Grasshopper Creek – Montana’s First Major Gold Strike

by Rick Graetz

On July 28, 1862, a group of “Pikes Peakers”, led by prospector John White, on the way to the gold fields of Idaho decided to follow a creek and gulch leading westward from what was then called Jefferson River. The Corps of Discovery in summer1805, had named this tributary Willards Creek after one of the expedition’s members but their journals were not competed at the time and as far the prospectors knew it didn’t have a name. But it was shortly to get one.

While panning the gravels of what they called Grasshopper Creek-owing to the dense population of “hoppers” on its banks-the prospectors hit upon a bonanza. The place of discovery came to be called White’s Bar and the “Grasshopper Diggings.” Shortly, the sound of “Eureka!!” echoed through every mining camp in the west, setting off a genuine gold rush to Montana, and bringing a dramatic change throughout the southwest part of Big Sky Country.

This, Montana’s first major strike was about three miles downstream from where the gold camp eventually sprouted. Early miners named their camp after a local tribe, the Bannock Indians. The spelling was inadvertently changed when the town’s name was submitted to Washington, D.C., for the post office in 1862, hence Bannack.

By the fall of 1862, up to 500 people had moved into Grasshopper Creek. As usual, the first to come claimed the most promising ground. It is estimated that by the time winter halted work, $700,000 worth of gold had been collected along the creek.

Grasshopper Creek | Rick Graetz