Gateway to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
Two hundred years ago, the Lewis
& Clark Corps of Discovery
camped right nearby along the river.
Coal Banks Landing, just a mile down the road,
was the northernmost "port" on the Missouri.
Steamboats "laid up" there to unload goods bound for
Fort Assiniboine, near Havre, Mt. and beyond.
America's rich history is right out our back door.
ver-jill), Montana, was founded in 1912 by Virgil and Ella Blankenbaker.
Located next to tracks of James Hill's Great Northern Railroad, Virgelle was
meant to be a shipping point and commercial center serving the homesteaders
who were then rushing in to settle the area. At its peak, the little
town boasted a general store, post office, school, bank, and a grain elevator.
Days at Virgelle
homesteaders realized that one could not make a decent living on only 320
acres (or less) of farmland in this part of Montana. Dry summers, bitter
farming methods, plus loneliness: all took their toll.
The boom went bust. By 1930, trade at the Virgelle Mercantile store
had dropped to only a few postal patrons and railroad workers. The Blankenbaker
dream of a thriving community blew away on the the western wind.
In 1912, the
Blankenbakers built the two-story general store and living quarters. Despite
hard times, it continued to operate until 1970, when Andy Anderson, the last
storekeeper, closed the doors on what he presumed would the the last chapter
in the building's history. But Virgelle was sleeping, only waiting to
be discovered. In 1975, a pharmacist who'd been raised near Virgelle,
saw potential in the old ghost town. He reopened "The Merc"
as a thriving antique business. The upstairs was converted into charming
Bed and Breakfast rooms. Genuine Homestead cabins now treat visitors to a
glimpse of bygone prairie life. Each summer Virgelle hosts an international
clientele who float the river, stay in colorful rooms, and enjoy good food.