Among the dry sagebrush scattering the hills near Twin Bridges, the town of Rochester came to life in the 1860s. Because of the dry conditions, it failed as a placer camp but was able to forge on with lode mining.
The first gold was found on Watseka Hill bringing a rush of about 800 men. A number of claims would make up the Watseka Mining District but it was the underground mining of the Watseka lode that kept the area bustling. Ore was crushed at a 10-stamp mill and then sent on to Butte or Anaconda to finish processing.
Through the next few decades, Rochester endured its ups and downs. Many mines popped up and proved to be steady producers. As some mines were exhausted, others took over and the booms and busts would continue into the 1930s when most mines had closed and the town’s population dwindled.
Two strong willed ladies stayed on in Rochester even after everyone else had fled the scene. Sisters, Lucy Miller and Etta Fisher were widows who chose to live in the old town as long as they could. For 20 years the sisters who lived within a quarter mile of one another, endured the many hardships daily life in Rochester brought. Since neither of them drove, they were isolated for weeks at a time facing the challenges of dry wells, lack of firewood and dwindling food supplies. Lucy and Etta finally gave in and moved to town. Their cabins and a few other structures gave in to the elements shortly afterward. The Highland Mountains hold just a few remains today to remind us of the former town. A couple of stone structures along a dusty road now tell the story.