Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park

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812 Elkhorn Road,Boulder 59632,Helena Area

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Wander through a once-thriving silver mining town. Booming in 1870, Elkhorn, with only a few residents, is now considered a ghost town by many. Many of the original buildings are still intact though they are privately owned. Two buildings that have not been renovated are the Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall, both of which you can explore. An old cemetery holds the tragic memory of the 1888 diphtheria epidemic during which many children died.
The Elkhorn Mine was discovered in 1870 by Peter Wye, a native of Switzerland. Peter Weiss, William Hahn, and Herman Koch had discovered the first mine in this area only two years earlier.
A. M. Holter, an Alder Gulch pioneer, devel- oped the Elkhorn Mine in 1875. A mill was built in 1884 and a smelter the following year. By February of 1888, the mine’s monthly production was valued at more than $30,000. Daily rail service started in 1887.
Much of the surrounding timbered areas near Elkhorn were clear-cut prior to 1887 to provide fuel for power in the mines and heat for homes. More than 500 woodsmen and 1,500 mules worked in the woods. Elkhorn’s population reached 2,500 in the 1880s, additional hundreds lived in the surrounding gulches.
An English syndicate purchased the mine for $500,000 in 1889. By 1900 the Elkhorn Mine had produced a total of 8,902,000 ounces of silver, 8,500 ounces of gold, and more than 4 million pounds of lead. The 1897 silver market crash pretty much ended the operations of the mine, although there were a few short-lived revivals in 1901 and 1905.
The cemetery tells a sad tale of hardship. Notice a large number of children’s graves dated September 1888 through August 1889. It is believed their deaths resulted from a particularly severe winter.
When visiting Elkhorn, realize that the land, buildings and other property is in private ownership. There are still people who live here year-round. Please do not molest the property or disturb the residents.
When visiting the town, there are a number of hay meadows north of the town that are excellent spots for spotting large groups of bull elk.

 

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