Virginia City, Montana

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Virginia City is a town in and the county seat of Madison County, Montana, United States.[1] In 1961, the town and the surrounding area was designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Virginia City Historic District.[2] The population was 130 at the 2000 census.

Contents

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.

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