Boise to Bannack

Our first night out of Boise was spent in Arco, Idaho. We have been there before so didn’t re-visit Craters of the Moon National Monument or the Atomic Museum, both of which we enjoyed previously and recommend.

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We stayed at the Mountain View RV park with a good view of Number Hill memorializing the local high school classes since 1920.

While setting up, Randy noticed the electrical pedestal was arcing so we moved to another site.  He was in the middle of repairing our pocket door, cutting an access hole and re-attaching the rails, when the power at our new site fluctuated due to low voltage. We have a monitoring system to evaluate incoming power and the level dropped to 105 volts when it should have been between 115 and 120.

We switched our appliances over to propane to avoid damaging those systems and very shortly the furnace stopped working. It runs on propane and the 12 volt system so it didn’t make sense that it was part of the power problem.   It took a couple of very cold hours for Randy to get it working again. After researching the problem he discovered the furnace sensors use microvolts and that just a little bit of dust can keep them from working correctly. He was skeptical but disconnected the connector from the furnace controller board, blew on it, reconnected it, and the furnace worked again. Whoo-hoo!

We were very happy, not just to be warm, but without our propane furnace we would have had to change our travel plans. Our next stop was a campground without hook-ups and the night time temps were projected to be in the low 40s.

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On our drive from Boise to Arco and beyond we saw lots and lots of raptors. We counted for a while but stopped in the 50s.  We  saw sections where 8 of 10 telephone poles had a raptor on top.

p1060925We also saw them on irrigation apparatus. There must be a lot of mice in those fields….

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It’s always interesting to cross the continental divide!

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Our next stop was Bannack State Park near Dillon, Montana, home of one of the best preserved ghost towns anywhere. Bannack is on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark.

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When we arrived we found a beautiful, empty campground. We set up, explored a bit, and were so contented that we asked the rangers if they needed camp-hosts for the next month. They didn’t. (The camp host site had hook-ups but the rest of the campground did not.)

We were eventually joined by one neighboring rig so we invited them over to share our campfire and some peach pie.

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We explored the ghost town of Bannack. As my computer keeps trying to auto correct the spelling, I should tell you the town was named after the Bannock Indian Tribe but an error in the 1863 registration process in Washington DC created Bannack instead of Bannock.

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Bannack began when gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in July 1862. The find initiated Montana’s first gold rush and all the influx and drama that comes with a gold discovery. Bannack’s gold was purer than most, 99.5% rather than 80%.

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The population of Bannack ebbed and flowed as different approaches for mining were initiated and abandoned. When the placer deposits were exhausted, miners adopted hydraulic techniques that washed away surfaces to expose bench deposits. The world’s first electric dredges tore at the gravel in Grasshopper Creek, sorting and sluicing from 1895 to 1902. Advances in hard rock techniques enabled additional mining into the 1940s.

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Remains of the 1895 dredge

As required by the war effort, mining in Bannack stopped during WWII and was never profitable again. The people of Bannack were forced to go elsewhere for work and the original capital of the Montana Territory became a ghost town.

Preservation efforts began in the 1940s with many groups contributing. The town was officially donated to the state of Montana in 1954 with the stipulation that the ghost town atmosphere be preserved.

Sixty buildings remain on site. Most are open for viewing.

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This cabin is on the site of the Montana Territory’s  first governor’s mansion which burned in 1900. Supposedly some of the logs from the original mansion were used in building this house.

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In a mining town, there are sometimes problems!  The town’s first jail and gallows were built by order of Sheriff Henry Plummer in 1863.

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Bannock’s first jail, on the right, was one room with metal rings to shackle prisoners down. The larger second jail, on the left, had individual cells.

Plummer and two of his deputies were hanged on the gallows in 1864 by vigilantes. The sheriff and his deputies were implicated by a convicted murderer for running a criminal gang called the Innocents. The Innocents were responsible for many robberies and 102 murders. Within 42 days, the vigilantes found and executed 20 members of the Innocents. (Ned Ray, one of the deputies killed, was the great-grandfather of James Earl Ray who killed Martin Luther King Jr.   Hmmm, bad genes?)

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The Methodist Church was built in 1877. A traveling pastor, Brother Van, was instrumental in it being built after a feared Bannock Indian attack did not materialize.

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This building was the original Beaverhead County Courthouse but when the county seat was moved to Dillon, it eventually became the Hotel Meade.


It has a safe and a graceful stairway at the main entrance. A large kitchen is in the rear of the building with many guest rooms and suites upstairs.


Bannack Masonic Lodge No. 16 built this building in 1874 with their meeting room upstairs and room for the public school downstairs.

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The school was utilized for 70 years before closing in the 1940s.

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While we were there, a group was setting up for Living History Days, a four day event celebrating the early days in Bannack.  Maddox was happy to give us a tour while his family members were setting up in various buildings.  Maddox told us that he and his grandfather had recently been cast in a new movie, the Ballad of Lefty Brown, to be filmed in Bannack.   His uncle is actor Bill Pullman from Spaceballs and Independence Day so acting runs in the family!

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There were two pioneer cemeteries nearby but not too many gravestones still visible.

 

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This grave was within the park, overlooking the town, but outside the cemetery boundary. I asked the ranger about it since it looked new . He didn’t know but headed up to investigate. Sounds like a mystery…..

 

We  enjoyed Bannack State Park, even without hook-ups!

About Serene

We live full time in our fifth wheel and travel and volunteer. We remember everyday how blessed we are to have the opportunity to live this season of our lives in this way. Our black lab, Elko, keeps us company along the way.
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2 Responses to Boise to Bannack

  1. Kylee says:

    Can’t wait to see we you guys at Thanksgiving!!!

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