Montana is full of Ghost Towns.

Many of us are probably familiar with Montana's most popular ghost towns. Virginia City, Bannock, and Elkhorn may come to mind. These historic spots provide a valuable glimpse into Montana's mining boom and gold rush days, when shacks and communities sprang up quickly as propsectors chased their fortunes in what would become Montana.

Small encampments in Western Montana would quickly become towns, some with thousands of residents in a very short time, largely dependent on how much gold and silver where found at that location.

Ghost town
Photo by Eniko Polgar on Unsplash

Ghost towns in the plains of Montana.

Things were a little different in Eastern Montana, where vast acres of plains were essentially wide-open spaces. Then the railroads began reaching Montana. Instead of gold or silver, this was essentially a land rush.

train tracks on the plains
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Blame it on the trains.

Dozens of railroad towns began popping up on Montana's prairies. First housing the thousands of workers and materials required to build the rail system in Montana, followed by cheap land (usually offered by the railroad companies) to entice farmers and ranchers to come West. These railroad town grew quickly and were the hubs of the community for decades... until the trains stopped coming.

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Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash (original in color)
Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash (original in color)

Towns die for a variety of reasons.

For homesteaders in Montana, drought wiped out many who ventured West. Other towns were moved (they literally moved all the buildings) to line up with a new railroad. Oil boom/bust cycles impacted other Montana communities in the mid-20th century. In his book, Ghost Towns of the Montana Prairie, author Don Baker wrote that towns begin to crumble when their schools and post offices close. He adds,

Amatuer theorists further contend that when the last saloon locks its doors forever, the end is in sight.

Indeed, that seems true for many of Montana's almost-a-ghost-town communities. Here are fifteen once-vibrant Montana towns, where residents now number less than a hundred. In some cases, just one.

15 Montana Prairie Ghost Towns

In many cases, little more than a farmhouse remains of these once bustling Montana prairie towns. Here are 15 communities in eastern Montana that are barely more than a ghost town. 

Gallery Credit: Michael Foth

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