At the base of the magnificent Tobacco Root Mountains is situated the historic mining town of Pony. A drifter by the name of Tecumseh Smith, nicknamed “Pony”, had traveled over the mountain range from the Alder Gulch to seek his fortune in mountain streams of the area. Legend tells us that “Pony” threw his digging pick into a thicket of brush one day, to his surprise, when he retrieved it he had discovered gold where it had landed.
“He was less than five feet tall, his accomplishments in proportion. Few people noticed him as he moved from creek to creek, panning enough gold to keep him in beans and get him to the next camp. In 1866 he was crowded out of Alder Gulch and Virginia City by bigger men and made his lonely way to the far-out edges of Tobacco Root Range.
He left very little of himself at the creek. The others who moved in to take advantage of the finds could not even remember his name. Was it Tecumseh Smith? One man was sure that was it. Another said, no, it was the other way around – Smith Tecumseh. Still another insisted it was not Tecumseh at all but McCumpsey. Then somebody remembered the little guy answered to “Pony” and that stuck. The diminutive wanderer, although vanished to other parts, left his nickname attached to a creek, a gulch and what would be a booming mining camp.”
During the fall of 1875, quartz deposits were discovered in the mountains behind town and the rush was soon on. Within several years the town had grown to nearly 1,000 people, primarily miners and merchants. The Presbyterian and Episcopal churches were constructed in 1894, with the Catholic church constructed soon thereafter in 1903. The Northern Pacific Railroad added a spur into Pony in 1889 hauling supplies to the mining town and returning with railcars of ore. By 1878 the gold rush had subsided and the small mountain town dwindled to a mere 100 residents.
Around the turn of the century, the mining industry geared up once again, extracting ore from the various mines. During this time Pony thrived with a population fluctuating between 2,500 and 5,000 residents.
In 1920 a horrendous fire swept through the bustling mining town destroying a good portion of the business district and family dwellings.
Today, with a population of about 110 residents, the unincoroporated town of Pony has 95 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pony is a beautiful location in rural America that has remote properties to escape from the crowds but still only 30 minutes to Three Forks and Ennis and an hour from the bustling town of Bozeman.