Date of Award

Spring 1960

Document Type




First Advisor

Thomas Clinch


In reading and studying about the West one finds a good deal written about such heroic figures as the fur trappers, the miners, and the cowboy. But these are the tales of high adventure which make for exciting reading. The everyday life that went to building up a community is neglected. For example, when one now thinks of a gold mining camp such as Virginia City one thinks of a roaring city of stores and saloons frequented by men with gold fever, who busily hunt the hills for gold and on occasion for the bad men who attempt to get their gold the "easy way”.

But this is no adequate or balanced picture of the time, for although high adventure played a part, other factors were of importance too. To demonstrate this fact, I am going to attempt to give an account of one of these factors. By a study of the schools of the three gold mining cities of Bannack, Virginia City, and Helena, I hope to show that one of the pictures of life in a gold mining city Is the picture of boys and girls trudging off to school.

The fact that it was so much a part of the everyday life of an ordinary family perhaps accounts for the fact that so little has been written about it. Also the first schools were private and hence official records contain little or no information regarding individual schools. So today we find the existence of whole schools may be indicated by only a few lines in a newspaper or letter. But these hints and glimpses let us know that parents attempted to give their children the best that was available. The community also recognized the desirability of having educated citizens, even though the more exciting news may have been that there was another hanging last night. Education, that important link between the past, present, and future because it deals with people, was a matter of concern to people in Montana in the 1860’s and 1870’s, and they made many efforts and sacrifices to enable their children to be educated.