Gilt Edge, Montana, is not just another mining camp, ghost town. It is an abandoned mining camp with a history unlike any other. To start with, the name can be spelled two different ways. Some spell it as one word: Giltedge; while others use two words: Gilt Edge. Both spellings were correct and used during the life of the camp. But the spelling issue is not the main historic significance of Gilt Edge, Montana. Two other facts are. First, Gilt Edge was the first place in the entire USA to use the cyanide leeching process in gold mining. Some disagree and say that Gilt Edge was the 2nd, next to Mercer Utah, but most agree the Gilt Edge was the first. The second fact is, while the new Gilt Edge Cyanide Mill produced gold in abundance-instantly and regularly-it was a financial flop for the first six years. And the new and adjacent mining camp of Gilt Edge paid the price. Rather than boom, it was up and down and bust for the first six years! The Gilt
Edge Mill and the adjacent town started in 1893, just when the United States was at the depths of a very severe economic depression. As such, all eyes in the national financial and international mining world turned to Gilt Edge, in Fergus County Montana, and observed! For if Gilt Edge produced successfully, investors could easily be persuaded to invest in cyanide plants in other mining areas-and that would help end the depression.
Things were so economically strapped in Fergus County in 1893 that in Lewistown, the new county seat, few if any could afford the price of a theatre ticket. A group of community players was thus formed to provide free entertainment at the Culver Opera House. Indeed, the people of Fergus County also watched the week by week reports of the new Gilt Edge Cyanide plant-as published by the FERGUS COUNTY ARGUS-for with its success, better times would be seen in central Montana.
The saga of Robert A. "Honest Bob" Ammon, the New York lawyer who moved to Fergus Coun
ty and became the "resident manager" of the new Gilt Edge Mine and Mill, explains why Gilt Edge produced gold bricks in abundance, yet was a financial flop for the first six years. It took six years to get rid of "Honest Bob". After Ammon hoarded the gold, and finally ran off with it in 1894, the mill eventually reopened under new management. Optimism prevailed-but again, Ammon somehow gained control. This process repeated itself several times, until in 1898, when the courts gave total control to new management. Then the mill produced, the bills were paid, stockholders made money, and the town of Gilt Edge prospered and grew.