Virginia City was founded after gold was discovered near Alder Creek in 1863. The boomtown became the capital of the newly established territory of Montana in 1865, and held onto that role for 10 years. A number of Montana firsts took place in Virginia City.
Due to rampant crime, a vigilante group, the Vigilance Committee, took matters into their own hands until territorial law enforcement could be established.
Like many mining boomtowns, things eventually went bust, and Virginia City became a ghost town. In the 1940s, Charles and Sue Bovey started to buy up the town and began to restore it, resulting in the establishment of the Historic District of Virginia City and Nevada City.
The Photos (in order)
C14A1852 – Madison County Courthouse
C14A1872 – Kiskadden Stone Block was Virginia City’s first stone building; it is believed that the Vigilantes met upstairs
C14A1855 – The Hangman’s Building, where in 1864 the Vigilantes hanged five “road agents”; it would later house the Virginia City Water Company, run by Sarah Bickford; born a slave, and widowed twice, Bickford came to own the city’s water utility; enterprising as ever, she installed a trap door which for a fee she would open so visitors could see the beam that the Vigilantes use to hang the road agents
C14A1885 – Once a stable, this building was converted into the Opera House, a theatre that is home to the Virginia City Players, the oldest professional acting company in Montana
C14A1888 – This shop was restored to its historic appearance
C14A1895 – Virginia City retains its old west character
C14A1901 – Stonewall Hall was one of several places where the Montana territorial legislature met and the oldest one still standing
C14A1907 – Boot Hill Cemetery was Virginia City’s first cemetery and where the five road agents killed by the Vigilantes were buried; their graves were marked in 1899