Helena’s Great Shake

While Montana has never been struck by an earthquake as large as the 7.8 that struck New Zealand recently, the state has experienced its fair share of earth-rattling shakes. In fact, Montana is the 8th most earthquake-prone state in the union, and experiences between 7 to 10 quakes a day. Many of those quakes are … Read more

Getting the Last of the Gold: Hydraulic Mining

The gold fields of Alder Gulch and Last Chance Gulch were two of the biggest placer gold deposits in the world. Placer deposits consist of loose particles of gold mixed into topsoil, sand, and gravel. Placer gold is near the surface. The easiest way to get placer gold is to wash loads of sand/gravel/etc., the … Read more

A Distinct Lack of Robbers at Robbers Roost

The fact that no robbers ever roosted at the old stage stop between Virginia City and Sheridan has never stymied the legends of secret assignations and bloody murders that haunt the old inn.  In 1863-64, Henry Plummer and his murderous band of road-agents known as the ‘Innocents’ did terrorize the Bannack to Virginia City stage … Read more

The Account of Canton

Many feet of water should cover St. Joseph’s church. Built in 1875, on the banks of the Missouri River in the town of Canton, Montana, St. Joseph’s is Montana’s seventh oldest church, and was the first built by community members, rather than a religious order. The rich ranchland around Canton supported some of the oldest … Read more

Girl from the Gulches

If I’m not careful, my mind will relegate Montana’s gold rush days to a dusty haze of saloon brawls and hangings, populated by a pungent assortment of what Laura Ingalls Wilder might call “rough men” using “rough language” (yes, a twenty three year old guy did just quote By the Shores of Silver Lake, and … Read more

The Pilot and the Cathedral

Here’s a tale that has all the trappings of a good Montana yarn. Legend has it that some time in 1945, a military fighter plane roared through Helena and flew sideways between the twin spires of the Helena Cathedral before disappearing over the mountains to the north. I first heard the story as a kid, … Read more

Brother Van

No doubt many people are getting ready for long trips to visit relatives this Thanksgiving, so here’s a story about Brother Van, one of Montana’s most famous travelers. As an itinerant Methodist preacher during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, William Wesley Van Orsdel probably logged more miles crisscrossing the state than anyone else in history. … Read more