When’s the Last Time You Visited Last Chance, Montana?

Helena, MT

WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU VISITED LAST CHANCE, MONTANA? Never, you say. Naw, that isn’t right. This writer was there a couple years ago. Of course, we don’t call it that anymore. But this original name in 1864 was in honor of the second biggest placer gold deposit ever found in Montana Territory, the Last Chance Gulch. Over two decades,it gave up $3.6 billion in gold, making “Last Chance,” one of the wealthiest cities in the country at the time. Obviously, they saw that wealth coming and the original name didn’t last long. Too crass for a place that was going to make so many rich. So miners got together just before Halloween in 1864 to select a new name. Among the suggestions were Pumpkinville—interesting, because that was also suggested for what now is Phoenix—or Squashtown. The final choice was Helena—some said it was for a township in Minnesota, southerns preferred to think of it as an Arkansas town along the Mississippi. Whatever, it held, and Last Chance became Helena. In 1875 it became the capital of the territory and in 1889 the capital of the new state of Montana. Still a great place to visit, after all these years.

What do you think?

Jana Bommersbach

Arizona’s Journalist of the Year, Jana Bommersbach has won an Emmy and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. She also cowrote and appeared on the Emmy-winning Outrageous Arizona and has written two true crime books, a children’s book and the historical novel Cattle Kate.