Virginia City and Nevada City lie along Alder Gulch, the site of the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains. The Alder Gulch gold strike attracted thousands of prospectors to the region, and Virginia City was founded on June 16, 1863 as a mining camp. It was originally named "Varina", after the only First Lady of the Confederate States of America, but the miner's court judge (a staunch Unionist) recorded it as Virginia City. Nevada City, adjacent to Virginia City, was founded in 1864. Alder gulch was originally located in Idaho Territory where law and order were non-existent. Especially notorious were the highway robbers known as "road agents". Their depredations led to the formation of the Vigilance Committee of Alder Gulch and the infamous Montana Vigilantes. The vigilantes cought and hanged more than a dozen road agents, which put a serious dent in the crime wave. Montana Territory was carved out of the Idaho Territory in 1865, and Virginia City served as territorial capital from 1865 to 1875. The gold boom soon turned to bust as the placer deposits played out. Virginia City and Nevada City were all but deserted by the mid 1870s. All of the original town of Nevada City west of the Highway was eradicated by dredging operations in the early 1900s. Charles and Sue Bovey began restoration and preservation of the two towns in the 1940s and 1950s. Many historic buildings were moved to the original townsite of Nevada City, and historic buildings in Virginia City were renovated. Several of the old buildings have been repurposed as shops and eateries catering to the tourist crowd. I visited and photographed Virginia City on an overcast and drizzly day in September of 2021.
The Nevada City Museum contains one-hundred 1863 to early 1900 buildings and probably thousands of artifacts. The Music Hall located in the museum entrance houses a large collection unique music machines, from player pianos to barrel organs.
Information sources: Wikipedia, montanakids.com
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