I grew up watching the Brady Bunch and will never forget the episode when the family ended up in a ghost town. I was scared just watching them on the screen. But I scare easily.
It was an entirely different experience visiting a real ghost town on a recent trip to Montana. As I walked the streets of Garnet, sadness replaced my fright. It was depressing to think the abandoned property had at one point been home to a thousand people, proud people who took care of their families, held town dances and harvest festivals. They weren’t there long. In 1898, 1000 people lived in Garnet, mostly miners looking for gold, but by 1905, the population dwindled down to only about 150. According to the information posted at the old town, a fire in 1912 and hardships during World War I pretty much put an end to the city.
When you read up on the history, Garnet brags about being different from other mining towns of its time. Vigilantes and lawlessness had no home in Garnet. These mines required industrial equipment, steam engines and industrial tools. The men worked hard, the businesses thrived and more than 50 children attended the school. The remnants of their lives remain in the buildings that still stand.
Walking the streets, you feel an emptiness around you as you try to imagine what life was like for these people more than a century ago. As you meander through the old buildings, you can almost hear the conversations at the bar. From rusted old beds to worn out shoes, it’s powerful to see the remnants of their old lives.
A group of people keep work with the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Association to keep the old buildings standing, including the original Wells Hotel. They hope to retain the ghostly nature of the abandoned buildings while preserving what is left.