John D. Ellingsen | Witness to History
As a youngster, growing up in Great Falls, John Ellingsen
developed an affection for historic structures, and "felt uncomfortable with the assumption that modern was necessarily better."
The author's first visit to Virginia City came in 1952 when he
was nine years old.
Walking the streets there, he
had stepped into the past, not just imagined it.
book, subtitled The Remarkable Untold Story of Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana, Ellingsen
gives readers a tour through the history of these communities; the heydays of mining, the terrorizing bands of thieves that relieved prospectors of their gold, and the origin of the Vigilantes, formed to rid the community of its rascals.
Numerous photographs and some of the author's own drawings illustrate the text.
also describes efforts to purchase and preserve Virginia City after Charles Bovey passed away in 1978, which eventually resulted in the passage of House Bill 14 that established the state of Montana as owners of the two historic communities.
Ellingsen, who remains curator emeritus of Virginia City, has won numerous awards for his work in historic preservation, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montana Preservation Alliance, the Governor's Award for Historic Preservation and a Special Award for Preservation from the Department of the Interior for his work at Garnet Ghost Town.
can still be found walking the streets in Virginia City
, watching visitors enjoy the sights, and occasionally conducting tours of Alder Gulch, something he
says he'll enjoy "as long as I live."