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About Virginia City

Virginia City is a town in and the county seat of Madison County, Montana, United States. In 1961, the town and the surrounding area was designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Virginia City Historic District. The population was 130 at the 2000 census.

History

Founding

In 1863, the area was part of the Dakota Territory until March, when it became part of the newly formed Idaho Territory. On May 26, 1864, the Territory of Montana was formed, with Bannack briefly becoming the territorial capital, Virginia City would quickly take that title from Bannack.

In May 1863, a group of prospectors were headed towards the Yellowstone River and instead came upon a party of the Crow tribe and were forced to return to Bannack. Gold was discovered on the retreat trip when Bill Fairweather stuck a pick near Alder Creek joking he might find something to fund some tobacco.

The prospectors could not keep the site a secret. They were followed on their return to the gold bearing site and set up the town in order to formulate rules about individual gold claims. On June 16, 1863 under the name of "Verina" the township was formed a mile south of the gold fields. The name was meant to honor Varina Howell Davis, first and only First Lady of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Verina, although in Union territory, was founded by men whose loyalties were thoroughly Confederate. Upon registration of the name, a Connecticut judge, G. G. Bissell, objected to their choice and recorded it as Virginia City. (In full irony, since Virginia itself had seceded, only to have West Virginia secede from the state and stay in the Union, it seemed an appropriate name for a Dixie city in Yankee territory.)

Within weeks Virginia City was a veritable boomtown of thousands in the midst of a gold rush with no law enforcement whatsoever, except for vigilantism. Most of Montana became under the rule of a Vigilance committee which operated on both sides of the law. Their secret motto, 3-7-77 is still on the badges, patches, and car door insignia of the Montana Highway Patrol.

In 1864, the Montana Territory was carved out of Idaho Territory. Virginia City, claiming 10,000 citizens, was made the capital of the new territory in 1865. The first public school was built in 1866, but already the most easily accessible gold from placer mining had been exploited and development and population in the territory was moving towards Helena.

Ghost town

In the 1940s, Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town, putting much needed maintenance into failing structures. The ghost town of Virginia City began to be restored for tourism in the 1950s. Most of the city is now owned by the state government and is a National Historic Landmark operated as an open air museum. Of the nearly three hundred structures in town, almost half were built prior to 1900. Buildings in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques stand next to thoroughly modern diners and other amenities.

For Virginia City, the term "ghost town" has a double meaning, as the town is known throughout Montana for being the most haunted in the state; not only that, but the town's ghosts have a reputation for unusually vicious and/or troublesome behavior. Philipsburg, some ways to the northwest, has achieved a similar, albeit lesser, reputation.

Notable residents

Geography

Virginia City is located at 45°17′39″N 111°56′28″W / 45.29417°N 111.94111°W / 45.29417; -111.94111 (45.294107, -111.941230).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.9 square miles (2.4 km²), all of it land.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 130 people, 72 households, and 32 families residing in the town. The population density was 140.4 people per square mile (54.0/km²). There were 122 housing units at an average density of 131.7/sq mi (50.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.62% White, 2.31% Native American, 0.77% from other races, and 2.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.77% of the population.

There were 72 households out of which 18.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 1.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.2% were non-families. 47.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.81 and the average family size was 2.52.

In the town the population was spread out with 14.6% under the age of 18, 0.8% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 46.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 106.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $30,000, and the median income for a family was $46,250. Males had a median income of $37,500 versus $19,167 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,182. There are 5.7% of the population living below the poverty line, including those under eighteens and over 64.


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