aka Armstead aka Colorado sub-district of Horse Prairie

In its early history, the Chinatown mining district was part of the Horse Prairie placer district. Gold was found on Solomon's Bar on Horse Prairie Creek immediately prior to July 4, 1863. The bar was presumably named for S. Robinson, one of the original locators. By 1867, the Gold Hill - Montana Territory Mining Company and Yearian Brothers were working the gulches with hydraulics. The Yearian Brothers bar claim was 1.5 x .25 miles and was said to have produced $20 per man per day (Geach 1972).

In 1872 part of the placer ground on upper Jeff Davis Gulch was leased to Chinese miners and the area became known as the China Diggings. The nearby settlement on Jeff Davis Creek became known as Chinatown.

The district is at the eastern base of the Bitterroot Range on a short extension or the range which goes out to Jeff Davis Peak. The geology is dominated by gneiss which outcrops about 12 miles along the range and five miles across. The northern end of the gneiss is rimmed by a belt of tertiary volcanic rocks (Geach 1972).

The vast majority of the district's production occurred prior to the Twentieth century and most was from the placers along Jeff Davis Creek. From 1902 to 1965 the district produced only 14 ounces of gold worth $396. In 1932, a one man placer operation yielded $104 (Geach 1972).

The district lode production came from just two mines, the Hamilton and the H & S. In 1929 and 1930 several cars (323 tons) of lead ore were shipped to Utah from the Hamilton mine. The H & S (Hoffman and Steele) mine was the district's most productive mine with a total production of 1,293 tons of ore (Sahinen 1935).


According to Sahinen (1935) the district is near Armstead, a station on the Oregon Shortline Railroad (which later became the Union Pacific). Geach (1972) locates the district 24 miles southwest of Clark Canyon Dam in southwestern Beaverhead County. He places the district on the west flank of short mountain range, actually an extension of the Bitterroots, between Medicine Lodge and Horse Prairie Creeks. He includes the drainages of both Jeff Davis Gulch and Maiden Creek. Figure 1 shows the district boundaries as given by Geach (1972).



The Hamilton mine is the only lode mine listed in the district in the Montana Mine Index. The mine is listed in 1929, 1930 and 1934; the mine is discussed in the Mining Journal in 1929. Total production for the mine is 323 tons of ore which yielded 7 ounces of gold, 3,082 ounces of silver and 203,342 pounds of lead (Geach 1972; WPA 1941).

Hamilton Placer

The Hamilton Placer is listed in the Mineral Record Index in 1934 (WPA 1941).

Hattie J. Placer

The Hattie J. Placer is listed in the Mineral Record Index in 1934 (WPA 1941).

H & S (Hoffman and Steele)

Located in the center of section 9, T11S, R13 W, the H & S is on a low hill overlooking the mining camp of Chinatown. The property consists of several unpatented claims held in 1963 by Ben Davis of Dillon. The mine has been developed through two main adit levels. The upper level has 500 feet of adit, crosscuts and small stopes from which was extracted a black manganese ore with some galena. The lower level is 162 feet below; the 1,365 feet of workings were used to extract red hematite, galena and red iron oxides. The property has produced 1,293 tons of ore which yielded 728,908 pounds of lead, 14,977 pounds of zinc, 700 pounds of copper, 11,182 ounces of silver and 42 ounces of gold. No production dates were given for the mine (Geach 1972).


Geach, R. D.

1972 "Mines and Mineral Deposits (except fuels) Beaverhead County, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 85


Hamilton, John T.

1988 "Cultural Site Record - 24BE1381"

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Shenon, Philip John

1931 "Geology and Ore Deposits of Bannack and Argenta, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology

, Bulletin 6.

Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey


Montana Mine Index

, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940. Montana School of Mines, Butte.