Scenic USA - Montana
Ghost Town of Elkhorn
|Photo by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
Inset photos courtesy of Montana State Parks
Like a lot of western mining towns, Elkhorn grew up in the mountains surrounding the Elkhorn Mine, reaching a peak population of 2500 residents in the late 1800s. While mining began in the Elkhorn Mountains in 1868, the first pioneer, A.M. Holter, arrived at the Elkhorn mine in the early 1870s. Further developed in 1875, the mine eventually employed thousands of men, including 500 woodsmen to just gather wood for mine shaft timbers. Arduous work without modern types of mining equipment, the chore of moving the ore was relegated to 1500 mules.
During its prime, the mine produced nine million ounces of silver, 8500 ounces of gold and 4 million pounds of lead. By February of 1888, the mine had been worked down to an 800 foot level, retrieving ore valued at $30,000 per month.
September 1888 marked the beginning of an extremely harsh winter. Coupled with a diphtheria epidemic, Elkhorn was decimated. Sadly, Elkhorn's cemetery contains graves of many children who died from September 1888 through August 1889. By 1892 Elkhorn faded right along with the price of silver. The boom days of the mine were over, and the town was vacated except for a hearty few. Later, daily rail service on a branch line was severed and in 1931 the tracks were removed.
Today, remnants of the ghost town of Elkhorn are found under the shade of Crow Peak, just northeast of Boulder, Montana. A twenty mile gravel access road to Elkhorn is maintained for a few of the town's residents. Only a handful of historic buildings exist, including the better preserved Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall, which stand side-by-side. Near the end of town, remnants of a doctor's office and equipment shack are giving way to time and relentless forces of gravity.
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