Virgelle (pronounced ver-jill), Montana, was founded in 1912 by Virgil
and Ella Blankenbaker. Located next to tracks of James Hill's Great
Northern Railroad, Virgelle was meant to be a shipping point and
commercial center serving the homesteaders who were then rushing in to
settle the area. At its peak, the little town boasted a general store,
post office, school, bank, and a grain elevator.
Homesteader Days at Virgelle
Soon the homesteaders realized that one could not make a decent living
on only 320 acres (or less) of farmland in this part of Montana. Dry
summers, bitter winters, inefficient farming methods, plus loneliness:
all took their toll. The boom went bust. By 1930, trade at the
Virgelle Mercantile store had dropped to only a few postal patrons and
railroad workers. The Blankenbaker dream of a thriving community blew
away on the the western wind.
In 1912, the Blankenbakers built the two-story general store and living
quarters. Despite hard times, it continued to operate until 1970, when
Andy Anderson, the last storekeeper, closed the doors on what he
presumed would the the last chapter in the building's history. But
Virgelle was sleeping, only waiting to be discovered.
In 1975, a pharmacist who'd been raised near Virgelle, saw potential in
the old ghost town.
He reopened "The Merc" as a thriving antiques business. The upstairs
into charming Bed and Breakfast rooms. Genuine Homestead Cabins
now treat visitors to a glimpse of bygone prairie life.
Each summer Virgelle hosts an international
clientele who float the river,
stay in colorful rooms,
and enjoy good food.