Robber's Roost

By early August of 1863, Peter Daly had built a small log building along Ramshorn Creek to serve as both a home for his family and as an inn for travelers. The site he selected was on the newly established, and very popular, route between Bannack and the gold discovery camps of Alder Gulch.

"Daly's Ranch" quickly became a common landmark in the territory, and an important link in the chain of inns which provided shelter, meals, and safety (all in relative terms) to the eclectic wave of new immigrants. A few miles west was the notorious inn called Cottonwood Ranch, operated by Robert Dempsey at the Ruby River ford. To the south, an inn and stage station would be established at present-day Laurin.

As a testament to Daly's early success, the original cabin was replaced by the existing building during the winter of 1866-67. According to the reminiscences of Orlin Gammell, the "new" two-story inn was built with logs milled at the Gammell sawmill near present-day Sheridan. Of special note in the constrction is the half-dovetailed joinery at the cabin's corners.

On August 25, 1875, William Fairweather, who had made the original discovery of gold in the Alder Gulch, died in his bed at Daly's. Only 39 years old, Fairweather had squandered his fortune and his health.

Fairweather's death was a fitting metaphor of the time. By 1875, the once thriving camps of Alder Gulch were largely deserted. On January 13, the territorial capital was officially moved from Virginia City to Helena and the number of travelers passing by Daly's was reduced to a trickle.

In the years that followed, the Roost continued to operate as a social center of questionable repute. The popular watering hole fell into disrepair, and suffered its final indignity when its doors were padlocked for violations of the National Prohibition Act.

In 1930, the Fraternal Order of Elks Virginia City lodge began a fund raising drive to purchase the Roost property. Despite the growing restraints of the Great Depression, the Elks managed to raise the purchase price of $1,200 in gifts from individuals, area businesses and service clubs within two years. The Elks deeded the property as a gift to the people of Madison County on February 19, 1932.

In 1999, the Madison County Commissioners transferred the deed for the Roost property to the VCPA. Since that time, the property has been open to the public as a self-guided historic site. Robber's Roost is one of the very few 1869 era stagecoach inns remaining in existence, and the VCPA is proud to serve as caretaker for this unique piece of Montana's colorful history.