In 1864 a group known as the “Four Georgians” (John Cowan, Daniel Jackson Miller, John Crab, and Reginald, or Robert Stanley) stumbled upon gold in what is now Helena's main street. The claim was staked and named “Last Chance Gulch.” (A gulch is a deep V-shaped valley).
As the gulch began to fill with people, the miners decided they needed to come up with a name for the town. The “Four Georgians” originally named it Crabtown, after John Crab. Searching for a new name, the miners decided on a name of a town in Minnesota, pronounced Saint Hel-ee-na. Over time, the pronunciation changed to Helen with an "a" on the end and “Saint” was dropped from the name.
In 1875, Helena became the capital of Montana Territory. When Montana became a state, the fight for the location of the state capital began. Helena won, and in October 1898, ground was broken for the State Capitol Building .
The St. Helena Cathedral is an imposing building. It is modelled after the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, and is a replica of the Votive Church in Vienna. The twin spires rise 230 feet above the street.
This is the original Governor's Mansion, constructed, in 1888. It contains 20 rooms and seven fireplaces, all restored to turn-of-the-century elegance and furnished with antiques. We did not manage to get on a tour of the mansion this time, but hope to on another occasion.
We feel as though we have only scratched the surface on this visit and we very much look forward to returning at some point in the future.
Over the days ahead, we'll publish some pictures from our tour of the State Capitol building and then some coverage of our return to Canada.