Monday, June 17, 2013

Childhood at Garnet

Elizabeth Farmer Smith wrote wonderful descriptions of her childhood at Garnet in the 1920s. Her father was a mining engineer and the family spent three summers at Garnet beginning when Elizabeth was ten. She recalled what fun it was to slide down the mine dumps on pieces of tin. She rode in the empty ore cars as the men pushed them back into the mine to reload and watched her father scrape the mercury tables at the end of the day. The balls of mercury caught the gold, and when enough had accumulated, the blacksmith would melt it in a vat, leaving a golden blob at the bottom.

Elizabeth and a friend sit precariously on top of a hydraulic elevator in Garnet.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives

The Fourth of July dance was the summer’s highlight. Adults spread cornmeal on the oak floor in the dance hall. Elizabeth and the other children skated and slid to prepare it for dancing.

Elizabeth stands beside the family's 1922 Buick. Her mother is at the wheel, and her sister is in the back seat.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, PAc 79-60.6
The family had a 1922 Buick that Elizabeth’s mother learned to drive, an unusual feat for a woman at that time. But the horse-drawn stage to Bearmouth still operated, and three times a week it would bring the Farmers a gallon jug of sweet milk. By the time the stage reached Garnet, up the steep log-lined grade that reminded Elizabeth of corduroy, it had jostled so much that there was always butter on top.  Elizabeth remembered that the boys played mean tricks on Frank Davey, whose many properties and businesses included the general store. Mr. Davey guarded his merchandise to a fault. The boys would order candy that Mr. Davey kept behind a glass case, and when Mr. Davey plunked the sack on the counter, the boys would snatch it, put down rocks instead of money, and run away. Once, the boys found a three-piece suit like Mr. Davey always wore, stuffed it with straw, and hung the effigy on the hotel’s flagpole. The ultimate insult was that Mr. Davey also owned the hotel. Elizabeth’s colorful recollections can be found in the Montana Historical Society’s Research Center vertical files.


  1. The modern elevators need control mechanisms so passengers can operate the elevator, and they need safety devices to keep everything running smoothly.

    Henry Jordan

    Hydraulic Seal Kits

    1. Thanks for your comment. I have been told by oldtimers that this is a very rare photo and that it was quite dangerous. I can believe that modern safety measures have come a long way!