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On June 15, 1893, the FERGUS COUNTY ARGUS described fully the new Gilt Edge Cyanide Mill, and in the process said: "We would not be surprised to see quite a pretentious town spring up there in a year or two." It didn't take a year or two. On August 10, 1893, the ARGUS reported that "considerable building is going on at Gilt Edge. Young & Dance have their hotel well under way, Thos. Merrifield is running a restaurant, John Arnold is also erecting a large and substantial livery stable, Beaupre & Matlock have a varied assortment of drugs and general merchandise, Dish Clark and Graham & O'Donnell are running well supplied bars, a number of residences are going up, and the town has a general appearance of push and rustle." It also noted that "Rowe and Wilber are running a four-horse daily express between Lewistown and Gilt Edge." Growth of the new mining camp slowed in 1894, when the "Gilt Edge Tr oubles" started making headlines. As the problems created by "Honest Bob" Ammon's management continued almost until the turn of the century, the town's growth and economy were equally up and down until that time.

When the Great Northern Mining & Development Company finally emerged victorious as the sole owner of the Gilt Edge mining properties in a 1898 court action, and Robert A. Ammon lost out, the Gilt Edge Mine and Cyanide Mill became very profitable, and the "quite pretentious town" predicted in 1893 finally came into being. The mining camp of Gilt Edge boomed. Gilt Edge reached its peak between 1900-1905, when
roughly 1,200 people lived there.

Like all mining camps in the old west, Gilt Edge had many saloons. In the above photo, several male patrons pose in front of the flag-draped Gilt Edge saloon during a 4th of July celebration. With rare exception ("Calamity Jane" being one), men were the only occupants of saloons. Note the four women standing distantly in the far background on the left, and the two boys in the far background on the right, while one man in the foreground (2nd from right) holds a small baby.

Mining camp saloons were often the hosts of violent fights and sometimes even shootings. By the FERGUS COUNT ARGUS account fo August 23, 1899, Gilt Edge saloon owner Patsy Dwyer shot and killed Robert "Panhandle Bob" Tornton, a wolfer, when the latter came into the saloon with a gun treatening mayhem. The conviction of Dwyer for murder was not popular. On February 28, 1900, the ARGUS stated: "A petition to Gov. Smith asking a pardon for Patrick D wyer, sent to the penitentiary last summer for 2 1/2 years for the killing of Robert Thornton, is being circulated here." Dwyer was pardoned and resettled in Nevada.

With the stability of the Gilt Edge Mine and Mill at the turn of the century, and the subsequent growth of the mining camp of Gilt Edge, the Miners Union Band was formed from the ranks of instrument-playing merchants and miners, and performed at funerals, dances, and all community celebrations. The largest of the community celebrations were Miners Union Day each June 13, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Gilt Edge had a drug store in addition to the Miners Union hospital. On January 9, 1901, the GERGUS COUNTY ARGUS said: "Gilt Edge is well supplied with doctors. There are four - Dr's. Tillotson, Attix, Hedges, and Keyte."

Mrs. Nathalie Belanger was one of the primary General Merchandisers in the Gilt Edge mining community. In 1882, Nathalie and her husband Louis came to the new mining camp of Maiden, and established a successful mercantile business. In 1885, they completed Maiden's only stone store building. After Mr. and Mrs. Belanger seperated, Nathalie carried on alone, later establishing a branch operation in the new mining camp of Gilt Edge. The above photograph is of that store.

The Gilt Edge branch of the Belanger business was originally operated by one of Nathalie's sons until he died. After a fire destroyed the Belanger Block in Maiden in 1905, completely wiping out between $50,000 and $75,000 of Nathalie's assets, she moved to Gilt Edge and operated her store there until the demise of the camp. From there, she moved to Kendall. Nathalie died at 104 years of age.

V. Caraway was one of the prominent, long time resident merchants of the Gilt Edge mining community. His two-story wood frame building on Main Street featured family living on the second floor. His confectionery section provided sweets and soft drinks when such items were indeed a rarity. The sign on the store advertised Tobacco and Cigars. In those days, cigarettes were not in common use, with most boys experiencing their first "awful sickness" via the use of "chaw tabacca" or cigars "out behind the barn." The Gilt Edge Cemetery, on a hill overlooking the abandoned mining camp, has many graves from the Caraway Family - indeed pioneer merchants of Gilt Edge.

While the mining camp of Gilt Edge evolved in the summer 1893 as the first "cyanide town" in the United States, it did not reach full prosperity until the adjacent mines stabilized around the turn of the century. Its peak population of 1,200 began to decline after the closure of the Whiskey Gulch Mill in 1905. The camp deteriorated rapidly from 1912 on. The photo above, supposedly taken around 1910, features a storm cloud overhead, a dark omen. Many of the buildings, and wood for the buildings, were taken from Fort Maginnis, which closed in 1890.

Today, only a few foundation ruins, a stone wall, a dilapidated house of prostitution - once known as the "palace," and a jail remain. A two story boarding house, once located in Fort Maginnis, burned a few years ago. Remnants and a tailing pile from the nearby 1893 Cyanide Mill are still visibly present...silent reminders of the mining camp that once was.

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