HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Upper Hot Springs District

This district is one of several districts that surround the town of Norris, the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Its first town, Sterling, was situated on Hot Springs Creek, 28 miles northeast of Virginia City, between Madison and Willow Creek valleys on the southwest slopes of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Sterling had its beginning in the winter of 1864-65 when ten men who were prospecting for quartz lived in a small community of dug-outs. Mines began to be developed in the Sterling area in 1867 and a stamp mill was built soon after. Ultimately four quartz mills were built in Sterling and one at Midasburg, each put up by a different company. Machinery for the mills was brought in from Bozeman. At its peak the town of Sterling had about 600 miners and their families and was a principal station on the stage route from the Gallatin country to Virginia City. Over $1,000,000 was spent in developing lodes and building mills, some of which ran sporadically as late as 1913, and although profits were realized, especially after 1872, the bulk of the ore remained low-grade and averaged only $9.00 to $12.00 per ton (Leeson 1885; Wolle 1963).

The district's second town, Midasburg, was located about 200 yards south of Sterling. The community sprang up around the mine and mill of the Midas Company. The mill which was erected at a cost of $80,000 was a model of the then state-of-the-art milling technology. Over 90 men were employed in the mine and mill. The men and their families settled in lodging around the mill.

Although new management at the mines of Sterling and Midasburg made the mines profitable after 1872, by 1880 the miners from Sterling were hurrying over the hills to the new camp of Richmond Flats, a few miles away. A few years later Bill Reel converted the abandoned townsite of Sterling into a farm (Blake 1896; Wolle 1963).

On Richmond Flats the Revenue, one of the most important mines in the district, was discovered by Alex Norris. At the age of 18 Norris came to Sterling where he began working for the Clark and Upson Mining Company. In September 1865, he moved to the area now known as Norris. He discovered the Revenue Mine, which he later sold for $10,000, and used the money to start a profitable cattle raising operation. The principal mines at Richmond Flats (also called Revenue Flats) were the Revenue, Monitor, Idaho, the Arkansas, and the Treasurer (Wolle 1963; Madison County History Association 1976).

"Someone had grubstaked two miners to drive a tunnel and they had worked all winter unknowingly along the side of this rich vein [the Monitor]. Then one day, while they were outside in the sunshine eating their lunch, a cave-in occurred, exposing this vein - a regular bonanza. It was four feet in width with six inches of wire gold in the center. The ore assayed six thousand dollars a ton after all specimens were picked out and at the old price of nineteen dollars an ounce. The mine superintendent, Roger Knox, sent a sample of this ore to the World's Fair in San Francisco in 1895 and received first prize." "It took four years to mine this body of ore." The ore was hauled, seven tons a trip, to Norris, bringing coal back to the mine. "All low grade and lead matter was taken out and deposited on the dump. Ike Snodderly spent several summers, employing three or four men with slips or scrapers, gathering up this so-called waste and running it through the mill, using a cyanide process...a strip of talc ranging from two to sixteen inches in width was left hanging in the mine, assaying eighty dollars per ton. The vein was so heavily loaded with gold that it was simply squeezed out into the talc." (Madison County History Association 1976)

In 1892 the Revenue and the Monitor mines dominated the district. The Revenue mine had $500,000 of ore in sight. The owners put in a cyanide process to catch the values of the refractory ore. The first run of 100 tons from the waste of the old stamp mill yielded a savings of 80%. In 1896 the cyanide mill was reducing 25-30 tons of gold ore a day, averaging $30 a ton. The nearby Monitor carried similar ore which was to be expected since the two mines were working the same deposit. Litigation between the Revenue and Monitor companies effectively idled both the companies in 1898 until the concerns were consolidated in 1900 (Wolle 1963).

The district is composed of quartz monzonite of the Tobacco Root batholith, the northwestern margin of which is exposed about three miles southwest of Norris. The vein in the Revenue mine is quartzose, accompanied in many places by aplitic intrusions. It contains about equal parts by weight of gold and silver. The oxidized ores were of good grade, but the sulphides were generally low grade. The zone of oxidation extends down 200 feet, but not much deeper (Winchell 1914; Sahinen 1935).

Although there was a revival of some of the less productive mines in the district in 1898, this may be attributable to the closure of the Revenue and Monitor. Their idled crews may have been forced to look elsewhere for livelihood. Soon after the two companies consolidated and resumed production, other mines in the district began dropping out of produc tion. By 1905 the expanded Revenue / Monitor operation was the only remaining concern in the district reporting production. The mine continued to produce ore for its mill and cyanide plant on an intermittent basis until 1921.

In 1936 Peter V. Jackson, Jr. formed the Revenue Mine and Development Company and the Revenue property was opened. The old shaft was no longer usable and so several new shafts were begun, one of which reached a depth of several hundred feet. Although the mine was not as rich as the Boaz Mine in the nearby Red Bluff district, there were large veins of low-grade ore. In 1939, the mine and 80-ton cyanidation mill were operated the entire year by Revenue Mine Developing Group, Inc. The new mill, which was placed in operation in October 1938, treated 26,280 tons of ore from the Revenue mine in 1939 (compared with 6,400 tons in 1938), and the output of gold recovered in cyanide bullion increased to 3,997 ounces; in addition, the company shipped 302 tons of gold ore to a smelter and the total output of gold was 4,180 ounces compared with 1,885 ounces in 1938. The large mining and milling operation continued until 1942 when World War II caused the mines to close.

The rest of the output from Norris area lode mines in the late 1930s was crude gold ore shipped to smelters from the Arctic, Boyles, Betty Mae (Norris district), Billy, Bi-Metallic, Black Chief (Norwegian Creek district), Devil's Dream, Eldorado, Emperor, Erma & Lucky Strike, Fortuna, Galena, Gold Bug, Golden Link, Grub Stake (Red Bluff district) Headlight, Josephine, Mascot & Pony, Monitor, Montida, New York Belle, Pulverizer, Rosebud, Santa Christo, Valdez (Red Bluff district), and Water Lode (Red Bluff district) mines; most of it came from the Billy, Emperor, and Montida mines (Rowe 1941; Madison County History Association 1976).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Wolle (1963) places the district six miles southwest of Norris in the hills. Winchell (1914) states that the Upper Hot Springs mining district extends southwestward from Norris about 6 miles to Sterling and Revenue.

The Madisonian mine is isolated and does not fit into any of the Norris area sub-districts. It is closest to the Revenue or Upper Hot Springs district, but is not associated with it historically.

The district as described by the AMRB (1994) is close to the historic district, although the historic boundaries did not include the land to the west. Figure 1 shows the AMRB (1994) boundaries and the historic boundaries as described by Winchell (1914).

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Arkansas

The Arkansas mine was one of the early bonanza mines of Richmond Flats. In an early report on the district the mine had a shaft down 35 feet and reported an 18 inch vein of $250 ore in sight. A six ton test load returned $237 per ton from the smelter. When 16 tons of the same ore was worked in a local mill, it only returned $16 per ton (Cope 1888).

Bull Moose

The Bull Moose mine consists of three unpatented claims on Richmond Flats 5.5 miles southwest of Norris. The property was developed with several shafts on the surface outcrop along with several hundred feet of drifting at a shallow depth. The lode is thought to be an extension of the Revenue vein which consists of oxidized ore of quartz, limonite, and free gold. Sulphides were encountered in the deeper workings. The vein varied from 10 inches to 6 feet with an average of 5 feet. The mine produced gold, silver, and copper (and some lead) in 1915, 1917, and 1919, and it produced gold in 1922, 1924-25, 1931, and 1934. The mine was discussed in the mining literature in 1931 and 1932. In 1935 the mine employed three men working in four incline shafts; the deepest, at 167 feet, had a 190 foot drift on the 100 foot level (Tansley, Schafer and Hart 1933; Gilbert 1935; WPA 1941; Sahinen 1935).

Galena

The Galena mine is located on Pole Creek at the forks of Hot Springs Creek, near the former site of Sterling about 2.5 miles from Pony. It had a quartz vein in quartz monzonite porphyry carrying gold, plus silver, pyrite, and small amounts of other minerals. On the "mound" north of Galena shafts and tunnels have been cut into several quartz veins in gneiss. The Galena mine was first worked in 1867. The mine was opened up by Peter V. Jackson with the help of eastern capital. A mill was built at Sterling to work the ore, however when sulphide ore was encountered, the mill was shut down. Jackson stayed on as caretaker, eventually coming to own the Galena and numerous claims in the vicinity. The mine again reported production in 1874 (Swallow 1891; Winchell 1914; Wolle 1963).

By 1888 the mine was reported to have had numerous owners. During its early history it had produced 800 tons of ore which returned $25,000 when milled. The ore assayed at $57 in gold and 3 ounces of silver per ton which returned $30 per ton when milled. A test load sent to the smelter returned $90 per ton for two tons (Cope 1888).

Between 1895 and 1905 the Galena mine yielded about $150,000 in gold and silver. In 1897 the Garnet Gold Mining Company owned and operated the Galena mine. Fourteen miners and five topmen were employed at the mine, and development work included two tunnels (850 feet and 750 feet in length), a blacksmith shop and other buildings. The company's 20-stamp mill treated the ore, which bore gold, lead, and copper. In 1898 the company extended the main tunnel 200 feet. The water-powered mill was shut down in winter due to the shortage of water. The mine employed 24 men most of the year (Byrne 1897; 1899).

Around 1900 the property came into the hands of P. V. Jackson. His company employed 10 miners and five topmen. Developments included two tunnels 800 and 900 feet long and a 2 -stamp mill and vanners to process the ores, which carried gold, silver and copper. In 1903 the mine and mill were leased and bonded to a Minneapolis company. This new company installed new hoisting and pumping equipment, but the mine dropped out of the literature and, presumably, from production soon after (Byrne 1901; MW 1904).

In 1937 the mine was reported to be in the hands of the Lakeview Gold Mines, Inc. The mine employed six men in a 350 foot incline shaft with levels at 100, 200 and 300 foot. The stopes were supported by an occasional stull or gob pillar. Ore was scraped to the drift by hand and mucked into cars. One drifting machine was employed on stoping and one machine on waste development. Above ground a 40 horsepower centrifugal pump pulled 40 gallons of water a minute out of the mine; a single-drum, 35 horsepower hoist raised the ore, and a 350 cubic foot per minute, 75 horsepower compressor powered the drifting machines and other equipment (Lorain 1937).

At the mine the ore was processed in a flotation mill. Ore was crushed by a Blake crusher, stored in a 50-ton bin, fed through a ball mill, and run through an Esperanza-type drag classifier. Overflow from the classifier was sent to the first cell of a 8-cell Minerals Separation flotation machine. Concentrates were settled in two Callow cones and filtered in a 4 x 6 foot Oliver Filter. Tails from the flotation went directly to the settling pond (Lorain 1937).

The Galena mine produced gold and also some silver, copper, lead, and zinc in the years 1898, 1903-05, 1915, 1918-19, 1929-31 (when it was managed by the Empire Gold Mines Company), 1934-35, and 1938-40. The mine was discussed in the mining literature in 1898, 1903 & 1904, 1915, 1931 and 1935 (WPA 1941).

Idaho

The Idaho was one of the first lode mines in the district. In 1863, it was reported to have a 190 foot shaft. No free milling gold was discovered from this first development. Subsequently, 50 tons of the mine's ore was worked in a local mill and returned $1,000 (Cope 1888).

Lexington

The Lexington mine is located five miles southwest of Norris. Jess Frisbie and sons leased the Lexington claim in 1935 and worked it until 1941. In 1938, they shipped 533 tons of gold ore to a smelter and sent 1,586 tons of ore to the Revenue mill. All told the Frisbie operation took out over $100,000. The Lexington mine reported production in gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc in the years 1913-15 and 1938-40 (WPA 1941; Madison Co. History Assoc. 1983).

Monitor

The Monitor is located at Richmond Flats, seven miles south of Norris. It is to the west and adjoining the Revenue. The product from this mine was similar to that of the Revenue, being a quartz-carrying gold in base form. It occurred in shoots along the vein, which varied in width from a few inches to several feet.

In 1894 the Monitor employed five miners and three topmen working a 310 foot tunnel and single-compartment shaft 50 feet deep. The gold-bearing ore was hoisted by a windlass. A surface shaft was sunk 150 feet from the tunnel mouth to connect with the tunnel, and from there a crosscut ran 20 feet north to tap the vein. A winze sunk 25 feet made the total depth 75 feet from the surface (Shoemaker 1894).

In 1895 the Monitor Gold Mining Company employed 8 miners and one topman. The mine had developed into a two-compartment shaft 160 feet deep and a tunnel 200 feet long. The hoist was run by a steam engine and used a 5/8" steel rope, a bucket, and a crosshead. In 1897 the mine employed 33 miners and two topmen. The 2-compartment shaft was extended from 160 feet to 200 by 1898. Ore was extracted using a three-horse whim. Waste rock was used to backfill the stopes and reduce the need for timbering. Ore was shipped to the East Helena & Omaha smelters for treatment. In 1898 a new tunnel 325 feet long was developed. Late in 1898 the Revenue and Monitor mines became involved in litigation that effectively closed both mines. The next year the mine employed only 17 men (Shoemaker 1895; Byrne and Hunter 1898; 1899; Calderhead 1898).

The Monitor and Revenue mines were consolidated in 1900 and thereafter worked out of the Monitor shaft. In 1901, the whim-operated bucket on the Monitor shaft was replaced by a 60 horsepower boiler, 40 horsepower steam hoist and cage. Work was begun to extend the Monitor shaft and additional 200 feet. Winzes sunk from the bottom level of the shaft gave a total depth on the vein of 300 feet. Low grade ore from the mine was sent to the Revenue cyanide plant which was modernized while the mines were idle (Byrne and Barry 1902).

Although the two mines had been joined, lessees working the Monitor produced gold and some silver, copper, and lead in the years 1905, 1911-13, 1915, and 1939-40. In 1905 it was being developed by the Monitor & Revenue Mining Company under lease (WPA 1941).

Morning Star

In 1891 the Morning Star on Cottonwood Creek was noted as "one of the regular producers of the Upper Basin." Although little is known of the early history of the mine, it had been reported to be in production in 1871. It also yielded gold, silver, copper, and lead in 1912, and gold and silver in the years 1917-19, 1922-23, and 1925-26 (Swallow 1891; WPA 1941).

Pony

Located near Sterling, the Pony mine was discovered in 1865. The mine consisted entirely of an ore shoot five feet wide and 100 feet long. The mine was worked down to water level. Ore returned at $85 per ton gold with simple amalgamation on copper plates. The ore shoot was said to have produced $100,000 (Cope 1888).

Revenue

The principal mines at Richmond Flats, the Revenue and the Monitor, are about seven miles from Norris. The Revenue mine was discovered by Norris about 1881; he in turn sold it to a Salt Lake company. In 1885 the mine reportedly had a shaft down 230 feet, but reports in 1895 and 1898 give a depth of 150 feet and 160 feet respectively. Levels were run to the east and west with six to ten feet of ore in the face of both levels. In 1885 the general manager of the mine, Col. J. H. Johnson, bragged that he had 8,000 tons of ore in sight. In 1888, three shafts of 250, 80 and 140 feet were reported. Ore was extracted from the 2-compartment No. 3 shaft utilizing a 15 horsepower Kendall & Roberts 6 x 14 steam engine, a steel rope, and a bucket. The shaft was vertical for the first 70 feet and inclined the rest of the way to the bottom. Three levels were run of 480, 200 and 100 feet length. While 2,000 tons of ore were shipped to eastern smelters, 1000 tons ore ore were worked on the property in a stamp mill with copper amalgamation plates. While an equal amount of ore awaited shipment to smelters and the company mill, an experienced mine man estimated that 100,000 tons of ore remained to be mined (Cope 1888).

In 1895, a high grade ore chute was discovered, providing employment for 31 miners and five topmen. In 1898 the Revenue Mining Company employed about 40 men extracting ore. The low grade ore was hauled by wagons to the company's cyanide plant which had been completed in 1898. The mill was variously reported to be from 45 to 60 tons capacity and from 1 to 2 miles from the mine (Leeson 1885; Swallow 1891; Shoemaker 1895; Byrne 1898; 1899; Calderhead 1898).

The Revenue mine was entirely in granite with a complex system of intersecting fissures controlling the ore deposits. Commercial gold was found at the intersections of the fissures. Three major ore shoots of this type were discovered along with numerous smaller shoots. The minerals extracted from the mine are primarily quartz and limonite with free gold. Sulphides begin to appear in the deeper workings (Tansley, Schafer and Hart 1933).

The Monitor and Revenue mines were consolidated in 1900 and thereafter worked out of the Monitor shaft. Low grade ore from the mines was sent to the Revenue cyanide plant. In 1901 the plant had been idle for the previous three years awaiting the development of the mine. As a result there is a large accumulation of medium and low-grade ores on the dumps; high-class ores were shipped to the smelter (Byrne 1901; 1902).

The Montana Revenue property was described in 1904 as two vertical shafts of 160 and 300 feet. The lower shaft (the Monitor) had a 75 foot crosscut to the vein which was followed for another 300 feet. Although the company was shipping $60 to $100 ore to the smelter, the lower valued ores were stockpiled at the mine. To work these ores the company erected a stamp mill with amalgamation plates and concentrating tables which operated in conjunction with the 75-ton cyanide plant (MW 1904).

In 1905, the Montana Revenue Gold Mining mill was active working the ore from the Revenue and Monitor group. The ore was removed from the mine by lessees who employed 30 men in the mine. Recent development underground included drifting 500 feet on a vein in the lower levels. The 2- compartment Revenue shaft was also equipped with a 8 x 10 Tumbler Friction Hoist which lowered a single deck safety cage with 7/8 inch steel cable (Walsh 1906).

Although there was a 300 foot deep vertical shaft with extensive workings, lessees working in the Revenue after 1908 limited their activities to the oxidized ores of the upper workings. The cyanide plant was listed as dormant in 1908, but after 1910 the gold-bearing ore was again worked in the Revenue Mill. When the operation was closed in 1921, it had reportedly produced $2,000,000 in gold. From 1901 to 1935 the Revenue mine produced 15,842 ounces of gold and 16,878 ounces of silver from 26,095 tons of ore (Walsh 1910; 1912; Winchell 1914; Tansley, Schafer and Hart 1933; Lorain 1937).

In the mid-1930s interest was resumed in the Revenue property. The Revenue Mine Developing Group directed by P. V. Jackson began. A caterpillar-mounted dragline excavated 3,000 feet of trenching. The 5 x 5 foot trenches exposed several ore outcrops. In 1937, 3 carloads of ore were extracted from three new shafts adjacent to the old Revenue shaft. One of these shafts was then sunk to depth. It was reported that 1,000 feet of development occurred on four levels at 100 foot intervals. A vein of gold ore 3 feet wide was worked which produced between $9.00 and $20.67 per ton. The lessees also shipped 50 tons of ore from parallel veins and extensions. The mine was abandoned after a flow of water was encountered that required pumping at a rate of 500 gallons per minute (Sahinen 1935; Lorain 1937).

The Revenue reportedly yielded $2,000,000 in gold before it became inactive in 1921. The Revenue group of mines produced gold and silver and some copper and lead and zinc in the years 1903-08, 1911-15, 1919, 1921-22, 1930-31, and 1938-40. It was discussed in the mining literature from 1903 to 1938 with a gap between 1921 to 1930 (WPA 1941).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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