Folk traditions maintain that the district was discovered by a Smith McCumpsey, who was known as "Pony". The miner prospected northeast from Alder Gulch and staked a claim on the creek in 1867 and then left. He returned with a partner in 1868. A small mining camp known as Pony Gulch then arose. The camp did not survive into the 1870s (Fiege 1985).
Placers were discovered in the district in the early 1870s and lode mining began in 1874.
Jerome W. Bales and George A. Kendall first discovered gold at the Ned mine. The Willow Creek vein was uncovered by the two men a few weeks later. The Keystone was then located by William Robson. About two miles above the present town of Pony, George Moreland located the Crevice and Strawberry lodes, the latter of which lay in a patch of wild berries. The quartz deposit was considered the motherlode of the placer ground of the district. At a depth of fourteen feet Moreland uncovered a lead, ten feet of which contained free gold worth from $20.00 to $100.00 a ton. Several other mines were located in the district and a mill was erected at the Crevice mine (Parker 1934; Wolle 1963).
The mining camp of Strawberry was the second community to be established in the district. By 1877, the town boasted a hotel, a saloon, a livery stable, store and a shoe shop. Although it flourished only a short time, the town at its peak had its own post office and was home to 400. At this time, the district became known as the Mineral Hill district because of the abundance of ore in the slopes above town.
Lode mines would bring a stability to the district that placer camps lacked. The Boss Tweed was located in 1875 by Albert Mason, Thomas Carmin, Alex Lefler, William Robson and Albert Dinnock. The Clipper was staked out by W.V. Ryan, Jesse Barker, and W. H. Metcalf. The Clipper, Belle and Boss Tweed properties were later known as the Boss Tweed group. The Garnet, Eva May and White Pine mines also became active at this time. (Leeson 1885; Wolle 1963).
The first quartz mill, at the Crevice mine, was built during the winter of 1875-1876 by A.H. and James A. Mallory. The mill, which originally was erected in Sterling, had five-stamps powered by water. Five additional stamps taken from the Rising Sun mill in Norwegian Gulch were later added to it. Tom Carmin then erected a second 10-stamp mill. The spring of 1877 brought a second stampede of miners to the district and by the end of the year five more mills were in operation with a combined total of 56 stamps. Over 1,000 men moved into the district to prospect, mine and work the mills.
A better location for a permanent town was found between Pony and North Willow Creeks. In June of 1876, the new town of Pony was said to have a hotel, blacksmith shop, and several miner's cabin. Sixteen months later the town contained three stores, two blacksmith shops, three hotels, a post office, three saloons, two livery stables and a population of 250 living in 80 houses. The cause for the growth can be found in the six quartz mills and a sawmill in its immediate vicinity. When new strikes were reported in Glendale, Philipsburg and other locations, Pony emptied out almost overnight. By 1878 the population dwindled to a few hundred (Leeson 1885; Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; Fiege 1985).
Despite the lull in active mining, interest remained high and several large companies bought Pony properties. Henry Elling and William W. Morris, two leading citizens of Virginia City bought the Boss Tweed-Clipper mines in 1880 from which $5,000,000 was later recovered. In 1882, Morris bought the Strawberry, Willow Creek and Ned mines. In 1883, Henry Elling erected a stone 20-stamp mill. In 1884 Morris bought half interest in the mill, which thereafter was known as the Elling-Morris stone mill. This mill ran to capacity on ore from the Boss Tweed and Keystone mines. No ore which ran less than $25.00 a ton was handled. Both the Boss Tweed and the Clipper mines were active throughout the 1890s. Elling died in 1900, and the same year the properties were sold outright in combination with the Bell, Eclipse, Charity, and Summit, to a Boston syndicate for $600,000 (Wolle 1963; Fiege 1985).
Other mills in operation in the district in 1890 included the Mallory water-powered 10-stamp mill, the Morlan steam-powered 15-stamp mill, the Lehman steam-powered 10-stamp mill, the Getchel water powered 10-stamp mill and three water-powered arrastras (Swallow and Oliver 1891).
In 1889, the Garnet Gold Mining Company and the Pony Gold Mining Company began operations in the Mineral Hill district. The Garnet Gold Mining Company was owned by investors in St. Louis. The company developed a group of 13 claims which came to be known as the Garnet Group. In 1896, the company erected a 20-stamp mill on the property and several assorted buildings. The operation reportedly produced $150,000 (Fiege 1985).
The Pony Gold Mining Company was held by such Montana noteworthies as ex-governor Samuel T. Hauser, and Anton M. Holter of Helena. The company bought into several properties owned by Elling and Morris, including the Strawberry, the Boss Tweed, and Clipper. The operation of the mines was then modernized using compressors and air drills. Due to mismanagement, the mines operated under the new company for only a short time (Fiege 1985).
While the Pony Gold Mining Company was active, it attracted the interest of the Northern Pacific Railway. Hauser persuaded the railroad to build a 16 mile spur from Sappington on the Jefferson River to Pony. The town received its rail service in the spring of 1890. This brought on a small boom as mines began to ship low-grade ores to smelters in Butte, Anaconda and East Helena. By 1895 the town had swollen to a population of about 500 with school enrollment of 108 (Fiege 1985).
In 1900, John Cowan came to Pony representing Butte investors and began developing Mineral Hill properties. Cowan leased the Strawberry and purchased the Old Joe. The company erected a 10-stamp mill on the creek near the Strawberry mine. The mill was said to have originally been at the Columbia mine in the Pipestone district. The mill was operational by fall of 1900, but the mine and mill reverted to W. W. Morris in 1903 (Fiege 1985).
The largest mill in the district was the 100 stamp mill at the Boss Tweed / Clipper group. This property was sold in 1901 by W. W. Morris and the Elling Estate to the Indian Mining Co. About this time, the giant mill was erected a quarter mile west of Pony above North Willow Creek. The railroad extended a spur to the mill. A Pelton-wheel hydro-plant was constructed to power the machinery. The mill never operated and the town of Pony began to decline (Tansley et al 1933; Parker 1934; Fiege 1985).
A small mill was built on Charcoal Creek in 1903 on the Mable millsite. The mill was said at the time to be the highest mill in Madison County. The mill processed ores from the Oregon mine.
The district remained an active mining area until the 1930s. This district, together with Potosi, Mammoth, and Bismark districts a short distance to the south and west, yielded a total of $6,430,2336, mainly in gold but also in appreciable amounts of silver, copper, and lead (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).
The district is on the east side of the Tobacco Root range. While the mines on the western slope of the mountains were silver-lead producers, those in the Pony district on the eastern slopes were iron-gold producers. The northern part of the district is occupied by metamorphic rocks of the Pony series (pre-Cherry Creek). The Pony series are characterized by light and dark colored gneisses and schists, which are cut by aplite, pegmatite, and basic dikes, and by the quartz monzonite of the Tobacco Root batholith which occupies the southern part of the district. The batholith shows border faces of diorite (Cope 1888; Sahinen 1935).
The ore deposits occur mainly as veins cutting both the igneous and metamorphic rocks. In general, they strike east, roughly paralleling the contact and the schistosity. They have been classified as intermediate and high temperature veins. Hydrothermal alteration on the wall rocks is not always well developed. Surficial alteration and enrichment by meteoric waters has been important, but secondary sulphide zones are not outstanding. Gold is the principal metal won, but copper and silver are important in some mines. Major vein systems include the Keystone, Proctor Knott and Bozeman series, the Clipper - Tweed series, Fourth of July, Ned and Willow Creek series, in all about 40 distinct veins. In the Atlantic and Pacific claims, the mineral values originate from replacement of aplitic rock (Cope 1888; Winchell 1914; Parker 1934; Sahinen 1935).
Sahinen lists the most important mines as: Boss Tweed-Clipper, Atlantic-Pacific, Strawberry-Keystone, and Garnet.
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) places the district west of the town of Pony which is about six miles southwest of Harrison, a station on the Norris branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad from Sappington. The North Fork of Willow Creek and its tributary, Pony Creek, join at the town of Pony and flow northeast toward Harrison through a broad, level valley (Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948).
Lorain (1937) includes the Mammoth mine in the South Boulder district to the west in his discussions of the Pony District mines. Most of the mines in the Pony district were located within three or four miles of the town of Pony.
Figure 1 shows the district as described by Sahinen (1935), Lyden (1948) and Lorain (1937) as west of the town of Pony.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The A & P mine is located in section six miles up Cataract Creek from Pony on the divide with South Boulder Creek. The mine was surveyed ( #2966) on August 20, 1891 and patented subsequently by Elling and Morris. The mine worked an ore body which consisted of oxidized and altered aplitic rock impregnated with gold and silver (Winchell 1914; Beck 1986).
Development included short crosscuts, a series of surface cuts and a lower tunnel which was extended along a fault zone for a distance of 600 feet. The ore body worked in the tunnel was reported to average $10 per ton (Tansley et al 1933).
In 1931 the mine was leased to Milton I. Leydig who explored and developed a large body of low-grade sulphide ore. Leydig employed 10 men building a road to the mine and three men driving a tunnel.
A 150-ton mill was reported to be nearly completed on the claim in 1937 (Lorain 1937).
The Ben Harrison is located five miles up Cataract Creek from Pony. The mine worked a fissure vein which was reported to have produced $90,000 in ore. One of the largest producers in the 1930s, the mine was operated by Harry Smith and associates. The mine was developed by two shafts, 75 and 60 feet in depth. In 1937, most of the work was being done from shallow surface cuts using hand methods. Two or three men shipped about one truckload per month (Parker 1934; Lorain 1937).
The Bozeman mine is 7.5 miles from Pony at an elevation of 8,500 feet. The mine has been developed by two adits about 600 feet long. An ore shoot from 200 to 300 feet long was exposed in the upper tunnel. In the mid-1930s, a man and his small son produced 12 tons of selected ore in two to three weeks work. Two cars where shipped in the spring of 1936 and 12 tons in the June. The ore was reported to assay 0.75 to 1 ounce gold per ton. In 1936 a road 1.5 miles long was built to connect the mine with the Atlantic and Pacific mine (Lorain 1937).
The Boss Tweed was staked at the head of Pony Creek in 1875 by Albert Mason, Thomas Carmin, Alex Lefer, William Robson and Albert Dimmock. Tom Carmin traded his quarter interest in the mine for a wheelbarrow; this proved to be a bad deal for him since the mine would later sell for $560,000. The mine worked a large deposit of gold ore in gneiss associated with faults. Ultimately, this ore body was developed by 15,000 feet of work extending along the strike 1,500 feet and on the dip for 800 feet. The mine produced $500,000 by 1914 (Winchell 1914; Parker 1934).
The Clipper mine was staked the same year by W. V. Ryan, Jesse Barker and W. H. (Doc) Metcalf. The mine is on the south side of the Boss Tweed. The mine contains an ore deposit similar to that of the Boss Tweed; one ore shoot of six to 30 feet in width was worked from surface to the 600 foot level. The mine is credited with $1,500,000 in ore in the 1890s (Winchell 1914; Parker 1934).
The Boss Tweed and the Clipper mines were acquired by Elling and Morris in 1880. They constructed a 10-stamp mill and proceeded to take out thousands of dollars of gold. In 1893 the mine employed 12 men in a 600 foot tunnel. The next year eight miners and two topmen extracted gold ore from three adits, each 700 feet in length. In 1897 the mine employed 21 miners and 4 topmen. The mine was developed by six tunnels ranging in length from 600 to 1,500 feet. Ore was extracted around the clock using an air drill, and sent to the company's 20-stamp mill in Pony. This mill employed four vanners to recover the values. In 1898, 30 men were employed stoping out ore between the No. 4 and No. 5 tunnels; the No. 5 tunnel was also extended to 1,800 feet. The next year, 1899, only 15 men were employed, but the mill continued to operate continuously. Negotiations were underway to sell the company to an English syndicate (Shoemaker 1894; Shoemaker and Miles 1894; Byrne and Hunter 1898; 1901).
Histories of the Boss Tweed property contradict concerning the sale of the property in 1901. Most histories state that after announcing a "Mountain of Gold" had been found, plans were announced to erect a 100-stamp mill at Pony. One source stated that the supply of high-grade ore ran out before the mill could be completed. The operation was unable to cope with the large amount of low-grade ore and so the mine was sold by Morris and the Elling Estate in 1901 to the Boston firm of Burrage, which bought the mine for $560,000. Other sources state that the mine was purchased by the Indian Mining Company for $600,000 and it was they who erected the mill. This company may have been owned by Burrage. One modern source even states that the mine was sold to the Amalgamated Copper Company of Butte for an estimated $1,000,000 and a subsidiary of ACM built the mill (Tansley et al 1933; Parker 1934; Fiege 1985).
However the ownership transferred, the Indian Mining Co. was in possession of the mine and making large-scale improvements by 1901. The largest of these was the new 100-stamp mill that had been erected, but was not operational. The mill was one mile west of Pony above North Willow Creek on the Mountain Cliff millsite. The Northern Pacific railroad extended a spur to the mill to facilitate the installation of heavy equipment and the later removal of bullion and concentrates. A Pelton-wheel hydro-plant was constructed to power the machinery.
Some sources suggest that the Indian Mining Co. may have been operating the mine as early as 1900 and conducting a systematic development. Between 1900 and 1904, adit levels were reported to have been driven at 300, 400, 500, 600, and 700 feet; these may have been extensions of earlier adits. A 100 foot winze sunk on the 700 foot level established a new 800 foot level. When the development was completed, the mine had over 8,000 feet of drifting on the vein. The company was said to have obtained $220,000 from 4,400 tons of ore from the 700 foot level during this period (Lorain 1937).
In 1904, the Indian Mining Co. suddenly relinquished its ownership to the mine to W. W. Morris and Sons and Associates. The mill, which had been under construction for several years, was complete the proposed 3.5 mile tramway was imcomplete. The inability of the mill to successfully separate iron ore by flotation was suggested by one writer as the cause of the shutdown (Anon 1904; Walsh and Orem 1906; Lorain 1937).
In late 1904, Morris and associates shipped high-grade ore to the smelter and concentrated low-grade ores at the Strawberry mill. In 1906, the mine was in the hands of the Madison Gold Mining Co., but still operated by the Morris & Elling (M & E) estate. Ore was treated in a mill owned by M & E, but plans were again forwarded to build a 100 ton plant on the properties. In 1912, the mine was operated by Smith, Powling & Co. which employed 40 men extracting ore out of a tunnel 2,600 feet long. A 50 ton mill had been erected on the site which treated the ore using Overstrom tables and vanners. Thereafter, the mine was worked intermittently by lease. The mine was sold in 1927 to John Templeton of Butte, Montana for back taxes (Anon 1904; Walsh and Orem 1906; 1912; Lorain 1937).
During the early 1930s the mine was leased to Pacific Gold Mining, a Japanese firm, that employed 40 Japanese and 12 locals at the mine. The operation was reported to be mining and milling 100 tons of ore per day. A New York company was reported in 1934 to be about to acquire the lease (Parker 1934).
From 1904 to 1935 the Boss Tweed properties reported production of 44,223 ounces of gold; 49,728 ounces of silver; and 57,090 pounds of copper from 171,415 tons of ore. Total value for the ore from 1874 to 1930 was calculated to be over $6,400,000 (Tansley et al 1933; Lorain 1937).
In 1936 the Boss Tweed group was worked in tandem with the Mammoth mine located across the ridge to the west in the the South Boulder district. The operation produced about 150 tons of ore per day (Lorain 1937).
In 1936 the Boss Tweed property was visited and improvements noted. These included a 100 ton flotation mill, a large two-stage compressor, shops, bunkhouse, cookhouse, and office. Power was purchased from Montana Power. Concentrates were sent to Helena (Lorain 1937).
Originally named the Galena mine, the Garnet property is located about two miles west-southwest of Pony on North Willow Creek (Cataract Creek?). The Garnet mine was located by R. B. Wallace, Alex McKittirick and H. H. Mood. It was sold by these men to a St. Louis company for $30,000. The mine worked an ore deposit in a fractured zone in quartz monzonite; the zone was 5 to 20 feet wide. The deposit has been opened along the strike for 600 feet and on the dip 500 feet. The main tunnel was 1,300 feet long. (Winchell 1914; Parker 1934).
In 1897, the mine was owned and operated by the Garnet Gold Mining Company which employed 14 miners and 5 topmen. The mine was at the time developed through an 850 and a 750 foot tunnel. Ore was treated in a company-owned 20- stamp mill equipped with Frue vanners. About half the gold was recovered by amalgamation and almost as much more from the concentrates. In 1900, the mine employed 10 miners and 5 topmen extracting ore from the two tunnels which had been extended to 900 and 800 feet. From 1898 to 1905, the mine is said to have produced about 175,000 tons of $4 ore from the Galena vein (Byrne and Hunter 1898; 1901; Winchell 1914).
Long idle, the mine was leased and bonded to Hicks and Hanson of Pony in 1937 and was sub-leased to Leonard Stone and Associates. Work was reported to be progressing on the 149 vein where 5 tons were removed in 10 days. At the time the mill was said to be in a state of disrepair and so ore was shipped elsewhere. While assays reached up to $150 per ton, the test load of ore returned $39.00 in gold with lesser amounts of silver, lead, copper and zinc.
The Keystone lode was described in 1888 as a "monster ledge" coursing up and down Strawberry Mountain. The vein was cut by a 75 foot tunnel. Ore taken out was called free-milling, but recovery at the mill was only at 60 percent and yielded only $15 per ton. Only 96 feet from the Keystone tunnel, the Crevice No. 1 tunnel cut the vein for a distance of 200 feet with several levels and raises. One run of ore from this mine returned $70 per ton for 400 tons. The Keystone, Crevice and Crevice No. 1 are 200 feet from the Strawberry mine (Cope 1888).
Located in the southeast quarter of section 16, T2S, R3W, the Lone Wolf has more recently become known as the King Solomon mine. S. C. McKitrick operated the Lone Wolf prior to 1937. The vein has been traced by trenches, short tunnels and shafts for a distance of 300 feet. Ore was assayed at $12 to $60 per ton in gold and silver (Lorain 1937; Zettel 1987; Hamilton 1991).
The Mountain Cliff mine is located about four miles west of Pony. The mine worked at least three different veins. The mine was said to have produced ore that assayed at $5 per ton. The Mountain Cliff mill site was the site of the 100-ton Boss Tweed - Clipper mill erected around 1901, but never operated.
The Ned mine was the first quartz lode discovered in the district. It was located by Jerome W. Bales and George A. Kendall (Parker 1934).
The Old Joe mine is located nearly three miles west of Pony. It is geologically near the quartz monzonite/gneiss contact. The ore is in a quartz vein about two feet wide which was opened by a 125 foot crosscut that reaches a depth of 300 feet. In 1901, the Salt Lake Mining and Development Co. extended development to include a 200-foot tunnel and a 400-foot tunnel. They were forced to suspend operations when the refractory ore could not be shipped to smelters profitably. The mine was reported to have produced $10,000 primarily in gold (Byrnes and Hunter 1901; Winchell 1914).
The Strawberry - Keystone group is 2.5 to 3.5 miles west-northwest from Pony. The property is composed of six patented mining claims. The mine worked two main veins and several smaller ones. The Strawberry vein was four to seven feet wide at the upper levels. The Keystone vein was more productive than the Strawberry vein. The Keystone vein changes from pegmatite to quartz within the walls of single fissure. The deposit was opened by two tunnels. The upper tunnel, 100 feet below the surface followed the vein for 300 feet; the lower tunnel, 400 feet below the surface, opened the vein for a similar distance (Winchell 1914).
The Strawberry mine was located by L. C. Moreland in 1874. Named after a patch of berries in which the outcrop was located, the mine was considered to be the source of the district's placer gold. In the early days of the district, the mine produced several tons of high grade ore from the upper workings. In 1888, the mine output was reportedly 25 to 30 tons per day. The $30 per ton gold ore was worked at a nearby mill (Cope 1888; Parker 1934).
In 1900 John Cowan came to Pony representing Butte investors and began developing Mineral Hill properties. Cowan leased the Strawberry from W. W. Norris and purchased the Old Joe. The company erected a 10-stamp mill on the creek near the Strawberry mine. The mill was said to have originally been at the Columbia mine in the Pipestone district. The mill was operational by fall of 1900, but the mine and mill reverted to W. W. Norris soon thereafter (Fiege 1985).
In 1902, the mine was reopened by G. Austin and the Hudson brothers. They excavated a 55-foot deep shaft with a short level and made several shipments of ore. In 1904, the Strawberry mill was the site of an experiment in the treatment of ores. The Electro-Metallurgical Company was given permission by the mine owner, W. W. Norris, to try their new technology in the mill. The experiment was termed a "fizzle" (Byrne and Barry 1902; Anon 1904).
By 1910, the lower tunnel was listed at 1,300 feet with 20 men at work on a raise. Ore was delivered by chutes to the tunnel and trammed to the mill. Total production was reported around $150,000. Ore values averaged 1.5 ounces of silver to 1 ounce of gold. The ore also contained 0.4 percent copper and 48.9 percent iron (Walsh and Orem 1910; 1912; Winchell 1914).
In 1937 the mine was leased to David Box of Pony. At the time the mine was described as being developed by a crosscut adit that intersected the Keystone vein 580 feet from the portal and intersects the Strawberry vein at 1,000 feet. The Strawberry vein had been drifted for about 250 feet and the Keystone vein drifted for 600 feet. Much of this work had caved (Lorain 1937).
The Strawberry mill was located half a mile from the mine. Ore was trucked from the mine bunker to the mill bunker. Ore was fed through a grizzly with the oversized passing through a jaw crusher to an ore bin. Challenge feeders moved ore from the bin to 10 900-pound stamps that dropped five inches (this was allowed to increase to 7.5 inches before resetting). The batteries fed pulp to amalgam plates and thence to a Denver amalgamator and then to a Denver Sub-A flotation cell. Flotation tails went to a Wilfley table. Recovery was listed at 81 percent. Power for the operation was supplied by a small hydroelectric plant.
The Willow Creek mine is located about half a mile west of the Strawberry group and is considered an extension of the mine. The mine contained a classic example of a fissure vein. Ore contained no silver but up to five ounces of gold per ton. The mine was located by Jerome W. Bales and George A. Kendall in 1874, it was one of the first lodes to be located in the district. The mine was developed by a 600 foot long tunnel. Operated in conjunction with the nearby Ned mine, the pair produced about $250,000 each. Later production of ore came primarily from surface cuts and shallow drifts (Cope 1888; Winchell 1914; Parker 1934).
The White Pine was located and first developed by Tom Carmin, the same man that sold a quarter interest in the Boss Tweed for a wheelbarrow. The White Pine mine proved to be a sounder decision. From 9.2 tons of ore he netted $10,000. An ore shoot in this mine was reported to have produced $60,000 (Winchell 1914; Parker 1934).
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