HISTORIC CONTEXT

The Mineral Point district, in the rugged south end of Ravalli County, contains a few lode mines, none of which has been an important producer over the years. The district is at the headwaters of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River in the Bitteroot Mountain range with historic mining focused on Woods Creek and the West Fork.

Prospectors wandered through the Mineral Point area in the late 1880s and staked a few claims. Arthur E. Wood, W. T. Wilkins, Andy Langrein, and Fred Kessler located the Copper King mine in 1888. Two years later, H. C. Tuttle, Frank Montgomery, Mark Johnson, C. W. McMurry, E. E. Stockman, Murray Grant, and H. Chambers claimed the Copper Queen deposit. Several mines were making progress on initial development work when George Swallow visited the area in 1894. Operators had driven a 250 foot tunnel on the Lent claim and a 90 foot tunnel at the Merrill mine, in addition to sinking a 50 foot shaft on the Moss - Back deposit and a 40 foot shaft at the Arkansas Traveler. The Copper Queen saw little more than annual assessment work until 1897 when operators extended the tunnel 96 feet, sank the shaft 22 feet, and added a 35 foot crosscut and 70 foot raise (Sahinen 1957; Matthew 1990).

Apparently none of these mines proved valuable, and development during the twentieth century consisted of little more than annual assessment work. There are no records of any ore shipments from the Copper Queen. The Copper King was worked sporadically over the years, and operators occasionally shipped small amounts of ore. Ernest Shook and his family worked a claim in the West Fork area from the late 1920s until the present. They made at least one shipment of ore in addition to running a small ball mill on the property. Newer claims include the Copper Canyon property and the Sheep Creek Columbite claim. A small amount of placer gold was found in Johnson Creek, but there are no figures on production (Lyden 1948; Sahinen 1957; Matthew 1990).

Ravalli group quartzites of the Belt series underlie nearly all of the Mineral Point district. These rocks are in contact with the quartz monzonite of the Idaho batholith at the western edge and southern tip of the district. In the area just south of Hughes Creek, Tertiary volcanic rocks cover the older rocks. The principal ore values are found in vein deposits carrying copper, silver, and lead. Copper deposits are found in quartzitic schist, with distribution apparently controlled by faults along the West Fork (Sahinen 1935; Berg 1977).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Sahinen (1935) places the Mineral Point district in the extreme southern end of Ravalli County. The district encompasses the drainage of Woods Creek and the upper drainage of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River (Figure 1).

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon deposit is located in the NW 1/4 of section 20, T3S, R22W. The deposit occurs in argillite and quartzite along a shear zone. By the mid-1950s, the workings included two shafts, 31 and 34 feet deep, two adits 50 and 80 feet long, and a bulldozer cut. Production at that time amounted to about 10 tons of nearly pure bornite-chalcopyrite ore (Sahinen 1957; Berg 1977).

Copper Queen

The Copper Queen mine is located in the SE 1/4 of section 28, T3S, R22W. A group of seven men located the claim in July 1890. The mine's only major development took place in 1897 when operators extended the tunnel and shaft and added a crosscut and raise, all at a cost of $1,084. Aside from this, little more than annual assessment work has been done on the mine, and there are no records of shipments. The ore is malachite-bearing quartzitic schist (Berg 1977; Matthew 1990).

Sheep Creek Columbite

The deposit of columbite is located on the east side of the Sheep Creek drainage, just south of its confluence with the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Louis Erickson discovered the columbite ore while on a prospecting trip in 1954 and soon dug a discovery pit. William Van Matre shipped a small amount of selected ore to the government purchasing bureau in South Dakota in 1955. Extensive exploration during the next few years identified other deposits which appear to lie in a belt which runs northwesterly from the Salmon River in Idaho to Woods Creek in Montana (Sahinen 1957; Berg 1977).

Shook

The Shook claim is located in the NW 1/4 of section 21, T3S, R22W, about a quarter of a mile up Woods Creek from its confluence with the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Members of the Shook family worked the claim from the late 1920s to the present. They processed ore for a while in a small ball mill on the property, and they sent a shipment of ore to both Kellogg and Anaconda for treatment. A steam shovel dug a number of test pits in the late 1940s and early 1950s, while a sawmill running on the claim during the same time milled lumber for both the mine and the associated buildings (Matthew 1990).

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

Berg, Richard B.

1977 "Reconnaissance Geology of Southernmost Ravalli County, Montana", Memoir 44. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana", Memoir No. 26. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte, Montana.

Matthew, Kirby

1990 "Cultural Resource Inventory Project Report, Woods Creek IRA, 91-BR-4-1", Bitterroot National Forest, West Fork Ranger District. Sahinen, Uuno Mathias 1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Geology, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

1957 "Mines and Mineral Deposits, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, Montana", Bulletin No. 8. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. Montana School of Mines, Butte.