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About Theresa Nichols Schuster

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Theresa Nichols Schuster is author of "Brittle Silver" and "We Are the Warriors" a 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award Finalist. She currently lives in southwest Montana where she appreciates the wonders of nature, family, friends, a bit of pottery.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Journey to 1892 Granite and Philipsburg, Montana

Hard to imagine myself riding an ATV through the rugged back trails of the Flint Creek Mountains; however, there I was, exploring the ghost towns of Tower, Hasmark and Granite, reliving the days of the 1890s, before the Great Silver Panic.

My current manuscript is set in this amazing country, the town of Philipsburg, Montana, and the ghost town of Granite. Here, the history is rich, the residents welcoming and knowledgeable, and the landscapes inspiring.

I happened to have scheduled my travels and research on the weekend of the Miners’ Union Day in Philipsburg, a tradition previously celebrated in Granite, and begun in 1866 in the Comstock District. This year’s contests and picnic were sponsored by the Philipsburg Brewing Company, owned by Nolan and Cathy Smith and housed in the historic Sayrs Building. Contests throughout the day were held in jack leg drilling, hand mucking, 12-B Mucking and other mining skills. Although most participants were fairly young, a few seasoned veterans showed the youngsters a thing or two.

After lunch, a group of volunteers demonstrated the running of the restored 1891 stamp mill at Hope. These dedicated individuals, with years of effort, have made this historic dream a reality.

Nolan and Cathy provided a warm welcome and assisted me in making contacts with locals to help with my research and travels. I was able to explore the old townsite of Rumsey with the permission of local landowners. Little remains but the massive foundations of the old mill. It was exciting to see the place of the Rumsey Tunnel adit, a feature in my story, and a monumental endeavor at the time.

My lodging in the historic Kaiser House, built in 1878, was a delight. Owners Lynn and Kurk Unger shared the fascinating history of the hotel, including an actual menu from the 1890s. If you are in Philipsburg, their shops, Snookies Mercantile and the Wine and Cheese Cellar, have some amazing finds.

The following day, I embarked on an ATV tour of the old mines, ghost towns and mountainsides with Richard and Tammy Johnson of Montana ATV AdventuresRichard is very knowledgeable about southwestern Montana history, stories and topography.  

The intersection of people’s lives, livelihoods and hazards of mining were richly displayed and shared. The rough back roads were a testament to the hard life of many a prospector, miner and the women and children who lived in these mountains. I found the ATV ride exciting and challenging. My sore back the next day attested to more than minor physical exertion for a neophyte.

As always the Flint Creek Mountains and stories of the people who lived there in the 1800s are intriguing. The men who entered the holes in the ground, the women who ran boarding houses and raised children in the mining towns; their stories come alive in the landscapes, newspapers, documents, and buildings of the region. 

The beautiful town of Philipsburg has found a way to continue even as the economy of mining tumbled. Hopefully my fictional story will be a tribute to the people and the region.

                                   Life...always an adventure!