This Montana Town Was Once Known As ‘Wickedest City In America’
With a reputation for drinking and gambling, and having a murder rate at the time higher than the city of Chicago, this former Montana "boomtown" was once notorious across America for its decadence.
Before the Great Fire of 1910 completely destroyed the town of Taft, it was described as a "thriving railroad town" with a population of mostly men who worked on the rail line, in the mines, or were involved with local forest industries.
Taft is located in Mineral County in the Bitterroot Range and is near the Idaho border about 90 minutes west of Missoula off Interstate 90.
According to the PBS documentary about "The Big Burn," a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, who was visiting the town of Taft in 1909, said it was "the wickedest city in America," because of the amount of violence and drunkenness.
Taft, Montana was also known to have five prostitutes for every man, according to Wikipedia.
Named after President William H. Taft before he was elected president, when Taft had visited the town while Secretary of War, he called the unnamed work camp "a blight on the American landscape which must clean up its act."
According to Wikipedia, that's when a "cheering drunken crowd" then proceeded to name the town in his honor.
Taft had a peak population of just over 3,000, and while the town was only about a half-mile in length, it was reported to have had between 20 and 50 saloons, and "a plethora of brothels," according to RavelliRepublic.com.
Taft was not rebuilt after it burned to the ground on August 21, 1910, and if you drive by the ghost town today, the location is marked Taft at Exit 5 off I-90.