HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Superior

The Iron Mountain district is north of Superior and the Clark Fork River, and east of Mineral County. The region was essentially a one mine district with production being zinc, lead and silver with lesser values of copper and gold. While millions of pounds of zinc and lead were produced, only 19 ounces of gold were reportedly recovered in the Twentieth century. This miniscule amount of gold explains the lack of a gold placer mining history in the district.

The Iron Mountain mine was the most important property of this district. Although the property was reported to have been discovered in 1888 by L.T. Jones and later bonded to James K. Pardee, popular accounts state that a boy looking for stray cattle found rich float on Flat Creek. Frank Hall saw the rock and offered the boy $10 to show him where it was found. Hall, D. R. S. Frazier and W. A. (L. T.?) Jones staked their claim on August 28, 1888. The three men shipped ten tons of ore to Wickes to be assayed. The return of $1,400 caught the attention of Pardee. Shortly after Pardee obtained possession of the property, he erected a mill one mile from the the mine on Flat Creek. Among his backers were Samuel T. Hauser and Angus McDonald. Around this mill rose the town of Pardee which flourished for several years. The Iron Mountain mine in eight years yielded a half million dollars in dividends besides paying all overhead costs, including mine development and 15 miles of mountain road. It ranked as one of the best paying silver properties in the state.

As soon as the Northern Pacific Railroad built its Coeur d'Alene branch through Superior in 1891, thus reducing the hauling distance to the railroad to four miles, large scale operations began, with the company building a 100-ton mill in Superior near the station. The Iron Mountain mill was connected with the mine workings by an aerial tramway. The mine was operated by the Iron Mountain Mining Company between 1888 and 1896, which in 1896 employed between 100 and 125 men. In 1897, the property was closed down by the Inspector of Mines, since, by not having two openings, it violated state law. A final shipment of twenty-seven carloads of concentrates, averaging $50 a ton, was shipped from the property in October 1897. In the early 1900s the Iron Mountain Tunnel Company leased the property and planned to drill a 5,600-foot tunnel to tap the Iron Tower mine at a depth of 1,600 feet. This stock company obtained a bond and lease on a number of quartz lodes, 380 acres of placer ground, and three mill sites with an option to purchase the same prior to 1910. Some work was done, but the Iron Mountain was abandoned in 1930. Since then, lessees have from time to time opened the property (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; Lindeman et al., 1984).

There was something of a competition between the towns of Saltese and Superior for the position of county seat when Mineral County was carved from the west side of Missoula County in 1914. However, the early mines on the west side of the county, such as the Tarbox and Last Chance, were not as successful as the mines on the east side, such as the Iron Mountain, Keystone and Amador. Consequently, Superior became the county seat (Sahinen 1957; Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.; Lindeman et al. 1984).

The town of Pardee, located on Hall Gulch about one mile north of the Iron Mountain Mine, was settled in 1888-1889. By 1890, Pardee boasted a saloon, a boarding house, gambling and dance houses, a Miner's Union Hall and a post office, as well as various mining structures and cabins. Pardee grew and declined as the mine's success varied, and was largely abandoned in 1897 when the mine was shut down by the State Mine Inspector. A railroad which connected Pardee, the mine and the Iron Mountain concentrator was abandoned and the rails taken up when the mine closed. Following the 1897 abandonment, fire destroyed a part of the town, and by the 1930s, little remained of the historic settlement.

The ore body is a fissure vein averaging about 3 feet in width. It strikes northwest and dips steeply to the northeast. The vein cuts calcareous light green shales of the Wallace formation. The ore is argentiferous galena with a little sphalerite carrying about 6 ounces of silver per ton (Sahinen 1935).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Sahinen (1935) places the district about five miles north of Superior, a station on the Northern Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroads.

According to Montana Bureau of Mines (n.d.) data, the district is bounded on the west and south by the Clark Fork river and on the east by the Ninemile Divide and the Mineral County - Missoula County line.

Figure 1 shows the large district as defined by the Montana Bureau of Mines and the AMRB (1994). The district as defined by Sahinen (1935) appears to include essentially the Iron Mountain mine and town of Pardee.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Iron Mountain

The Iron Mountain Mine is located in sections 12 and 13, T 17N, R 26W, four miles northeast of Superior and it was the primary producer in the district. The mine consisted of the Iron Mountain, Iron Tower, Kennebeck, Surprise, Bell of Hills quartz claims and the Iron Mountain, Kennebeck, Dillon, and Marietta placer claims. Relative to the other mines in the district, the extent of its workings are quite large. The ore body was reportedly discovered in 1888 by L.T. Jones, and claimed by Jones and his partners as the Iron Mountain and Iron Tower lode claims. The properties were later bonded to J.K. Pardee. Pardee, a prominent Montana mining entrepreneur, formed the Iron Mountain Mining Company to develop the lode. Several prominent Montana mining financiers had interests in the mine or the company, including Frank Hall, R.S. Hale, Thomas Cruse and Samuel T. Hauser. Intensive development began about 1889 (Lindeman et al. 1984; Wolle 1963).

In order to market the ore initially, the company spent $20,000 building a 20-mile long wagon road to the Clark Fork River where the ore could be transported five miles down-river and reloaded into rail cars and sent east to smelters. By 1891, the company had built a concentrator which could reduce up to 100 tons of silver and lead ore a day (later it was rated at 200 tons), and the Northern Pacific built its Coeur d'Alene branch west from Missoula through the present site of Superior. Ore from the Iron Mountain could then be hauled the four miles south to Superior (then called Iron Mountain). By the mid-1890s, the mine hired about 80 miners and 15 topmen (Lindeman et al. 1984; Wolle 1963).

In 1897, the property was closed down by the Inspector of Mines, since, by not having two openings, it violated state law. A final shipment of twenty-seven carloads of concentrates, averaging $50 a ton, was shipped from the property in October 1897. In the early 1900s the Iron Mountain Tunnel Company leased the property and planned to drill a 5,560-foot tunnel to tap the Iron Tower mine at a depth of 1,600 feet. Construction began in 1905 and lasted nearly two years, costing $65,000. In 1906, the tunnel was reported to be at a depth of 1,800 feet. Levels were developed at the 200, 400, 700 and 1,600 foot levels. Later a shaft was sunk from the 700 foot level to the 2,200 foot level. The shaft was two-compartment to the 1,600 foot level and then three-compartment down to the sump. The 1,600 foot level was the main haulage route; the 6,000 foot long tunnel connected to the mill bins. In the first eight years of development, the mine was reported to have produced half a million dollars in dividends beyond over-head costs (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

This stock company obtained a bond and lease on a number of quartz lodes, 380 acres of placer ground, and three mill sites with an option to purchase the same prior to 1910. By the early 1910s, the Iron Mountain Tunnel Company employed 50 men, but legal disputes between owners and bond holders threatened the new production. H. L. Day acquired the property in 1915 for $110,000.

The mine saw continuous production between 1909 and 1930, with peaks in the mid-1910s and 1920s. Since then, lessees have from time to time opened the property. From 1909 to 1953, the Iron Mountain mine produced 7,535,084 pounds of zinc; 5,385,741 pounds of lead; 5,274 pounds of copper; 389,355 fine ounces of silver; and only 19 fine ounces of gold (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; Lindeman et al. 1984).

Sweeney and Hopkins

The Sweeney and Hopkins mine is located in section 35, T18N, R26W, about eight miles northwest of Superior. The mine is north of the Little Anaconda claim and comprises 21 patented claims with a total area of 335 acres. The mine was located in 1889 and first developed by Thomas Greenough of the Mountain Gem Mining Company. The mine was developed by 2,000 feet of tunnel and several hundred feet of shaft on the Mayday claim. The Mountain Gem Mining Co. was organized in 1907 and the claims surveyed for patent in 1908 and the patents issued in 1915. Because the organization had increasingly difficult problems dealing with the Forest Service, the enterprise was abandoned for easier pursuits. Only two car lots of ore reached the smelter after patents had been made.

In the 1930s the mine road leading to the nearby Iron Mountain mine was rebuilt by the CCC and interest was renewed in the mine. The mine then came under ownership by Sweeney and Hopkins. John B. Hopkins, the previous engineer at the Green Mountain Mine and Dr. P. J. Sweeney of Fort Benton were equal owners of the property. The last historic production from the mine occurred in 1942.

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