The lure of gold brought many men to Montana in their quest. A 1860s strike on Bear Creek entertained many prospectors and in 1865, another in Bear Gulch. Camps could be found from the banks of the Clark Fork clear to the top of the Garnet Range (named after the semi-precious stone found in the area).
Major lode mining didn’t take place until 1886 when B.A.C. stone worked the Haparanda Lode. In 1894, Dr. Peter Mussigbrod announced his plans for a 10 stamp mill in the Garnet district. The mill opened in 1895 under the management of A.H. Mitchell. A town sprang up around the mill to serve the miners and became known as Mitchell with a post office established in 1896. The town would later be renamed to Garnet.
The Nancy Hanks mine just outside of Garnet would be the scene of a major strike in 1896 and would be one of the mainstays in the district for the next three years. About 20 mines were being operated at the time. Garnet was now comprised of stores, hotels, barbershops, a doctor’s office, a union hall, livery stables, an assay office and thirteen saloons. Numerous miners’ crudely built cabins were spread out upon the mountain and a school served about 40 students. Garnet was considered a “poor man’s paradise” because anyone could set up shop there. The population grew to over 1,000.
By 1900, lodes were fading away and many mines were abandoned. The population of Garnet shrank to about 150. A fire in 1912 destroyed about half of the town, most of which was not rebuilt. By 1916 only the Dewey mine was still open and by 1926 the school’s last 3 students were dismissed for good. Garnet came back to life for a brief period in the 1930s with the rising price of gold but production came to a halt with the Second World War.
Frank Davey, owner of Davey’s Store was one of the town’s final residents and stuck with the camp through it all. Davey operated the store until his death in 1947. Some of Davey’s store prices: eggs for 30 cents a dozen, coffee for 25 cents a can, butter for 30 cents a pound and shaving soap was a dime.