Friday, April 12, 2013

Crabtown, Montana

When doing  research for Improper Pinkerton which is set in Helena, Montana in the mid 1880's, I stumbled across some information that didn’t make it into the story but I found interesting.

In 1864, John Cowan, Daniel Jackson Miller, John Crab, and Robert Stanley discovered gold in what is present day Helena’s Main Street.  It didn’t take long for word to get out and the population grew to 3000 and businesses started popping up all through the gulch. 

The original name for the town was Crabtown after John Crab.  But miners from Minnesota started calling the town Saint Helena after a town in Minnesota and the shortened version stuck.

When gold was found Montana became a U.S. territory and by 1875 Helena became the capital of the territory.  A battle was waged when the territory became a state. The “Copper King” Marcus Daly of Anaconda wanted the capital  in his town but his rival, William A. Clark, supported Helena and in October 1898 a new capitol building was erected and Helena began its reign of serving Montana’s government.
Most mining towns diminish or turn into ghost towns when the gold peters out. Not so with Helena. The city continued to thrive due to the fact it was located on several major transportation routes. The Northern Pacific Railroad came to Helena in 1883 helping to establish it as the state capital and preventing the town from disappearing as the gold diminished.

It’s estimated that fifty millionaires lived in Helena by 1888. The area called Last Chance Gulch over a twenty year period produced approximately $3.6 billion of today’s dollars.  When the mining dwindled in Helena they became the hub for the other mining areas around them producing transportation, goods, and agriculture. 

Blurb for Improper Pinkerton
An impetuous Pinkerton agent is out to prove to a righteous US Marshal that she's the best "man" to complete the assignment and the only "woman" who can capture his heart.

Mae Simon is on her first assignment as a Pinkerton operative and determined nothing will stand in her way of accomplishing her task. When the simple assignment turns into a murder and kidnapping, she has to stop hiding behind her disguises and trust a man she’s betrayed.

U. S. Marshal Beck Harlan can’t afford to befriend anyone. Not with a vengeance seeking outlaw killing off his intimate acquaintances. Yet, he falls hard for the French prostitute he talks into being an informant, not realizing she is a Pinkerton operative after the same man.


  1. Oh boy, Paty, it sounds like an exciting story. Do you know how early in history they allowed women to become agents? Curious to know. Guess I could Google it.

    Great post!

  2. Linda, do you mean Pinkerton Agents? The first female Pinkerton detective was hired in 1856. If you are planning to use a Pinkerton in a book a good reference book is: The Pinkertons: The Detective Dynasty that Made History by James D. Horan. It has everything you want to know about the agency.

  3. I forgot to click the follow-up button.

  4. Paty--it's interesting to learn how towns got their name. Helena is such a beautiful,gradeful name, it makes you wonder how a town in such a rough wild place as Montana was named that.Now I know.
    I did not know women could be a Pinkerton agent that far back.
    Very interesing. I enjoyed reading this.

  5. Good post, Paty. Good information on Pinketons, too. Thanks.

  6. Celia, I always find it interesting to learn how towns were named. There are so many town with the same name and yet others with Indian or Mexican or other ethic names.

    I've written several posts on Pinkertons, but I should maybe write up another one for this blog next month. It looks like many of you are interested in them.

    Thanks Caroline.

  7. WOW, talk about a great, tension-filled plot line, Paty. Great research for what sounds like a interesting story. It's one of the reason I love historicals. Some of this stuff you just can't make up.

    Great post.

  8. Hi Paisley. Thanks! Yes, the stuff you can dig up when researching is worth every hour of digging.

  9. Super interesting info, Paty. I just love learning new little tidbits when I'm searching for something else.

    And I really enjoy learning about the Pinkertons.

  10. Ps. LOVE the blurb. You are so talented. xo

  11. Tanya, Thank you. I'll see about putting a Pinkerton blog together for next month.

  12. There's something about the name Crabtown that is just so unappealing. LOL I'm glad it continued to thrive even after the gold ran out.
    Liked your blog, Paty.

  13. HI Sarah, Yes! Crabtown sounds wrong for a town in Montana so far from any coast, or I guess if you think about all the houses of ill repute that popped up first...


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