HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Helmville aka Nigger Hill

The Big Blackfoot River rises in the mountains west of Lincoln with Nevada Creek a major tributary near Helmsville. The river flows west to the Clark Fork near Missoula. The mining district is primarily the central drainage basin of the Big Blackfoot with the primary lode mining in an area of about 36 square miles east of Helmville between Nevada Creek and the Little Blackfoot. The district is essentially one of placer mining. The placers of Nevada Gulch were discovered in the 1860s.

In 1876, prospectors discovered iron outcroppings on a mountain in the district. But when the claims were found to be unworkable with gold pans, they were abandoned. In 1888, Charles Cooper located a claim that was later known as the Bryan. Although he investigated the possibility of shipping the ore to the smelter, he found he could not do so and make a profit. In 1892, George Clements located five claims on the "mountain". With the assistance of a partner named Hart, he started a tunnel in copper-stained slate. The tunnel caved after only 52 feet and the effort was abandoned.

The Odgen Mountain area was first prospected by Jim Ogden in the 1880s. On his heels, William Russell also came into the area. A 1900 photo shows the two men running a hydraulic giant in the vicinity of the Hopkins placer. Nearly all of the mining in the district was confined to placers prior to 1890. The lack of mills and cheap transportation hindered the development of lode mines. Production from the bars was intermittent - after 1921 averaging between $1,000 and $2,000 annually. The gold was recovered by sluicing and hydraulicking stream gravels of Nevada Gulch and other tributaries of Big Blackfoot River. The Hopkins placer was also worked by a dry-land washer fed by a dragline (Stout 1949; Wolle 1963).

The quartz veins in the district are related to a Tertiary quartz monzonite stock in the center of the district. The intrusive body and associated dikes of aplite, felsite and dolerite cut the Ravalli and Wallace formations of the Belt Supergroup (McClernan 1976).

Lode mining began in the 1890s after the Best Brothers installed a small 5-stamp amalgamation mill on Mill Creek. Ores from the Plutarc, Necessity, Christine, and Blackfoot Gold mines were treated at the mill for their gold value. A second, even smaller 1-stamp mill was installed at the Hobby Horse mine in 1895 and worked intermittently for a number of years. The Best mill was removed from the area in 1912, ending lode mining for over a decade. In 1929 a 25-ton amalgamation mill was installed at the Blackfoot Gold mine. The mill operated until 1932 and for a short time in 1940. Some sorted ores have been shipped out of the district to the smelters at Butte and East Helena throughout the district's history (Stout 1949).

Some copper mining also occurred in the district. In 1896, J. K. Waite located a group of claims known as the Copper World Group. Although the rock assayed at 65 percent copper and much was made over the mining possibility, the mine produced little or no ore (Western Mining World 1900).

In the Twentieth century, up to 1962, the district produced intermittently. Total lode production was 1,980 tons of ore which yielded 1,471 ounces of gold; 1,933 ounces of silver; 397 pounds of copper; 13,937 pounds lead; and 400 pounds of zinc worth an aggregate $46,761. In the same period the placers of the district recovered 2,983 ounces of gold and 641 ounces of silver with a total value of $83,717 (McClernan 1976).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

The Montana Bureau of Mines vertical file states that the district includes the "area in the vicinity of Helmville and Odgen Mountain; Nevada, Douglass and Yourname Creeks; Moose Creek and other tributaries of the Big Blackfoot River. The area to the east of Helmville on Nevada Creek is included in the Finn district.

Sahinen (1935) places the district 22 miles northwest of Drummond on Nevada Creek, a northwestward flowing tributary of Big Blackfoot River.

McClernan (1976) discusses the Ogden mining district in T13N, R10W. The map shows the mines in a west to east line from section 19 to 23, south of Wilson Creek. The Hunter mine is in section 23 on Wasson Creek. An unnamed placer and the McCacran lode mine also appear on the map in section 3 on Moose Creek.

Figure 1 shows the Big Blackfoot mining district as described by the AMRB (1994) which generally conforms to the description given by the Montana Bureau of Mines. A small area to the southeast is delineated as the area of primary lode mining and is similar to the description by McClernan (1976).

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Blackfoot Gold

The Blackfoot Gold mine is located in the southeast quarter of section 22, T13N, R10W on the western side of the highest part of Ogden Mountain. In 1940, the mine consisted of 10 unpatented claims of 20 acres each. The mine was located by Jim Ogden in 1895; he initially developed the claim by a series of inclined shafts and adits uphill from what was later the No. 1 level of the mine. While some of the ore was sorted and shipped to East Helena and to Butte for processing, the majority of the ore was treated in the Best Brothers and the Hobby Horse mills. From 1900 to 1908, Odgen worked the mine in conjunction with his half-brother "Doc" Marshall. After 1908, Jack Haley leased the mine and worked it until 1912; nearly all of this ore was worked in the Best Brothers Mill. Sam McConnel bought the lease from Haley in 1912. With the removal of the Best mill in the same year, McConnel was forced to work his ore in the tiny Hobby Horse mill. Coarse gold was caught on amalgam plates while fine gold was recovered from cyanide tanks (Stout 1949).

The Blackfoot mine claims were relocated in 1922 by Sam Shaw in order to clear the title. In 1926 the property came into the hands of Mark Welch and in 1928 it was owned by the Blackfoot Mining Company. The company installed a 25-ton amalgamation mill and worked the property until 1932. The Blackfoot Mining Company officially recorded production in 1930 and 1931. In 1932, the company was reorganized as the Western Montana Mines Incorporated, but the mine was idle until 1936. In that year, the Hilda Gold Mining Company secured a lease on the property. Frank Metler obtained a lease on the mine in 1940 and ran some ore through the mill. The mine was again idle and in 1944 it was sold for back taxes. In 1946 the mine was once again under lease (WPA 1941; Stout 1949).

The mine was worked through two main adits; a third adit was stoped, but no ore was found. The two main adits followed the vein and were worked with occasional stopes that were backfilled after the ore was extracted. Outside the No. 2 adit a 20 x 16 foot shop and a 24 x 16 foot ore bin supported the underground operation. The ore from the upper, or No 1 adit was carried out to the dump and sent down an ore pass to the No. 2 tunnel to be hauled out to the ore bin. When revisited in 1976, only the two main collapsed adits were observed (WPA 1941).

The mill was a quarter mile southwest of the No. 2 adit. Equipment included a Blake crusher, a rake classifier, an Allis-Chalmers rolls, a Chalmers and Williams ball mill, a four-cell flotation unit, a Wilfley table, an Ingersoll Rand class C. compressor, a Chandler and Tayler steam engine, a steam boiler and an air receiver. The ore was first run through the amalgamation plates and the tailings sent over the Wilfley table for classification. Using this method, the tails still retained $7.00 per ton. The flotation unit was used to lower this figure to less than $1.00 per ton (Stout 1949).

Copper World

The Copper World group was located in 1896 by J. T. Waite. Waite along with his partners, Thomas Donahue and William Flood located six claims and formed the Montana Copper Mining Company. These included the Copper World, W. J. Bryan, Marlin Spike, Le Roi, Big Matte, and Porto Rico. In 1900, a force of men were reported to be on the ground preparing the site for development. Croppings were said to contain 65 percent copper, $30.40 in gold and 6 to 20 ounces of silver per ton. The main copper lead was reported to be from 20 to 100 feet wide; another vein on the property was said to be high grade iron. Judging from the lack of developmental specifics and the unbelievably high assay, the mine was more than likely a stock scam (Western Mining World 1900)

Corbin

The Corbin property is located in the northwestern corner of section 21, T13N, R10W. The mine consisted of three unpatented claims. The mine was discovered by a Mr. Corbin prior to 1890. He worked the property through an inclined shaft sunk on the dip of the vein. The ore was extracted using a horse-powered whim. The mine was next worked by Dave Coughlin before 1910. Around 1910, the mine was sold to John and Robert McCormick. They drove an adit that ultimately extended to 130 feet. The mine was thereafter worked by several different people, but with little success. In the 1930s, Page and Olsen from Phillipsburg made several shipments to smelters. In the 1940s, John Kilburn from Ovando also made some shipments. In 1940, a small mill was erected on the property. No figures are available for mill production, but it can be assumed that it did not survive the Federal order to cease gold mining during World War II. Ore was said to run around $25 per ton and as high as $50 per ton (Stout 1949).

Deer Creek

The Deer Creek lode mine is located close to the section line dividing sections 25 and 26, T13N, R10W near Chicken Creek. The mine is on a small stock of quartz monzonite protruding from the argillite of the Spokane formation. While the early history of the mine is obscure, the mine was worked in the late 1890s by Billy Fann, Walter Woods and Bill Buchanan. An arrastra was constructed on Chicken Creek to work the ore and recover the gold through amalgamation. It is not known which of two arrastras on the creek were used by the Deer Creek mine. One arrastra was steam-powered while the other was powered by a water wheel. In 1906, a Mr. Hansmeir obtained the property and erected a 5-stamp mill on Chicken Creek that was water-powered by a Pelton-wheel. In 1928, Gus and Wes Bierman obtained the mine. They worked a lower adit, but with little success. Around 1932 a major cave-in shut down the operation (Stout 1949).

The mine was developed by an inclined shaft and three adit drifts on the vein. Other short tunnels and prospects are scattered on the surface of the stock. A long tunnel driven from Chicken Creek taps the deposit at depth. This tunnel was said to be 3,000 feet long. A windlass was used to extract ore from shaft and a hand operated "Jackson" drill was used in the excavation (Stout 1949).

Gold Dust Placer

The Gold Dust placer, also known as the McCormick placers, officially recorded production every year between 1921 and 1929, and again in 1934, 1935 and 1940. The placer may be associated with the Corbin mine (WPA 1941).

Higgins

The Higgins mine, consisting of two unpatented claims, is located in the center of section 21, T13N, R10W. The original locators are not known. Prior to 1910, John and Robert McCormick worked the mine, but with little success. Some wire gold was found in white quartz. After 1910, the mine was worked by Mike and William McCormick, John McGarrison and Higgins. A 150-foot adit was driven into the vein encountering $20 per ton gold ore (Stout 1949).

Hobby Horse

The Hobby Horse mine is located in the southeastern part of section 21, T13N, R10W. The property consists of three patented claims, the Necessity, Mayflower and the Hobby Horse along with at least two other unpatented claims. The Hobby Horse claim was located by Bill Delemeter who sold it to Kohrs, Bielendburg, Larabie, Marcum and O'Rourke in 1898. The Mayflower was purchased from George White in the 1890s. The Necessity was located by the Best Brothers who sold it to Kohrs et al in the early 1900s. The patents to the Hobby Horse and the Mayflower were granted to J. E. Marcum in 1898 while the patent on the Necessity was granted to Larabie in 1919.

The mine was leased to Sam Taylor and Anton Tetson around 1894 or 1895. They extended an inclined shaft from the 71 foot level to the 171 foot level. A 1-stamp amalgamation mill was installed with a vanner for concentration and treated all of the ore from the mine. By 1895, Taylor and Tetson employed 12 men to extract ore valued as high as 10 ounces of gold per ton. When the lease was defaulted, the men were forced off of the property. The mill was used to treat ore from other local mines, but the mine stood idle until 1932. A company from Idaho then reopened the mine, but worked the ore at the Blackfoot Gold mine mill. In 1939, Claude and Marcum Bielendburg dewatered the shaft and made a shipment of 5,466 pounds of ore to East Helena. The ore returned 1.38 ounces of gold and 1.3 ounces of silver with one percent lead and lesser amounts of copper (Stout 1949).

In addition to the 171-foot inclined shaft with two levels, the mine was also developed out of a vertical shaft on the Necessity claim (Stout 1949).

Hopkins Placer

The Hopkins placer is located in the southern half of sections 15 and 16 along with the north half of section 21, T13N, R10W on Wilson Creek. By 1949, the mine encompassed two sections - 1280 acres of unpatented claims. The mine was originally located by William Russell and Dave Jones; Russell worked the upper half while Jones worked the lower half. The Best Brothers worked the Best or Silver bar which is north of the main placer cut. In the early 1900s, Ed Geary came in possession of the Jones and Best claims. These were sold to John and Robert McCormick in 1912. William Russell and Jim Ogden worked the upper claim until 1909 when Russell sold to Ed Ellsworth. In 1912 Ellsworth sold out to the McCormicks. The combined property was sold to the Kilburn brothers of Ovando around 1930.

The Kilburn placer was at one time the principal placer operation in the district. The mine worked an unusually rich layer of iron- and manganese-bearing sand that measured between two and four feet thick under an overburden of 20 to 55 feet (Montana Bureau of Mines Vertical Files).

The Kilburns formed a company with Harry Rubens to develop the property. They installed a drag-line and a dry land washing plant. In 1937, Dr. Windsor of Livingston bought an interest in the company. That same year a second dragline and a Saurman bucket were installed to stack the tailings. This equipment was removed to another property in 1938. Hopkins Mines Inc. bought the mine in 1941 and installed a 3/5 yard speeder dragline and a dry land washing plant. This operation was closed by Federal order at the advent of World War II. After the war, the claim was worked by ground sluicing (Stout 1949).

The mine was developed by a long drag-line cut and several tailings dams on Wilson Creek. When the mine was in the hands of Russell, production for a single 40-day season was estimated to be between $4,000 and $5,000. Ellsworth was said to have recovered about $300 a year doing annual assessment work. In 1936, the dry land washing plant re covered $12,000 and in 1941 Hopkins mines recovered $25,000.

McCacran

The McCacran is located in the northern portion of section 10, T13N, R10W. The mine was located by a man named Roselle prior to 1900. He made several shipments of silver ore that were rumored to contain around 200 ounces of silver per ton. Roselle began a long crosscut to tap a rich vein of silver ore. Although the tunnel reached five or six hundred feet long, it didn't strike paying ore. A Mr. McCacran of Butte then obtained the mine, but there is no evidence of any production. When observed in 1949, the mine had four collapsed adits (Stout 1949).

Raleigh

The Raleigh mine is located in a line that stretches from section 19 to Section 20, T13N, R10W. The mine is considered to be the richest placer in the district with a reported production of well over $200,000. The mine is composed of a 300-acre patented claim.

The mine was originally discovered by a man named Lincoln some time prior to 1885. The mine was purchased by W. B. Raleigh and a Mr. Clark about 1890. They brought water to the claim by ditches that tapped Wasson Creek to the north and Deer and Chicken Creeks on the south. The mine was last worked by Al Raleigh, son or nephew of W. B. Raleigh. In 1911, the mine was sold to a Mr. Walker (Stout 1949).

Sweepstake and Sunrise

The Sweepstake and Sunrise officially recorded production in 1939 and 1940 (WPA 1941).

Other mines shown in the McClernan map modified from Stout (1949) shows placers on Moose Creek and on Wilson Creek. The Montana Bureau of Mines vertical file also lists Lode mines include the Trapper, Odgen, Mountain Bonanza (Moose Creek), High Ore, Welch, Blackfoot Gold Mining, Higgins, Roselle and Hunter. Placers included the Carmen, Northwestern, Moose Creek, Gold Dust (also known as the McCormick and Kilburn or as the Hopkins.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compiled and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena

Byrne, John and John J. Barry

1902

Fourteenth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana.

Independent Publishing Company, Helena.

Calderhead, J. H.

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

Dingman, Oscar A.

1934 "Placer Mining in Montana",

Mines Magazine

. Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 13, 17-18.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948

The Gold Placers of Montana

. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 26. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

McClernan, Henry G.

1976 "Metallic Mineral Deposits of Powell County, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 98

. Montana Bureau of Mines nd Vertical Files.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

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

Stout, Koehler

1949 "Geology and Mines of the Ogden Mountain Mining District, Powell County, Montana". M. A. Thesis Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Swallow, G. C., J. B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver

1891

Reports of Inspectors of Mines, State of Montana, year ending November 30th, 1890

. Journal Publishing Company, Helena.

Wolle, Muriel S.

1963

Montana Pay Dirt. A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State

. Sage Books, Denver.

Works Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey

1941

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.

Anonymous

1900

Western Mining World

, Vol. 13, No. 17, p. 197.