A Rich History
The Cooke City, Colter Pass, and Silver Gate area's past reflects the iconic American West spirit and tough pioneering heritage that established this rugged and unique terrain as home for prospectors, outdoorsmen, and nature lovers alike.
History of Cooke City
July of 1870 marks the first record of the discovery of gold by a rugged group of prospectors that included Horne Miller, Ed Hibbard, A.B. Henderson and James Gurley. Development was hindered because the area was part of the Crow Indian Reservation. In April of 1882 the reservation boundaries were released and the mountains were opened up to the awaiting prospectors. This mineral rich area was now known as the New World Mining District. The high elevation and lack of roads in this rugged terrain hampered the already short mining season.
Prior to 1882 Cooke City was simply known as the Miners Camp, or Clarks Fork City. Many of the miners had wanted the name Edelweiss. Jay Cooke Jr. was a Pacific Railroad contractor and the son of an investor in the Northern Pacific Railroad. He was promoting the promise of development and the much needed railroad to this mountain hamlet. As history records, the railroad never came. On Feb.1, 1882 the town was officially deemed Cooke City, Montana Territory in his honor.
Like most western mining towns, the population changed with the flow of mining development and failures. The town site was platted by 1883. The population consisted of 227 voters who gave lively support to the two smelters, two sawmills, three general stores, two hotels, two livery stables and the local meat market.
Present day Cooke City, Montana boasts of approximately 100 hardy citizens who play host to the winter wonderland sports of snowmobiling, tour skiing and winter photography. The summer season welcomes the three hundred or so summer residents. Cooke City is bordered by Custer, Shoshone and Gallatin National Forests. The many streams and high country lakes are enjoyed by fisherman, campers and hikers. Bear, moose, elk and deer make their home in this pristine landscape.
When traveling to Cooke City from the northeast, one can enjoy the stunning Beartooth Mountain Range with alpine elevations of 12,000 ft. To the east is the beautiful Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Four miles west is the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The ancient Bannock Indian Trail is in close proximity. Old miner's cabins and the remains of hopeful mining claims sit silent on the northern mountain range.
History of Silver Gate
The town of Silver Gate is located one mile from the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is three miles from Cooke City and is on the Beartooth Scenic Highway. Silver Gate is located on land homesteaded by Horace S. Double, for which he was granted a patent on May 2, 1897.
In the fall of 1931, John L. Taylor and his family, feeling the "pinch of hard times" traveled from Gallatin County through the Northeast entrance in pursuit of work on the Beartooth switchback highway project. Before reaching Cooke City, the Taylor family came upon a cabin and met Mr. George Winn who had obtained his 160 acres of homestead land from Mr. Horace Double. Upon arising the next morning, Mr. Taylor's daughter writes, "I found that during the night, father had negotiated with Mr. Winn and had purchased the 160 acres for $3500. There was a great deal of planning and platting before Silver Gate was approved as a town site by the Park County Commissioners on September 8, 1932." Mrs. Taylor Eblin continues, "Dad named the town "Silver Gate" because of the silver haze which seemed to shine over the mountains and was to be a gate to Yellowstone Park."
John Taylor and J. J. White formed the Silver Gate Company and intended to create a rustic, western town to serve the tourist trade and to provide building sites for summer recreationists. Covenants written for the original town site covered setbacks, signs, and building standards requiring log construction.
Silver Gate, a place where "those who wish to get away from the hum drum existence of the more populous centers. Fish abound, wild game stalks the country side, perpetual snow can be seen not far away, while from the town site itself, as though to provide a protectorate, a wall of mountains arise to shield from the eyes of the curious." (Livingston Enterprise, September, 1932).
History of Colter Pass
East of Cooke City, the community of Colter Pass started in 1896 with 3- 160 acre Homestead properties from USA, Grover Cleveland. In 1915 the folks that inherited one of the 160 acres sold it for $10 and then resold it for $1 in 1926. Industry came into the area in 1927 when Western Smelting Power Co. purchased the property for $1,000. In the meantime, the Jackson homestead pastured milk cows to provide milk to the miners and later opened a butcher shop and store in town. In 1937 George Ogden bought two of the 160 acres from Doc Tanzer who owned Western Smelting.
Ogden bought the property for the price of the unpaid taxes, $17.31 and $19.36 and this became Ogden Acres and since George wanted to be a Mayor he made it a town site of Ogden, MT. Colter Pass held rodeos in the 40's and also had a bar and dance hall. In the 1960's, Colter Pass had a trailer park, laundromat, shower house, 3 cafes, 2 gas stations and a guest ranch. V.O. Jackson hit up on the idea of a guest ranch to promote the viable industry of tourism, building lodges and cabins.
The guest ranch is still active and run by his grandson providing the same old fashion hospitality and home cookin’ started 50 years ago.
Today, Colter Pass has 3 year round businesses. Some of the old family names continue tradition on the Pass. There are some new seasonal residents, but a lot of repeat visitors come back year after year to enjoy spectacular scenery, outstanding wildlife viewing, hiking trails, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. Colter Pass is over snow travel from November to May at an elevation of 8200 ft. with an average snowfall of 500 inches a year. Some say "only the hearty can live year round on the Pass".
History of Crandall, Wyoming
The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Hwy 296 winds through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It connects Hwy 212 near Cooke City, MT and Hwy 120 near Cody, WY. Along this route you will find a few guest ranches, a restaurant with a small store, several National Forest Campgrounds, RV hook ups. The beautiful scenery and western hospitality never ends. You may feel the want to enjoy a horseback ride through the pristine mountains or fish in one of the well-known local rivers. The businesses along this scenic drive provide good quality home cookin' that will satisfy any craving. For the more adventurous person, the mountains provide spectacular areas for pack trips and abundant animals for hunting trips. We invite you to tour the little part of the world folks in Crandall think of as paradise.
Cooke City Museum
Discover more by visiting the Cooke City Museum for a first hand look at the unique history and culture of Cooke City and it’s surrounding areas through eleven exhibits.
Exploring the Yellowstone High Country: A History of the Cooke City Area
by Ralph Glidden