Ghost Towns

My father was fascinated by history. Any highway sign that pointed to an old battlefield or abandoned town, to teepee rings or a buffalo jump, to some Lewis & Clark site or Vigilante meeting place was sure to have my dad pulling the car over to have a look around. I never complained.

Since I shared my dad’s enthusiasm for all things historical –especially Western– I grew up visiting Montana ghost towns like Bannack, Elkhorn, Marysville, Argo, and Hasel and poking around old homesteads and abandoned ranch houses and mines.

Time takes a toll on ghost towns. The towns I visited in the 1960s and 1970s are half a century older now. Buildings I once walked through are often now just piles of wood and stone, or completely gone altogether. Another generation, and they will all be gone… expect those few that have had enough commercial and/or historical value to warrant some governmental attention.

Teepee rings and ghost towns have always resonated with me, with my sense of history and my sense of the meaning of life. I have visited famous buildings and places in the East and ancient ruins in the Southwest, yet I have never felt the same wonder and awe that I feel when I stand in front of an abandoned homestead or look down on a circle of stones almost lost in sagebrush and grass. The longest poem I have ever written, “Madison Buffalo Jump, 1975,” was my attempt to pin-down… to literally pen-down… that feeling.

Bannack, Montana is the ghost town I have visited most. It is also the one I have have the most  digital photos of. Here are some photos from the first Territorial Capital of Montana, Bannack St. Park take a few year ago.


School & Masonic Lodge, Bannack, MT (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

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Meade Hotel, Bannack, MT (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

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“Old Church, Bannack, M (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

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“Ghost Town Doors, Bannack, MT” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

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“Ghost Windows, Bannack, MT” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)


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“Al Hinton, Bannack, MT June 2010” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)





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