There are places in America that were once thriving areas filled with a constant flow of people and excitement. Those who were looking for work, adventure, or a better future were drawn to towns that lured them in with the promise of striking gold and untold riches. When the instant wealth failed to materialize for the vast majority of those seeking it, the towns started to bleed residents and slowly died out. Eventually these places turned into a shell of their former selves and all that remains today are empty buildings filled with dusty relics of the past.
Garnet, Montana is such a place and happens to be one of the nation’s most authentic and well-preserved abandoned mining towns. Many people even claim that it’s haunted which has earned it the official moniker, Garnet Ghost Town. The area was first settled back in 1895 after gold had been discovered in the surrounding Garnet Mountains. In less than three short years the town’s population had swelled to almost 1,000 people after a miner struck a rich vein of ore and the gold rush was officially in full swing. Miners and their families quickly set up shop and businesses that catered to them followed. The town had multiple stores, hotels, stables, and barber shops, plus a doctor’s office, butcher shop, school, town hall, and even a candy shop. However, the most profitable and numerous business proved to be saloons, of which the town had a total of thirteen.
By 1900, just a few short years later, the gold was proving scarcer and harder to come by. Within five more years most of the mines had been abandoned and Garnet’s population dwindled down to around 150 total residents. In 1912 a fire tore through the business district and many of the commercial buildings were destroyed beyond repair. When World War II erupted the last few remaining townspeople left, moving on to work in defense related jobs, and by the 1940’s the town had all but become a ghost town.
Today Garnet has evolved into a testament of Montana’s history. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Association work together to continuously operate and upkeep the town’s structures. Visitors can tour the site, walk through the buildings, and learn all about the lives of the people and families who used to live and work there.
The BLM is always looking for volunteers who’d like to come live in the town and keep a watchful eye on it. The positions typically last around a month or longer and involve general upkeep, giving tours, and selling items at the gift shop. All volunteers are provided with free housing and stay in a fully furnished cabin. Food expenses are also covered and they receive a modest paycheck as well. However, all volunteers must be willing to forgo the modern conveniences of life as there is no heated or even running water, WiFi, or electricity. Depending on what type of person you are, that could sound like either a dream come true or a total and complete nightmare.
If you’d like to take a tour of the town and explore the insides of the buildings up close, this video gives you complete HD access. It was uploaded to YouTube courtesy of user davidegg22 and he did a spectacular job editing the footage. There’s even a ghostly appearance at 10:27, keep your eye on the top left window frame! After seeing that would you ever volunteer to work and live in Garnet Ghost Town, or stick to just visiting?!