Gold was discovered by W. E. (Limerock) Wilson on the east slopes of the Judith Mountains in 1883 and the prospect was named “Gilt Edge.” The ore could not be successfully treated by methods available at the time; however, in 1892 a new cyanide process was introduced and over time proved quite successful. This cyanide gold mill, the first or second in the United States, was located adjacent to what would become the town of Gilt Edge. With the new cyanide operation attracting so much attention, the town of Gilt Edge was born in 1893 and grew quickly. A formal town-site was laid out and many of the abandoned buildings from Fort Maginnis (1880-1890) were used to build Gilt Edge.
Gilt Edge boasted a number of fine businesses, a school, a hospital, and many dwellings surrounding the business district.
It attracted business from nearby ranches and the declining town of Maiden. The population peaked around 1908 at 1,500. Legendary Calamity Jane frequented Gilt Edge. Today, Gilt Edge is dotted with a few ruins and newer residences and out- buildings. Included are remains of a stone store front, wooden jail, former house of prostitution, and a brick building.
The mine itself operated successfully until 1912. In 1917 a cyanide plant was built at the original 1892 mill site to reprocess old mill tailings but was short lived. The last mining at Gilt Edge occurred in the 1980s and ended in 1991. Open cuts and dumps from the mining can be seen on the mountain slopes 11⁄2 miles to the northwest of the old town-site. Total production of the Gilt Edge area mines was approximately 100,000 ounces of gold.
Maiden Road and Gilt Edge Road meet as they pass through town on what was Chickadee Avenue. A few of the old streets can also be traveled. Other than the streets, all of Gilt Edge including other travel ways is private property.
Text is adapted from Jerry Hanley, 2017. Photo is courtesy of the Lewistown Library and Jerry Hanley. For additional information visit EnjoyLewistown.com.