Monday, July 14, 2014

The Real Last Chance Discovery Site

Today—July 14, 2014—marks the 150th anniversary of the discovery at Last Chance Gulch by "the Georgians." Reginald Stanley seems to have been the spokesperson for the group, and reading his account leaves little doubt about the location of the discovery site. However, back in 1920, a committee researched the discovery site and came to the erroneous conclusion that the its location was at Sixth and Fuller, exactly where the Montana Club is today. The Montana Historical Society was in on this “research,” and ignored Stanley’s recollection, the most critical and authentic evidence.  A plaque bolted to the building, placed by the Montana Historical Society in 1924, remains there today, identifying the Montana Club as the discovery site. However, Stanley’s description of the discovery leaves no doubt that the first gold was not found at Sixth and Fuller.

This painting, The Four Georgians, by Shorty Shope, was commissioned in 1952 by the Helena HS class of 1953. It now hangs in the Helena Regional Airport. 
Stanley returned to Helena in 1883 and walked the gulch, noting the discovery site was near where Samuel Hauser’s First National Bank then stood. Hauser located his bank there for a good reason. It was the territory’s first federally chartered bank and thus it was appropriate for him to build it where the fabulous gulch yielded up the first gold. It was a stone building with an elaborate imported lock system and a sod roof. In 1886, that building was torn down. The handsome Securities Bank Building on the north Walking Mall replaced the old bank. Over its entry are the dates 1866 for the founding of the bank and 1886 for the building of the new one. The Colwell Building immediately replaced the old bank at the south end of the gulch. The Colwell Building was originally called “Uncle Sam’s Block” for its association with the discovery site and the first federally chartered bank. Samuel Hauser could have corrected the research committee’s mistake, but he died in 1914. How soon we forget!
In honor of the 150th anniversary, a monument has finally marked the real site of the discovery at Last Chance Gulch.

1 comment:

  1. Really, really enjoyed your talk on Saturday. Happy Birthday Helena.