aka Meadow Creek

aka McAllister aka Bald Mountain (sub-district)

The Washington mining district is in the Tobacco Root Mountains and includes the head-waters of Washington, South Meadow and Leonard Creeks. The placers of Washington Bar, a gravel deposit at the mouth of Washington Creek, were discovered in 1864. Placering occurred on Washington Creek and Hogum Gulch, both later worked by hydraulic methods. By 1888 the two creeks had produced half a million dollars in gold from these placer operations. Around 1888, the immense gravel banks were in the hands of the Montana Hydraulic Mining Company which held patents on seven miles of gulches, some 4,500 acres. The gravel assayed at 50 cents per cubic yard and it was estimated that 50 million dollars of gold remained to be recovered. The company constructed a four foot flume and a 30 inch flume to provide water for three hydraulic giants (Cope 1888).

In 1938 the Gold Creek Mining Company installed an electrically powered, connected-bucket dredge on Washington Bar. The dredge, called The Peggy, operated each season from August, 1938 to November, 1942. The average value of the gravel worked in 1938 was 14.4 cents, 9 cents in 1940 and 12.7 cents in 1942. During the five years of operations a total of 9,182 fine ounces of gold was recovered (Winchell 1914; Lyden 1948).

Sahinen (1935) divides the district into three areas in which geological conditions are quite different:

- Upper North Meadow Creek--the northern part of this area is underlain by granite and the southern by Cherry Creek gneisses and schists, cut by a dike-like intrusion of hypersthene gabbro. Most of the ore deposits occur as veins in the gneiss, but those of the Frisbie mine are mostly in the gabbro near the gneiss. A few silver veins are known to cut the granite.

- Lower Meadow Creek--the country rock is granite and gneiss. Ore deposits occur as low grade gold-quartz stringer veins in the altered contact gneiss zone. The ores are oxidized.

- Upper South Meadow Creek--the ore shoots generally occur in synclines resulting from minor folding.

The Baldy mountain lode mines have also contributed to the mineral production of the district. By 1888, a number of small lodes had been located and to a small extent developed. These include the Climax-Golden Fleece-Bonanza property, the Little Kid, the Chance-Lakeview, the Grand Central, the Puzzler, the Lake, and the Rough and Ready. The most developed of these included the Rough and Ready whose ore was worked in an arrastra; the Grand Central which had driven a tunnel 225 feet along a vein; the Little Kid which had shipped $4,250 in ore to the smelter in Wickes; and most notably the Climax-Golden Fleece-Bonanza property which had several tunnels that tapped veins and produced ore assaying over $100 per ton in gold with additional silver, lead and iron values. These mines were owned by relatively poor men with no sources of outside finance. While the mines all showed great promise, the lack of transportation and milling facilities greatly hindered their development (Cope 1888).

In the Twentieth century a number of new mines were developed along with the relocation of some of the older claims. These included the Lehigh, Frisbie, George McKee, Highland Lady #2, Missouri, Missouri & McKee, New Deal and Twin Lakes.


Winchell (1914) states that the Washington district is about 12 miles southwest of Norris and includes the region about Ward Peak between North and South Meadow Creeks; the southern portion is sometimes called the Bald Mountain district.

Sahinen (1935) places the Washington district about 15 miles southwest of Norris. The district includes the region at the head of North Meadow, Washington, Leonard, and South Meadow Creeks.

Tansley, Schafer and Hart (1933) describe the district to include ore deposits in the Meadow Creek watershed. This includes North Meadow Creek, South Meadow Creek and the lower Meadow Creek areas.

Lorain (1937) states that the mines of the district lie on the slopes of South Baldy Mountain and Wards Peak about 18 miles from Norris. Most of the mines are between the elevations of 8,000 and 9,000 feet. The mines of South Baldy Mountain are reached from the valley of South Meadow Creek. The mines on the north slope of Wards Peak are accessed by the valley of North Meadow Creek.

Figure 1 shows the historic mining district boundaries as defined by Sahinen (1935) with the larger boundaries as defined by the AMRB (1994).


Climax-Golden Fleece-Bonanza Chief

This property on North Baldy consists of three claims along a vein 4500 feet in length. In 1888 the mine was said to be the richest in the district. After George Cope visited the mine, he stated that it contained the richest ore he had ever seen. The main ledge of the mountain could be traced the entire distance of the 4,500 of claims. A tunnel extended for 150 feet in the Climax vein showed a five foot wide vein the entire length which contained 3.5 feet of fine gold ore which assayed at $100 gold, 14 ounces of silver, as well as 10 percent lead and 20 percent iron per ton. The 50 foot tunnel on the Golden Fleece tunnel showed a strong eight foot vein with six feet of paying ore; this assayed at $115 per ton gold and 17 ounces of silver per ton as well as 10 percent lead and 25 percent iron. The 30 foot long Bonanza Chief tunnel revealed a six foot vein with four feet of ore; this assayed at $100 in gold and 12 ounces of silver per ton as well as 10 percent lead and 20 percent iron. The mine was estimated to have 20,000 tons in site and had 2,500 tons of the rich ore stockpiled on the dump. Unfortunately, the ore could not be worked on the site. Because the mine was located at tree-line and contained snow year-round, equipment had to be packed in and ore had to be packed out. The ore was stockpiled against the day that a wagon road could be constructed to the mine or railroad connections became available (Cope 1888).


The Frisbie mine is located on the north slope of Wards Peak. A series of shallow shafts were excavated on opposite ends of a small lake. The northern work is in gneiss near a gneiss-gabbro contact; the south work is entirely in gabbro. A 700 foot tunnel was begun but had not reached paying ore when reported in 1933. Both oxidized and complex sulphide ores in the Frisbie mine carry gold (Tansley et al. 1933; Sahinen 1935; Lorain 1937).

George McKee

The McKee mine was active from 1905 to 1909 and from 1912 to 1914. The mine produced gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc (WPA 1941).

Grand Central

The Grand Central mine is located on the lower slopes of South Baldy. In 1888, a 225 foot adit was reported to have been driven along the vein. The mine worked a vein of white quartz and red iron that assayed from $20 to $800 per ton. An arrastra was set up at the mine, but proved unsuitable for the ore. Ore was stockpiled in the hopes of a future rail connection. It is not known if this ore was shipped during the Twentieth century development of the district (Cope 1888).


The Hatfield mine is located south of South Baldy Peak. In 1936 the mine reported some production (Lorain 1937).

Highland Lady #2

The Highland Lady #2 mine is located south of South Baldy Peak. The mine consisted of two unpatented claims that were developed with two 150 foot adits. The mine employed three men and was active from 1930 to 1940 with gaps in production in 1932, 1933, 1936 and 1937. Total production by 1940 was reported to be $50,000. The mine began as a gold mine, but later also produced silver, copper, lead and zinc (Lorain 1937; WPA 1941; Galm et al. 1983).


The Kid or Little Kid mine was first described in 1888 as being just north of the Climax. Later the property was described as being located a quarter mile southeast of the Frisbie property. The Kid mine worked a vein in gneiss. By 1888 the mine had worked 23 tons in an arrastra with a yield of $25 per ton; 30 tons of ore were packed out 5 miles and then shipped to the Wickes smelter, returning $108 per ton. Total value of the early production of the mine was reported at $4,250. The mine was developed by a 105 foot adit which struck the vein at 75 feet and followed thereafter. Ore sampled from the full width of the vein averaged $33 in gold and 2 ounces of silver per ton. A mill was later installed on the property and worked considerable tonnage, no post 1890 production was reported for the mine. The property was idle in 1933 (Cope 1888; Tansley et al. 1933).


The Lehigh mine is located about four miles from Richmond Flats south of South Baldy Peak within the Washington mining district. The mine was developed by Hugh Elliot. In 1902 the mine was worked from a 115 foot incline shaft and the vein had 150 feet of drifts on it. The mine produced regular shipments of gold and silver ore throughout 1902. In 1910 the mine was still in the hands of Hugh Elliot. About 2,000 feet of underground work was reported. The vein had been drifted for 650 feet, several hundred feet of which was done in 1910. A tunnel was being developed to reach a depth of 300 feet. This tunnel was extended to a length of 700 feet in 1911 and encountered a rich ore body at 400 feet.. The mine was in gneiss and schist where it is cut by granitic and aplitic dikes; ore occurs in quartz veins 1 inch to 4 foot wide. The free-milling oxidized gold ores extended down 150 feet. A 10-stamp mill treated the ore with amalgamation plates and two Wilfley tables (Byrne 1902; Walsh 1910; 1912; Winchell 1914).

The Lehigh mine was active from 1905 to 1939 with gaps in 1916 and intermittently through the 1920s and 1930s. It began as a gold mine, but later also produced silver, copper, lead and zinc. The mine was discussed in the mining literature in 1909, 1911 and from 1931 to 1932 (WPA 1941).


The Missouri mine was active from 1912 to 1927 with gaps in production after 1922. The mine produced gold, silver, copper and lead in its first years, but later turned to gold bullion production exclusively. The mine was discussed in the mining literature in 1903 and then extensively from 1913 to 1937 (WPA 1941).

Missouri & McKee

The Missouri & McKee mine is located south of South Baldy Peak about 8 miles west of McAllister and 18 miles southwest of Norris. The property consisted of 12 patented claims. The ore occurs in a vein of uniform thickness between gneiss and the andesite porphyry and consists of honeycombed quartz and iron oxides. Most of the ore is found on the lower contact which can be traced for 4,000 feet. In 1914 the McKee mine was listed as the most important discovery in the district since 1900. The property reported production in 1923, 1935, and 1938 - 1940. Historically, the mine was the largest producer in the district. From 1905 to 1936 the mine is credited with 16,664 ounces of gold and 41,958 ounces of silver from 14,340 tons of ore. The mine was run by the Montana Gold & Silver Mining and Milling Company in 1923. Prior to 1933 the property was developed with the erection of a 30-ton amalgamation mill and a 35-ton cyanide plant which were powered by a small hydroelectric plant. An aerial tramway connected the mine to the mill. In 1934 the Missouri McKee Gold Mining Co. employed 22 men on the property. Other improvements were listed as a compressor, machine drills, bunk houses, cabins, assay office and a blacksmith shop. In 1940, the mine was worked by lessees (Winchell 1914; Gilbert 1935; Lorain 1937; WPA 1941).

The Missouri-McKee mine is on veins which follow the contacts of the sill with the gneiss (Sahinen, 1935).

New Deal or Heater

The New Deal mine is located on the north slope of Wards Peak. In 1937 the mine was owned by C. A. Heater of Norris and was one of the few mines active in the district at the time. The mine was developed from a 60 foot surface drift, a 20 foot shaft and an open cut (Lorain 1937).


Located on a ledge on Washington Gulch, the Puzzler reported in 1888 that it had a 100 foot shaft. The mine produced good milling ore assaying at $50 gold and $80 silver per ton (Cope 1888).

Rough and Ready

The Rough and Ready was located on North Meadow Creek. In 1888 it was reported to have been in operation for 20 years. The free-milling gold from the mine was worked in an arrastra on the property. The mine was developed by an 80 foot tunnel, a 200 foot shaft and a 40 foot shaft. The main shaft had three levels driven of 75, 80 and 60 feet length. The vein was three feet wide and assayed from $75 to $100 per ton in gold. By 1888, 120 tons of gold had been worked from which $57 per ton was recovered. An additional 50 tons of $100 ore and 75 tons of $50 ore were reported to be on the dump.

Twin Lakes Property

The Twin Lakes Property was active in 1917, 1925, 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1939. Originally a gold and silver operation, under the operation of the Montana Lead & Zinc Company in 1929 the property began to also produce copper, lead and zinc. The following year the property reported no production, but was developed by the Montana Lead & Development Co. This property may have been originally known as the Lake mine. The first owner of this claim was financially strapped and unable to develop the mine (Cope 1888; WPA 1941).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

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Ferguson, Henry Gardiner and L. P. Benedict

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Henderson, Chales William

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Lorain, S. H.

1937 "Gold Lode Mining in the Tobacco Root Mountains, Madison County, Montana", U. S. Bureau of Mines, Inf. Circ. 6972.

Lyden, Charles J.

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Pardee, Joseph Thomas and F. C. Schrader

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Sahinen, Uuno M.

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Sant, Mark B.

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Tansley, Wilfred and Schafer, Paul A., and Hart, Lyman H.

1933 "A Geological Reconnaissance of the Tobacco Root Mountains, Madison County, Montana", Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Mem. 9.

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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