Washoe

Washoe is on Hwy 308 between Belfry and Red Lodge. Washoe is most notable for the Smith Mine Disaster, which took the lives of 74 coal miners in 1943. In 1907, the town was the base of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and Washoe Coal Mine. The Northern Pacific Railroad came through town, delivering hundreds of tons of coal to Anaconda on a daily basis. 

The formation of Montana Power Co. in 1912, cut back the need for coal operations. The unique coal mines of the area were beginning to decline by the late 1920s, following a period of strikes and labor disturbances.

Newer mines were established about the same time and remained busy until World War II. One being the Smith Mine that stayed busy until the disaster effectively ended coal mining in the area. Remnants of the mine still stand, but to truly understand the impact of such a disaster, visit the Bearcreek Cemetery. A handful of people, along with a few remnants of the mine, still live in Washoe which was once home to 3,000. Details of the Smith Mine and the ending disaster are available at the Peaks to Plains Museum in Red Lodge.

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