Garnet Ghost Town at night

Volunteer residents at Garnet Ghost Town get regular views like this night scene when spending a month living at the historic site.

BOB WICK, Bureau of Land Management

Interested in living in a Montana ghost town for a month, with no electricity or indoor plumbing, and groceries for pay?

So’s everybody else. You’re too late. The job is filled.

Folks at Missoula’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management office are still shaking their heads at the monumental response to their request for a volunteer resident at Garnet Ghost Town. A Missoulian story about the vacancy was posted online Monday afternoon.

“The calls came in almost immediately,” said BLM spokeswoman Maria Craig. “Garnet Ghost Town Ranger Nacoma Gainan told me the next morning he already had 130 emails and he didn’t know how many phone calls. The phone was ringing all morning.”

The Missoulian story was shared more than 32,000 times on Facebook. It remained the most-read story on the newspaper’s website for four consecutive days.

“We got people asking about it from South Africa, from China, the United Kingdom, Germany and all over the country,” Craig said. “There were more out-of-state people than Montanans calling.”

Garnet was founded in the 1860s by miners looking for gold and silver. At its boom, it was home to about 1,000 people. Its last gasp occurred in the 1930s, although some small mining claims are still being worked in the area.

Over the years, preservationists restored many of the town’s buildings, including its Miners Union hall, Kelly’s Saloon and several residences. The volunteers will live in one of the restored cabins, which have propane heat and refrigeration, but no electricity or running water.

Some callers assumed the position was like an artist’s residency, and failed to notice the bits about giving tours and maintaining the ghost town’s facilities. Others heard about the mandatory background check and quickly said goodbye.

For much of the past decade, BLM has had a few regular summer volunteers who spent a month keeping watch on Garnet. But last fall, some of those regulars said they wouldn’t be available, at the same time the Garnet ranger position changed hands.

When spring came along and the positions weren’t filled, the agency put out the call for new volunteers.

“We had a stable system, then all of a sudden, nothing,” Craig said. “We were in a bind, but who knew the response would be so overwhelming?”

The avalanche of interest did provide a slate of suitable candidates, and Craig said the search is officially closed. However, anyone still intrigued by Garnet Ghost Town might consider volunteering for the Garnet Preservation Association board of directors.

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