be terrorized, and the robbing and killing didn’t cease. Meanwhile, a group of vigilantes formed and took it upon themselves to hunt down and hang the suspects. One of the men caught and hanged was said to have been Sheriff Plummer himself, who is purportedly buried on Boot Hill, above town.
We may never know whether Plummer was actually guilty or the vigilantes were the ruthless killers themselves, using Plummer in their scheme. However, the robberies and murders came to an end.
The mining continued, with periods of boom and decline. By the 1930s, as gold became scarce, the population dwindled, abandoning the town. Bannack, once the site of Montana’s first big gold strike, the birthplace of Montana’s government, and briefly the capital of Montana Territory until the capital moved to Virginia City, was becoming a ghost town.
Bannack became a ghost town in the 1940s and a state park in the 1950s. Over 60 well-preserved structures remain, many of which can be explored inside and out. Still quite remarkable is the Hotel Meade, originally the courthouse; the Masonic Lodge; Skinner’s Saloon; the gallows out back; and Boot Hill above town.