Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 6 - Montana's Gold and Silver Boom, 1862-1893

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter from Emily Meredith to "Father," from Bannack, April 30, 1863. Emily R. Meredith papers, 1862-1867. Small Collection 288. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 35-36.

Context for Emily Meredith's Letter:

Quite by accident, Emily Meredith and her husband Frederick spent the winter of 1862-63 in Bannack, Montana's first territorial capital. In a letter to her father the following spring, Emily described the tenuous but fast-paced existence she witnessed. Mrs. Meredith, who was well educated and one of the few women in the camp, did not care much for Bannack's lack of religion or its immorality and violence. The price of mining claims was already highly inflated (as was everything else) when the couple arrived and Frederick, a printer by trade, did not attempt any prospecting. Instead he herded cattle and the following year he and Emily moved to a farm in the Gallatin Valley.

About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.

Walter S. Corwin
Walter S. Corwin, photo by E. H. Train, Helena, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, Mines and Mining
Hydraulic Mining
Hydraulic mining in Alder Gulch, M.T., ca. 1869-71, photo by W. H. Jackson of the Hayden Survey, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, Mines and Mining