aka Lower Hot Springs(sub-district) aka Upper Hot Springs (sub-district) aka Norwegian Gulch (sub-district) aka Red Bluff (sub-district) aka Revenue (sub-district aka Havana
Lode mines in the Norris area were located in the late 1860s by miners who remained in the region of Alder Gulch after gold was discovered there in 1863. As was typical in Montana, there was an initial flurry of activity to locate and develop gold placers and, immediately thereafter, the location of the richest and most easily mined lode deposits. This was followed by a longer period of dredging and other mechanical, larger-scale methods and plants were built to process lower grade ores. In the Norris district there has been little lode mining since 1900 with production records from 1864-1930 valued at $3,964,500, mostly in gold (Sahinen 1935; Malone and Roeder 1973).
The Norris mining district as defined by the AMRB (1994) is located along the Madison-Gallatin divide and on the eastern boundary of Madison County with the Madison River crossing through the northwest portion of the district. This is actually a much smaller area than the historic Norris mining district which was actually a grouping of a number of smaller districts. Historically it was divided into Upper and Lower Hot Springs districts. The Lower Hot Springs district included the area around the town of Norris eastward to the mines around Red Bluff to the Madison River. This sub-district is discussed in depth in the Red Bluff district context. The Upper Hot Springs district stretches southwestward eight miles from the town of Norris and includes the mines around the Revenue mine and the town of Sterling. This sub-district blends into the Washington district to the south; the history and mines of this area are discussed in depth in the Revenue and Washington context studies. To the northwest of the town of Norris, the Norwegian Gulch mines have also been included in the Norris district by some sources. Like Upper and Lower Hot Springs, the Norwegian Gulch mines are discussed in a separate context. Mines not discussed in these smaller districts are in two main areas to the southeast of Norris. One group is primarily on Savannah Ridge and along Cherry Creek and the others are east and south of the town of Norris. None of these mines were major producers.
The town of Norris, which was the business center for the mining industry in the area, is actually located outside of the Norris mining district boundaries (about 3 1/2 air miles to the west). Named after its founder, the town was started by Alex Norris around 1865. The Northern Pacific Railroad built a spur line into Norris in 1890, but it was not extended further into the Madison Valley (Madison County History Association 1976).
The mines about four miles east and four to five miles south of Norris include the Hecla group, the Montana Boy Consolidated group, and the Betty Mae. The Montana Boy was reputed to have produced $30,000 in the 1880s and 1890s. The mine had free-milling oxidized ore that was treated in a 10-stamp amalgamation mill (Winchell 1914; Lorain 1937). The Hecla group operated in 1907 and 1914 and the Betty Mae reported operation in 1937 but there was no recorded production.
The Savannah Ridge-Cherry Creek group were shown on the 1887 GLO map in the upland areas between Cherry Creek and Elk Creek in the north end of the district. In the late 1800s there was some small-scale placer mining along Cherry Creek and Pole Creek (one of its tributaries). The value of the gold that was recovered was not large. The source of the placer gold had not been discovered by 1948, and it was questionable at that time whether it was large or rich enough to support a dredging campaign (Lyden 1948).
Havana was a short-lived silver mining town founded in 1872 along Cherry Creek or Savannah Ridge near the mine of its name. The post office ran for only one year, 1879. Havana City was still in operation in 1890, but by 1913 only two buildings remained.
In 1939 the Cherry Creek or Savannah Ridge area reportedly had three producing lode mines and no placers. In that year the mines produced 341 fine ounces of lode gold and 8,443 fine ounces of lode silver. The siliceous ore was shipped to smelters from the East Riverside, New Havana, and September Syndicate mines, all on Cherry Creek. During its "hey day" the Riverside Mine had a large boarding house and many dances were held there (Madison County History Association 1976; Rowe 1941).
The geology of the area was described by Winchell (1914) and includes the area west of Norris:
...the ore deposits in the region of Norris are either in or near the quartz monzonite intrusion, which extends from this district westward to Mammoth and the summits of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Some important deposits, such as the Revenue and Madisonian, are in fissure veins in the igneous rock; others are in veins in gneiss near its contact with the quartz monzonite and are in many places closely associated with granitic and aplitic dikes, which are themselves impregnated with ore in places in the Montana-Revenue mine. Other deposits are a few miles from the main monzonite intrusion, but are associated with pegmatitic and aplitic dikes (Winchell 1914).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
The only known historic mines in the Norris mining district as defined by the AMRB (1994) are those on Savannah Ridge and a few east and south of Norris. The Norris mining district as defined in the historic literature was much larger, composed of the Upper and Lower Hot Springs districts. These in turn were further divided into several active subdistricts, including Red Bluff, Norwegian Gulch, Sterling/Revenue, and Washington Creek. While these sub-districts were the principal areas of activity in the greater Norris mining district, they were prominent enough to merit individual discussion in separate contexts. The reader is referred to these districts for further information.
Dingman (1932) described the Lower Hot Springs district as five miles southeast of Norris and the Upper Hot Springs district as six miles southwest of Norris.
Winchell (1914) writes as follows:
The Lower Hot Springs district extends eastward from Norris about 6 miles to Madison River, and includes the region around the old town of Red Bluff. The Upper Hot Springs mining district extends southwestward from Norris about 6 miles to Sterling and Revenue...The Norwegian district is about 7 miles west of Norris and includes the area in which Norwegian Creek has its sources. The Madisonian mine is about 8 miles south of Norris; it overlooks the Madison Valley but is not clearly within the limits of any of these four mining districts (Winchell 1914).
All of these districts described above were often included in an area called the "Norris district."
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
Some of the mines of the Norris district are discussed below.
The Betty Mae mine is located 4.3 miles south of Norris and a few hundred yards east of old Montana Highway 1. The mine worked a series of quartz lenses and stringers in gneiss. The mine was developed via an 85 foot incline shaft with a 55 foot drift to the north and a crosscut to the surface on the 30 foot level. The mine was equipped in 1937 with a small compressor and hoist driven by a Dodge automobile engine. Two men and a boy were employed at the mine for seven months, shipping six tons of sorted ore.
The Hecla group of seven mining claims is located five miles southeast of Norris. The mine was operated in 1906 by the Montana - Hecla Mining Co. with William Bluff, supervisor. The company employed 15 men developing an incline shaft from 70 to 200 feet. The company reported plans to install equipment capable of reaching 600 feet. The Hecla Mining Co. was reported in 1914 to have run a tunnel on a pegmatite dike cutting gneiss. The dike contained a remarkable amount of magnetite, pyrite, chalcopyrite and hematite and was said to carry 8% copper (Walsh 1906; Winchell 1914).
The Montana Boy mine is located four miles south of Norris. In the 1880s and 1890s the mine was reputed to have produced $30,000. The mine had free-milling oxidized ore that was treated in a 10-stamp amalgamation mill. The ore came from two veins 40 feet apart. In 1937 it was reported that 240 tons of ore from the No. 2 vein returned $7,000. This vein was developed by an 80 foot incline shaft with 134 feet of drifts to the northeast and 46 feet of drifts to the southwest on the 60 foot level. A crosscut from Bradley Creek cuts both veins at 240 feet. (Winchell 1914; Lorain 1937).
"The Parnell mine is about three miles from Norris and belongs to the Montana Boy Consolidated Mining Company. The output is a free-milling gold ore, treated in a 10 stamp mill run in connection with the mine" (Calderhead 1898).
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
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