CASTLE TOWN

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     Named after the medieval castle looking mountains in the area, Castle Town was once one of the richest mining camps in Montana. Hanson Barnes made some of the first discoveries here in the early 1880s and the boom was in full force. Of the some 1,000 claims made in the area, 15 to 20 would be significant producers of lead and silver with some copper, gold, manganese and iron mixed in the pot. F.L. Hensley and his three brothers were responsible for locating several of the local mines including the big ones; the Yellowstone and the Cumberland, which was Montana’s largest producer of lead in 1891.

     Transportation would prove to cause problems for the district from the very first ore haul which was hauled by wagons to Livingston. Two smelters were built in the district. The streets were congested with freight wagons hauling supplies in and bullion out of the town site. The excessive transportation costs cut deep into the pockets of the investors. They held hope that future plans of a railroad line to the area would solve their problems. But, the silver panic of 1893 happened first and gave Castle a new set of problems. Most of the mines closed and there was little activity left in the camp. The rail line was delayed and the town’s 2,000 residents were moving on to “richer” pastures.

Some mines continued with small scale productions off and on but there was no longer a need for businesses like Baker’s General Store and Post Office, Minnie’s Sporting House, Berg’s Meat Market or Kidd’s Furniture Store. No more drinks were drunk in any of the 14 saloons and no more news was reported from the 4 local papers.

     Two old timers hung on in the town until 1936. That harsh Montana winter brought seventy-five year old “mayor” Kidd and seventy year old constable Martino snow drifts up to 40 feet high. The neighbors soon ran out of supplies so Kidd hitched up his team and headed to town (Lennep) which was 7 miles away. Making only about half the journey the first night, he stayed at a sheep camp and headed on into Lennep the next day. On Kidd’s return trip to Castle, his team gave out. Undeterred, he continued on walking the rest of the way, shoveling drifts as he went. After a hot beverage and chat at Martino’s cabin, Kidd headed home just 500 yards away. He would never make it. Martino found his friend’s body collapsed in the snow. Too weak to move the body, Martino respectfully covered Kidd with a blanket until another trip to civilization could be made.