aka Hot Springs Creek aka Lower Hot Springs Creek

Red Bluff is thirty-five miles north of Alder gulch, and five miles north of Pony. The Red Bluff mine was discovered in 1864 by a man named Smith. In 1864 John Lawn (Lawne) sunk a 150 foot shaft in the Red Bluff ledge. The Grub Stake, Rip Van Winkle, Boaz, Tioga, Blue Wing, Red Chief, Galconda, Walter & Bo's., and the Centennial lodes were all discovered before 1867. In 1878 there was one 10-stamp water mill in the district, owned by Olds, Hurst & Thomas, and also a 1-mule arrastra which worked the Red Bluff ore. In 1883 the Cummins mine was developed and a 10-stamp mill and smelter were erected; in 1885 a 5-stamp mill was built for Elling & Word (Leeson 1885).

The Urbana mine was opened in 1872, subsequently abandoned, and opened by Mr. Doll, of the original owners (Doll, Olds & Walbank), in November, 1882. In 1877 a small group of miners 'struck it rich' in one of these lodes and named it the Grub Stake. The Grub Stake is the best developed mine in the camp, having been operated by Pope, McKee & Bayliss for the last six years. The ore is free milling and yields between $60 and $80 per ton. . . . Business is represented by the Cummins & Williams, mill and smelters; L. B. Olds, quartz mill; Pope, McKee & Baylis, quartz mine; C. H. Peck, postmaster and merchant; J. H. Scanlan, hotel; R. H. Foster, blacksmith; J. S. Minnet, shoemaker; Joseph Willbanks, saloon; P. J. Leonard, owner of Emmet mine (Leeson 1885).

The town of Red Bluff was founded in 1864 or 1865. It served as a stage station between Fort Bozeman and Virginia City. A mine at the edge of town called the Red Bluff had its own mill and boarding house. With the discovery of gold in the area it became a booming mining town. The Boaz and the Josephine were the most productive bonanza mines near Red Bluff, the former producing $200,000 in gold and silver, mostly between 1870 and 1880. The town continued to thrive until 1890. When a railroad spur arrived at the nearby town of Norris in 1890, Red Bluff became a backwater. Further, the mines began to encounter heavy flows of water which added expenses beyond the ore's ability to pay.

The district briefly revived at the turn of the century. The Red Chief and Water Lodes were worked in concert and a concentrator erected to work ores that had previously been unworkable. The Red Bluff mine was also revived with the assistance of capital from the east. Considerable progress was made until a heavy flow of water was encountered in 1902. Attempts were made to revive the mine in 1910, but these too failed (Wolle 1963; Madison County Historic Association 1976).

By 1914 the district was nearly abandoned, most of the major mines having been idle for several years. Small "ma and pa" mines such as Joe Stoker's Birdie mine were worked intermittently, but without any great returns. When the mines began to close, so too did the businesses. The town of Red Bluff dried up and disappeared from the record. Later, the town buildings became owned by the state University system and were put to use as part of an agricultural experiment station. The original stone boarding house / hotel from the town still stands adjacent to the highway (Winchell 1914; Galm et al. 1983).

The district is composed mainly of gneisses and schists of the Pony series. Some extrusive rocks are exposed near Norris. Ore deposits occur in veins cutting into these rocks. Production figures from 1864 to 1930 inclusive, which also include the adjacent Washington district, are given as $3,964,500, mostly in gold (Sahinen 1935).

With the increased price of gold in the 1930s, interest was renewed in the district. Most notably the Boaz was developed by Peter V. Jackson, Jr. the son of the original developer of the Boaz. Under the guise of the Jackpot Mining Company, Jackson developed the mine, erected a modern mill and began leasing additional properties around the Boaz such as the Josephine. Using powerful modern equipment, Jackson's operation overcame the water problems and was able to profitably work the ground. Another mine to be reopened during this time was the Grub Stake which made regular shipments of ore to East Helena. The Red Bluff mine was dewatered during this time, but even large pumps had difficulty draining the mine. After an inspection the mine was allowed to refill. This last historic mining activity came to a close with the World War II closure of gold mines.


Leeson (1885) was one of the first to describe the Red Bluff mines. He placed them within the Potosi district 35 miles north of Alder gulch, and five miles north of Pony.

Winchell (1914) states the Lower Hot Springs mining district extends eastward from Norris about 6 miles to the Madison River, and includes the region around the old town of Red Bluff. The Lower Hot Springs district was historically considered to be part of the Norris district.

Sahinen (1935) places the district in the vicinity of Norris and Red Bluff.

Wolle (1963) places the district east from Norris and extending six miles to the Madison River. The district includes the Hot Springs Creek below Norris, Cottonwood and Burnt Creeks, and the area around the old town of Red Bluff.


Birdie or Birdia

The Birdie mine is located between the Boaz and Helena mines in section 19, T3N, R1E. Ore was believed to have been discovered on the property by John Lowne around 1870. An arrastra was set up on Boaz Creek to work the ores from the Birdie and Lowne's more well-known property, the Red Bluff. The one-mule arrastra could work one ton of ore per day. The Birdie was acquired in 1894 by Joe Stoker who worked the mine for 40 years. The mine reportedly produced as much as $100,000 between 1900 and 1906 and continued to produce gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc ore intermittently between 1906 and 1938. In the late 1920s the mine was listed as being worked by the Stoker Mining Company. In 1931 when the mine was actively discussed in the mining literature, the underground workings included an 800 foot adit, surface cuts, winzes, raises, and stopes. In 1838 the mine was obtained by the Heleene Mining Co. The new owners employed 6 to 12 men and reported $50,000 in production. The mine was extensively developed, including the sinking of a 330 foot shaft with 300 feet of drifting on either side of the shaft sump. The mine was sold to the Hecla Mining Company out of Wallace, Idaho in 1940. At the time the property was described as nine unpatented claims. The ores from the 280 foot level ran 4 to 6 ounces gold per ton, but the values were erratic. When examined in 1983 the mine consisted of a degraded collar shack and shaft (Gilbert 1935; WPA 1941; Thurlow 1941; Taylor 1983; Galm et al. 1983).


The Boaz mine (24MA418) is located south of Red Bluff, 5 miles east of Norris. The property consisted of one patented and two unpatented claims. The mine worked the parallel Boaz and Golden Treasure veins. A series of drifts from a 160 foot shaft explore the veins 600 feet longitudinally and 150 feet vertically. The property was one of the early mines in the district having been patented prior to 1872 when mining law changed, allowing claims to extend beyond 100 feet. The claim was believed to have been staked by a Mr. Grey and the first production occurred in 1866 when the first run produced $108 per ton. Peter V. P. Jackson had control of the mine by the time it was patented. Between 1870 and 1880 the Boaz was reported to have produced an amazing $200,000 in gold and silver. After 1880, Jackson leased out the mine. While the mine may have been active in the 1890s, there is no record of production. By 1914 when the mine was described by Winchell, the mine had been idle for many years (Winchell 1914; Tansley et al. 1933; Thurlow 1941).

The mine worked a continuous vein in which the ore occurred in lenses rather than kidneys. Vein width, both vertically and horizontally, was unpredictable. One stope worked a 2 inch vein while only 25 feet away the vein widened to 5 feet. At the 365 foot level oxidized ores were worked, while on the 500 foot level sulphides predominated.

Peter V. Jackson, Jr., son of the elder P. V. P. Jackson, organized the Jackpot Mining Company in 1933 and reopened the Boaz and adjacent Golden Treasure mines. In 1935 the operation was described as having a 265 foot shaft with 275 feet of drifts on the 165 foot level along with raises and stopes. Fourteen men were employed on a lead on the 265 foot level. In 1937 the mine was reported to be shipping 2 cars of ore a month and the shaft was extended to the 500 foot level. In 1938 additional adjacent claims, including the Josephine were purchased and put into production. Gold produced from the mine decreased to 2,511 ounces in 1939, as the output of crude ore shipped to smelters decreased from 1,788 to 775 tons; however, a 60-ton cyanidation plant erected at the mine during 1939 treated about 1,500 tons of ore before year end. In 1940, the mine was one of the main producers of lode gold in the state reporting a large increase in gold output, approximately 35 tons per day. The mine was closed by the advent of World War II. By the end of 1941, the mine was credited with $990,000 in total production; $240,000 in the period from 1937 to 1939 alone (Gilbert 1935; Lorain 1937; WPA 1941; Rowe 1941; Thurlow 1941; Wolle 1963; Madison County History Association 1976).

In its final configuration, the mine reached 500 feet with a 2-compartment shaft, the deepest mine in the district. The shaft was served by a Washington Iron Works geared hoist powered by a Westinghouse motor. Levels were established at 100, 165, 200, 265, 365 and 500 feet. 50R51 stopers were used throughout the mine drilling blasting holes 2 to 4 feet. An Eimco-Finlay mucking machine was used on the 500 foot level and a Sullivan air-operated diamond drill was used for exploration. Water was pumped up to and discharged out of the 100 foot level adit. An Ingersoll - Rand single-stage pump powered by a 75 h.p. motor was installed that was capable of pumping the 1,000 gallons per minute encountered at the 500 foot level and another to pump out the water on the 365 foot level. Both pumps discharged out a tunnel on the 100 foot level. Three small cylinder piston pumps on the shaft sump provided water for use in the mill. Two compressors, one in the hoist house and one in the machine shop provided compressed air for the operation. The assay office was equipped with a Denver Fire Clay Co. oil burning furnace and three scales. The Miner's Union maintained a hot-springs fed swimming pool nearby (Mining World 1940; Thurlow 1941).

The final incarnation of the mill was erected in 1939. This all-slime cyanide mill handled 35 to 50 tons of ore per day, but was capable of even greater production. The mill was equipped with a 140-ton ore bin, a No. 8 Traylor Bulldog crusher, a No. 66 Marcy Ball Mill, a Dorr Duplex Classifier, Thickeners, agitators, an Oliver Filter, a 30 Leaf Clarifier Tank, a vacuum tank, a zinc cone, 60 Bag Precipitating Tanks, a refinery and a number of storage tanks. Besides working the Boaz property ores, it was also run as a custom mill and worked ores from the nearby old Madisonian mine. The 50-ton mill reportedly survived only until the mid-1940s. When the combined Boaz / Josephine mine was visited in 1983 the site consisted of a large frame compressor house, concrete mill foundations, numerous demolished frame buildings, mine shafts and adits and tailings piles (Holstine and Galm 1984; Mining World 1940; Thurlow 1941).


The Galconda (sic) mine consists of four patented claims: the Galconda, Bessie, May Queen and Fraction. The mine was discovered in 1866 or 1867 by a party of men including E. O. P. Amherts. The mine was originally developed with the discovery shaft on top of a hill excavated to a depth of 90 feet. Later this shaft was connected with "Tunnel No. 1". Three tunnels were developed about 100 feet apart. After 1884 all work was conducted in Tunnel No. 3. The mine was reported in 1888 to be second in importance in the area only to the Red Bluff mine. In 1893 the property was in the hands of James E. Martin, who in a letter to Amherts admitted he knew nothing about mining and wished to know the value of the mine so he could sell it (Thurlow 1941).

In the fall of 1939 mining on the property resumed operations in the lower tunnel. The adit was reported to be 1,000 feet in length, but the new operators found it bulkheaded at 250 feet. Development concentrated on a winze 198 feet from the portal. The ore mined was limonite with scattered sulphides in a gangue of quartz. The ore came from a brecciated zone 2 to 6 feet wide in fissured gneiss (Thurlow 1941).

Grub Stake

The Grub Stake mine is located in the SE of section 19, T1S, R1E about three miles south of Norris. In 1872, the mine was claimed by George Pope, John Bayless and Thomas "T. J." McKee (Apparently no one at the time knew how to spell Bayless; it is spelled differently in every text consulted.) The trio had quit the crowded confines of Alder Gulch to search for easier placer ground. They came upon a promising quartz outcrop about four miles southeast of the point Hot Springs Creek empties into the Madison River. The men were interested in placer, and not lode mining, but decided to stay on their claim to establish a "Grubstake". Working their claim they soon had enough gold to return to Virginia City and spent the result of their labors on drink and cards. Returning to their lode mine, they repeated the process. Although the ore from the mine was free milling and yielded between $60 and $80 per ton, the trio died penniless and were buried at county expense. The Blacksmith Tunnel from which they worked later collapsed and its portal was later used as a powder magazine (Thurlow 1941).

The mine changed ownership several times thereafter. By 1914 the mine was described as having been idle for a number of years, but had produced about $200,000 in its early years (Winchell 1914).

The mine resumed steady production in 1935. After 1939 a 60-ton carload from the mine was sent to East Helena for processing. The ore returned on the average 2 ounces of gold per ton, 6 ounces of silver, 2.5% lead and traces of copper and zinc. When the mine was closed by the advent of World War II, the operation was developed through a 400 foot shaft with levels at 170, 270, and 400 feet along with a tunnel level at the base of the hill that connected about 80 feet above the 170 foot level (Thurlow 1941).


The Josephine mine is located immediately north of the Boaz. Sahinen (1935) noted the Josephine as one of the most important early mines, but gave no information on production. The mine consists of Josephine, Mighty Monarch, Mighty Hawk and Salvador claims. It was initially developed with a 140 foot shaft with three drift levels (Tansley et al. 1933; Sahinen 1935).

The Josephine Gold Mining Company incorporated in 1932. In 1935 the Josephine was reported to be in development with five men employed in a 200 foot incline shaft with 1,000 feet of drifts and crosscuts. The underground was supported by an air hoist, pumping plant, compressor, machine shop, boarding house and bunk house. From 1937 to 1939 the Josephine Mining Co. leased the Josephine claims to the Boaz mine. Forty-five men were put to work extracting 30 tons of ore from the Josephine properties each day; the ore was then worked in the nearby Boaz mill.

In its final form the Josephine was developed out of a 365 foot incline shaft that connected to the Boaz by a crosscut at the lowest level.

The mine reported production in 1912, 1917, and intermittently from 1923 to 1940. It was discussed extensively in the mining literature from 1931 to 1938 (Gilbert 1935; Lorain 1937; WPA 1941; Galm et al. 1983).


The Mohican is located near the Red Bluff on veins striking northwest and dipping northeast. It was one of the early bonanza mines and is mentioned in connection with work on the Red Bluff (Winchell 1914).

Red Bluff

The Red Bluff was an important gold ore producer during the 1870s and 1880s. The mine was located by J. J. Lowne in the late 1860s; initially its ore was worked in an arrastra on Boaz Creek. The first report on the property was by Raymond in 1872. In this report the mine was described by Dr. A. C. Peale who visited the mine while working for the USGS Hayden survey. At the time the mine had two shafts 100 feet apart which measured 105 & 110 feet deep; the shafts were connected by a drift that extended 45 feet beyond the second shaft. The ore was described as a red jasper with metallic gold disseminated through it and plainly visible. Below this ore occurred pyrites and galena. Eight men were employed extracting the $60 per ton ore (WPA 1941; Thurlow 1941; Wolle 1963).

In 1894 the mine was owned and operated by Ward, Elling & Stewart with Charles Stewart the general manager and foreman. The mine employed six miners in a tunnel and a two-compartment 110 foot shaft. A Ledgerwood double cylinder link-motion engine was used to hoist a bucket on a 3/4 inch steel rope (Shoemaker 1894; Shoemaker and Miles 1894).

In 1900 the mine was reopened by the Red Bluff Mining Co. with G. D. B. Turner the manager and Griffith Jones the foreman. Some difficulty was encountered in the endeavor, but the problems were overcome with the aid of foreign capital. In 1900 the shaft was lowered from the 200 to the 300 foot level; the upper shaft was 2-compartment while the lower shaft was enlarged to 3-compartments. A 30 horsepower engine was used to raise and lower buckets with a 7/8 inch steel cable (Byrne and Hunter 1901).

Operations of the mine were suspended late in 1901 awaiting the erection of a 100-ton concentrator. This plant was completed in 1902 and mining resumed. Initially, the concentrator worked several thousand tons already in the dumps. Other improvements included replacement of the buckets used in the shaft in 1900 with safety cages in 1901. This period of activity came to a close when a heavy flow of water in the mine made production uneconomical (Byrne and Barry 1902; Thurlow 1941).

The mine was reopened in 1910 and at that time was yielding $14 a ton gold in pyrite and galena ore (Byrne and Hunter 1902; Wolle 1963).

In 1935 the Red Bluff and the Montana Boy were worked together by the Idaho-Montana Development Co. The company employed 12 men working three patented and 11 unpatented claims. The mine was again unwatered in 1940. The pumps removed 1,500 gallons per minute to lower the level of water only an inch an hour. Pumping continued throughout the summer and by August the 120 and 200 foot levels were accessible, but partially collapsed and covered with mud. While the mine was reported to be 400 feet deep, the pumps were pulled after the 200 foot level was examined and the mine was allowed to refill. The advent of World War II precluded any other historic mining efforts in the Red Bluff (Gilbert 1935; Thurlow 1941).

Red Chief

The Red Chief mine is located near Red Bluff and in 1900 was operated by the Red Chief Mining Company. The mine was originally developed with a 2-compartment shaft that was abandoned because the ore could not be reduced. At the turn of the century a concentrator erected at the nearby Water Lode was able to handle the ore and 15 men were put to work extracting ore from the upper levels of the mine. In the 1930s the mine was briefly reopened and its ore shipped directly to the smelter (Byrne and Hunter 1901; Rowe 1941; Madison County History Association 1976).


The Valdez mine consists of five claims. Gilbert (1935) states that the mine closed in 1905, although production was reported in 1913 and 1914 and again from 1930 intermittently until 1940. In 1935 the mine was described as a 350 foot adit and a 100 foot shaft with a compressor and machine drills. Ore from the mine was shipped directly to the smelter. In the 1930s the mine was briefly reopened and its ore shipped directly to the smelter (Gilbert 1935; WPA 1941; Madison County History Association 1976).

Water Lode

The Water Lode is located near the Red Bluff mine and was worked in conjunction with the Red Chief mine by the Red Chief Mining Company. This company was organized by eastern capitalists. The mine began making regular shipments of gold ore in 1898. In 1900 the mine was developed from a 180 foot incline shaft with an 8 x 10 Ledgerwood engine working a bucket with a 5/8 inch round rope. At the turn of the century a 50-ton concentrator was erected to work the ore of the Water Lode and the Red Chief. In the 1930s the mine was briefly reopened and its ore shipped directly to the smelter (Byrne and Hunter 1901; Rowe 1941; Madison County History Association 1976).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

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Madison County History Association

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Mining World

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Rowe, Jesse Perry

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Sahinen, Uuno M.

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Shoemaker, C. S.

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Shoemaker, C. S. and John Miles

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Taylor, John

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Walsh, William and William Orem

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Wolle, Muriel Sibell

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Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey

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