aka Prospect aka Jeff Davis Gulch see also Chinatown district see also Monument district

The district is located in the Horse Prairie drainage about 5 miles southeast of Brenner or due west of Donovan's siding on the now defunct Gilmore & Pittsburg Railroad. Activity centered around in Shenon, Colorado and Jeff Davis Gulches and on Horse Creek. Jeff Davis Gulch, a western flowing tributary of Horse Prairie Creek, was among the first in Montana to be placered. On the creek's Solomon's Bar, eleven men drew up articles organizing the Prospect district on July 4, 1863. The bar was presumably named after S. Robinson, one of the original locators and the district was named the Prospect mining district (Sassman 1941; Lyden 1948; Geach 1972; Sahinen 1935).

The district's fame is not with the richness of the placers, but rather its association with W. A. Clark. It was in Horse Prairie where W. A. Clark first was introduced to Montana mines. He arrived in Horse Prairie Creek on July 7, 1863, just four days after the district was organized. He briefly mined in the district and acted as the district's second recorder, but poor health forced him to sell his ground and become a merchant (Sassman 1941).

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. In 1872 part of the placer ground was leased to Chinese miners and the area became known as the China Diggings. The nearby settlement on upper Jeff Davis Creek became known as Chinatown. Thereafter the Chinatown diggings were often discussed as a separate district (Geach 1972).

The early placers such as the Yearian Brothers placer and Merrill Hyde's placer were surficial in nature and for the most part did not reach the bedrock where the majority of the gold deposits were located. The creek gravels were well sorted with few boulders to impede placer development. Maiden Creek to the south of Jeff Davis Gulch is reported to have produced some placer gold, but large boulders limited mechanical processing of the gravels (Lyden 1948).

The area is dominated by Tertiary volcanics in which a stock of granitic rock about two miles by four miles has intruded. In the southeast portion of the district, Upper Paleozoic consolidated sediments have been exposed (Sahinen 1935).

The next period of activity was from 1871 through the 1880s. During this period, hydraulic giants were used to wash the hillsides. In 1877 the district obtained a post office called Horse Prairie. In the 1890s a few locations in the district were worked by white and Chinese miners (Lyden 1948; WPA 1941; Wolle 1963).

In 1899 the Horse Prairie Gold Dredging Company organized by John C. Brenner constructed a dredge on Horse Prairie Creek. The plant was steam powered and the elevator buckets had a five cubic foot capacity. Named the Brenner, the dredge was the third constructed in Montana. By 1904 the dredge was worn out having worked the available creek bottom on Horse Prairie Creek. Although "much fine gold" was taken out, no production figures are available (Geach 1972; Sassman 1941; Munson 1986).

The main production of the district occurred just prior to and after World War II when a series of dredges worked the stream gravels. Although little information is available, the first to resume work on the stream was a connected-bucket dredge on the Brenner property. In the early 1940s Associated Placers, Inc operated a dry-land dredge downstream from the Brenner property. From 1939 to the World War II ban on gold production, W. C. McLeod operated a dry-land dredge from about three miles above the highway, upstream for a mile and a half to just below the confluence of Colorado Gulch and Horse Prairie Creek . The dredge resumed operation in 1946 and was in operation when described in 1948. Although the valley floor of Jeff Davis Creek is covered by dredge piles, it is not known who dredged the creek (Lyden 1948; Munson 1986).

There is no evidence of mineral development downstream in Horse Prairie. The source of the gold in Jeff Davis Gulch is not known. A few lode mines are located at the head of the Gulch but they have not produced any ore. From 1902 to 1965 the Horse Prairie placers worked 526,340 cubic yards of material which yielded 3,493 ounces of gold and 494 ounces of silver worth a combined $122,628 (Geach 1972; Lyden 1948).


When the Prospect mining district was organized on July 4, 1864, the district was defined as extending from Dry Gulch to the summit of the mountains to the east. Sahinen (1935) described the district as the headwaters of Shenan and Jeff Davis Creeks -- essentially the description of the Chinatown district. According to Lyden (1948) the mines of Horse Prairie are limited to the placer gravels of Jeff Davis Gulch from where the stream crosses the highway upstream to the headwaters of Jeff Davis Gulch and its tributary Colorado Creek.

Maiden Creek to the south of Jeff Davis Gulch is also considered to be part of the Horse Prairie district, but little production has occurred.

Figure 1 shows the boundaries of the Horse Prairie mining district as defined by Geach (1972) and Sahinen (1935). They overlap into the Chinatown district.


Associated Placers

The placers worked by Associated Placers, Inc are located on Jeff Davis Gulch from the highway crossing upstream to the Brenner placers. The property was worked in 1941 to 1942 by a dry-land dredge.

Brenner Placer

The Brenner Placer was the first placer in the district to be worked by a dredge. The property begins three miles from the highway crossing with Jeff Davis Gulch and continues downstream to the Associated Placer holdings. The steam powered dredge also worked the available ground in Jeff Davis Creek. When it was visited in 1947 only two timber spuds parallel to the creek were left of the dredge structure (Lyden 1948).

Gold Leaf Placer

The Gold Leaf Placer is listed in the Montana Mine Index in 1940.

McLeod Placer

The McLeod placer is located on Jeff Davis Gulch about three miles above the highway and extends 1.5 miles upstream. A dry-land dredge rated at 1,000 cubic yards per day began working the property in 1939. The dredge worked both the stream bottoms and the adjacent hillsides. Although the plant was shut down during World War II, it was estimated to have pulled $100,000 in gold from the gravel by 1947. In 1946 the dredge pulled 188 fine ounces of gold from 70,000 yards of material. When the dredge operation was visited in 1947 it had just passed the confluence with Colorado Creek which showed gashes from earlier placer operations (Lyden 1948).

Merrill Hyde's Placer

The Merrill Hyde's Placer is listed in the Montana Mine Index in 1871.

Yearian Brothers Placer

The Yearian Brothers placer is listed in the Montana Mine Index in 1871.


Bureau of Land Management

1992 "Cultural Resources Inventory: Jeff-Medicine Timber Sale", Report No. 92-MT-070-076-47, Butte District.

Calderhead, J. H.

1898 "Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry, 6th Annual Report."

Geach, R. D.

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

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 85


Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 26

. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Munson, Gene

1986 "Cultural Resource Inventory and Assessment: Jeff Davis Creek" for Channel Mining Inc. by GCM Services, Butte.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

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

Sassman, Oren

1941 "Metal Mining in Historic Beaverhead County (1862-1940)", Thesis Montana State University.

Scarborough, Vernon

1974 "Archaeological and Historical Survey in the West Dillon and Tendoy Mountain Planning Units of Beaverhead County, Soutwestern Montana", Bureau of Land Management, Dillon District Office.

Steere, Peter L.

1979 "Cultural Resource Inventory and Evaluation Pipe Organ North", Federal Aid Project No. I-15-1 (54) 51U1 prepared by Cultural Resource Division, Mineral Research Center, Montana Tech Alumni Foundation.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell


Montana Pay Dirt.

Sage Books, Athens, Ohio

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.