Montana

Jul 27, 2012 6:11 PM by Breanna Roy - MTN News

Once-lively Granite now a ghost town

The humble remains of Granite, Montana, are all that remains of what was once a major mining mountain town.

Yet there are still stories in the crumbling structures, some, amazingly, still standing more than a century later as a testament to their sturdy construction.

Granite County Museum historian Dave Letford calls the ghost town "a historical gem."

"This was the miners' Union Hall and it represented stability for the miners," Letford said. "They had solidarity here and they had their booze."

In its silver mining heyday in the late 1880s and early 1890s, around 3,000 people, mostly men, called this rugged terrain home.

The mines and mills operated 24-7 on the hillside just above town, Letford said, and miners lived off the meat pies called pasties while working.

At least a dozen saloons lined Main Street, along with churches, brothels, a school, hospital, newspaper and a three-story hotel. All built with muscle, mules and material from Philipsburg.

Letford said he and his wife have been visiting the town for 37 years, and they always see something different.

One thing many visitors miss is a flat field, clear of granite boulders. It was the closest suitable spot for Sunday baseball games. A team from Philipsburg made the steep trek uphill for games.

"Come up here sometime and sit by yourself. And you feel a presence. I firmly believe that," Letford said. "I mean, think of the thousands of people that've been here, years ago. Maybe it'd be like sitting in Yankee Stadium 100 years from now, I don't know. I just love it up here."

Even with all the infrastructure, it wasn't enough. Plummeting silver prices pushed the miners and what possessions they could carry, to a more profitable place.

"They said it was a ghost town overnight. There were 3,000 people comin' down this road to Phillipsburg," Letford said.

The departing miners left the buildings and the belongings inside to robbers, rust and ruins.

Granite was mined again three years after the initial silver crash and even later as the country needed manganese for World War One, and some old timers still say someday they'll mine it again.

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