Ghost Towns of America: Garnet, Montana

Garnet is one of the most intact ghost towns in the United States.
Garnet is one of the most intact ghost towns in the United States.

Garnet is a ghost town in Montana situated between Missoula and Butte. Garnet was built in the 1860’s as a mining town with fewer than ten buildings. The location was once a famous gold mining area of the Granite County. With twenty active gold mines and rapid construction, the town attracted many people and its population reached more than a thousand residents within a few years. Natural beauty of the forest, a mountain range, blooming mining industry and a nearby trading post named Bearmouth made it an ideal town to live in. As population increased, bars, saloons, hotels, stables, a union hall, school, clinic, stores, service shops and even a brothel all opened.

Unfortunately, it did not take long for miners to extract all the gold out of its mines. Once the gold mining closed down, people started abandoning Garnet as it was no longer a suitable place to live economically. Soon, the town’s total population decreased to around one hundred residents only. To add to the situation, a fire broke out in 1912 and burnt down a major portion of the town to ashes. The closure of the mining industry made it impossible for the remaining residents to think about rebuilding the town and stay there anymore which left Garnet a ghost town.

Not Quite the End

Garnet once again became home for miners when gold prices rose to double during the President Roosevelt era. Miners started moving back to Garnet to extract the remaining gold reserves. But before Garnet could have been revived and brought back to life, the Second World War forced miners to stop work and abandon it, and this time not to be reclaimed ever again.

Garnet showcases the life of gold miners in the late 19th century. It educated today's society about the mining industry of northwestern America - how mining started in the area, who were the key players of Garnet’s mining industry, and how much gold they extracted. On the other hand, the town also depicts the dreams, desires, problems, and hardships of mineworkers.

It is estimated that around one million dollars’ worth of gold was extracted accumulatively from the twenty mines of Garnet, out of which Nancy Hanks extracted around 30% of total amount of gold extracted from the area.

Garnet Today

Garnet attracts around twenty thousand tourists every year for its beauty and history. The town was built rapidly without proper planning or strong foundations. As a result, its architecture is falling apart in the battle with climate and time. Some of the important historical buildings in the town are nearly destroyed. To help this situation, several preservation projects are being implemented for the preservation and reconstruction of the history of Garnet. One of the main events in Garnet is ‘Garnet Day’, which is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of January. The State of Montana has issued special vehicle registration plates to raise funds for their preservation and reconstruction to promote tourism and travel in the area, out of which seventy five percent funds are dedicated to the preservation of Garnet.


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