aka Bismarck aka Wilmah

The Bismark mining district is near the headwaters of South Boulder Creek on the eastern slope of the Tobacco Root Mountains. The Bismark mine was located south of the deserted 1870s mining camp of Mammoth. Mammoth was at 6,000 feet elevation; Bismark was 2,000 feet higher, about four miles up the canyon to the forks of the South Boulder. By 1963 there was nothing left of Bismark but the ruins of one mill (Wolle 1963; Sahinen 1935; Cather and Linne 1983).

According to Sahinen (1935), the area is made up of metamorphic rocks of the Pony series which are intruded by a tongue of the quartz monzonitic Tobacco Root batholith. Near the contact both the gneiss and the granite are weakly fissured and mineralized. The Bismarck mine is on several fissure veins near the granite-gneiss contact. Veins are numerous, the small, narrow ore shoots consist of pyrite, chalcopyrite, and molybdenite with quartz.

The Bismark was the primary mine in the district, one of a group of 11 patented claims located about four miles south of the Mammoth mine (which is discussed in the South Boulder/Mammoth and Pony mining districts). The Bismark was located in 1903 and produced ore in 1913, 1916 and 1917. In 1911, the ore in the Bismark mine assayed at about 2 percent copper, 2 ounces silver and $3 in gold. Another section yielded 20-23 percent lead, 7 ounces silver, and 1.147 percent copper. Yet another round of blasting yielded 4 percent copper, 8 ounces silver, and $1.20 in gold (Mineral Resources Survey 1941).


The Bismark mine is listed in Gilbert (1935) as within the Pony district and is classified as such by most of the historic literature. The Atlantic-Pacific mine is in both the Pony and the Bismark districts as defined for inventory purposes by the AMRB (1994). Sahinen (1935), however, defines the district as near the headwaters of the South Boulder, essentially as described by the AMRB (1994). Figure 1 shows the boundaries of the Bismark mining district as defined by AMRB (1994) for their inventory.



Miners were exploring the region as early as the late 1870s. The Atlantic & Pacific (A & P) lode claim was surveyed and was operating by 1891 (M.S. 2966) and was subsequently patented. Some structures (worker housing) at the site may date to the 1890s; most of the others date after 1915. The A & P mine was operating by 1891. The mine is located in the NE 1/4 of section 20, T2S R3W (Beck 1986).

In 1935, M. I. Leydig of Pony owned two patented and five unpatented claims five miles southwest of Pony that made up the Atlantic-Pacific mine. The mine produced gold, had six employees, and development included 1,200 feet of drifts and open cuts (Gilbert 1935).


The Bismark mine is located in the extreme southwest corner of section 36, T2S R4W. It was located in 1903 by J. R. E. Seviers and others, and patented in 1904 as one of a group of 11 patented claims in the area. According to a 1911 report:

The Bismark mine...is owned as [sic] the Montana-Illinois Copper Mining Co. Although for the past few years efforts have been made to find the downward extension of a fine showing of copper ore which was discovered near the top of the mountain, success was not met with until recently when W. L. Credon, a mining engineer, was engaged. Under his direction an old crosscut in the lower tunnel was extended in a southerly direction. No sooner had drilling begun in the breast of the crosscut than indications of an ore body were observed in the drill holes...the work of driving ahead the crosscut [is] still going on with indications that the ore still continued in the hanging wall and the entire width of the ore body had not then been determined (Mining World 1911).

The Bismark mine yielded copper ore containing a small quantity of silver and gold. The Montana-Illinois Copper Mining Co. in 1913, 1916 and 1917 mined over 58,000 lbs of copper, more than 7,000 lbs of lead, and almost 1,200 oz. of silver. The workings were near the Bismark fault. The mine contained four adits. Levels two and four totaled about 800 feet. Level one was about 1,000 feet. long but was caved in at the portal. Level three was less than 50 feet long and in 1983 was caved (Heikes 1913; Cather and Linne 1983).

In 1912, the Bismark Mining Co. controlled a group of four claims known as the Bismark. The company developed a 900-foot tunnel exploring several ore bodies containing copper and silver values, and constructed a new concentrator. Twelve men were employed at the mine. In 1913, the ore was treated in a concentrating mill with a flotation unit. The concentrates (containing gold, silver and copper and a small amount of lead ore) were shipped directly to the smelters (Heikes 1916; Walsh 1912).


The Nicholson Mine was located in the early part of the century on the southwest slope of Hollowtop Mountain in the northeast corner of section 7, T3S R3W. It has been operated more or less continuously since it was opened. Cabins and other structures associated with the mine still existed and were being used by descendants of the Nicholson for whom the mine is named (Beck 1981).

In 1990 the mine complex consisted of a 3-stamp mill and adjacent living structures, three open adits, and the remains of a cable-tram hauling system used to haul the high-grade ore off the mountain. The first tunnel was driven in 1910, but the structures and the stamp mill were built during the 1930s, with some upkeep during the 1950s and in 1981 (Periman and Jackman 1990).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compiled and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena

Beck, Barb Springer

1981 "Cultural Resource Inventory of the Nicholson Mine, Deerlodge National Forest, Jefferson District."

1986 "Cultural Resource Inventory of the Petrosearch Park Creek Project, Madison County, Montana," Deerlodge National Forest, Jefferson Ranger District.

Cather, Eric E. and J. Mitchell Linne

1983 "Mineral Investigation of the Middle Mountain-Tobacco Root RARE II Area (No. B1013), Madison County, Montana," U. S. Bureau of Mines, Open-File Report, MLA 95-83.

Gilbert, F. C.

1935 "Directory of Montana Mining Properties," Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Memoir No. 15, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Heikes, V. C.

1913 "Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in Montana," U. S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources of the United States, Part I, Metals.

1916 "Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in Montana" U. S. Geological Survey Mineral Resources of the United States, Part I, Metals.

Mineral Resources Survey (WPA)

1941 Montana Mine Index: An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1941, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Periman, Richard D. and Julia E. Jackman

1990 "Cultural Resource Inventory Report, Determination of Eligibility and Statement of Effect for the Nicholson Mining Project," Deerlodge National Forest, Butte.

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana." M. S. thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Walsh, William

1912 Biennial Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana for the Years 1911-1912, Independent Publishing Company, Helena.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell

1963 Montana Pay Dirt: A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State, Sage Books, Denver.