The Virginia Brewery was built in 1863 by Thomas Smith. In March 1866, Henry S. Gilbert and Christian Richter purchased the property for $14,000. They operated the business under the name Gilbert and Richter until 1872 when Gilbert bought out his partner and changed the name to the H.S. Gilbert Brewery. Following the death of Henry S. Gilbert in November 1902, the brewery was operated for two years by J.H. Powell in the interests of Gilbert's Estate. On the settling of the Estate in 1904, Valentine Gilbert changed the name to the Gilbert Brewing Company and conducted the business until prohibition closed all breweries. Following prohibition, a corporate charter was filed re-establishing the Gilbert Brewing Company on December 11, 1934. The charter expired in 1974. Henry S. Gilbert was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on December 31, 1833, the son of Henry and Lydia (Spang) Gilbert. Henry attended private school, and initially taught school. However, he quickly switched to the saddlery trade, which he followed first in Pennsylvania and then in Lafayette, Indiana. He lived briefly in Missouri and Kansas before heading west in 1855. He operated Indian trading posts at various locations in Wyoming, including Fort Laramie, South Pass, and Fort Bridger. In September 1863 he arrived in Virginia City, and began placer mining. However, in 1866 he opened his brewery. Not being a brewer by occupation, he relied heavily on his partner Richter for the technical operation of the plant. Henry Gilbert was also active in the life of Virginia City, serving as the mayor for two terms as well as the Madison County treasurer. Gilbert married Margaret McMinn in Salt Lake City in 1860 and they had 15 children, one of whom, Valentine Gilbert, succeeded his father in operating the brewery. Christian Richter was born in Germany on June 8, 1834, and trained as a cooper and brewer. He immigrated to the United States in 1856 and worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania before moving to Missouri, Colorado,and New Mexico. He arrived in Montana in 1863. The following year, he was employed by the Virginia Brewery and in partnership with Gilbert, bought the brewery in March 1866. Six years later, Richter left the firm to pursue stock ranching in the Madison Valley. Richter died in December 1899.
From the guide to the Gilbert Brewing Company Records, 1864-1918, (Montana Historical Society Archives)