The Brearcreek Mine
Photo courtesy: John Ansotegui
Photo courtesy: Bear Creek Saloon
Bearcreek, east of Red Lodge, was named for the many bears that came along after berriesand sometimes are still seen in town along the creek. The town was founded between 1905 and 1906 on the wealth of vast coal deposits beneath it. The Brophy Mine, International, Bearcreek, Foster, and Smith were the big mines in this area. The Montana, Wyoming, and Southern Railroad, built in 1906, carried a hundred carloads of coal a day from the valley. Bearcreek declined in the late 1930s and early '40s as diesel and gasoline replaced coal as a primary fuel. A devastating explosion at the Smith Mine on February 27, 1943 killed 74 men in the first blast. After that tragedy, an exodus from Bearcreek left it almost a ghost town. A revival started in 1964 promised to at least partially restore this once-booming coal mining town. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company)
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