Contemporaneous with the discovery of gold at Last Chance Gulch in 1864 was the location of placer claims in German Gulch, a northeast-flowing tributary of Silver Bow Creek. A party of eight German prospectors led by Edmund Alfeildt and including John Kwartz, Fred Brown, John Sarex, Chris Mayers, Fred Clump, Fred Keis and Lewis Smidtland had heard of the gold discoveries at Bannack and Alder Gulch and traveled from mines on the Peace River in British Columbia arriving at Deer Lodge late in the summer of 1864. Edmund Alfeildt was a graduate of the University of Leyden and had come west with General Sidney A. Johnson on his expedition to Utah to deal with the Mormons. After his enlistment had expired, Alfeildt traveled to the Peace River to search for gold where he met up with the above listed partners, most of them recent immigrants from Germany like himself (Warren 1896:65). While in Deer Lodge, the party conferred with Granville and James Stuart and were directed towards the German Gulch area. Whether the Stuarts had prior knowledge of placer gold deposits in German Gulch is not known, but it appears unlikely (Edwards 1908).
The party traveled up the Deerlodge Valley and camped one mile below the confluence of the German Gulch stream and the Clark Fork River. Finding traces of gold, they moved further upstream, prospecting as they went. On September 15, 1864 they pitched camp on the north bank of German Gulch where they made a major discovery of placer gold approximately 1200 yards above the three forks of Norton Creek, Beef-straight Creek and German Gulch Creek. The placer deposits yielded about $12 a day for each man. Several weeks later they left to travel to Silver Bow for supplies and returned in the middle of October to begin work on their discoveries. They began digging two and one-half miles above the junction of Norton, Beefstraight and German Gulch Creeks where they excavated a shaft to a depth of twenty-five feet, found gold on bedrock averaging $1.00 a pan and immediately set up claims for themselves and several friends from Alder Gulch including William Edwards and established the Siberia placer mining district. The claims were 100 feet in length and covered the width of the gulch.
Their discovery was made on January 20, 1865 and was kept secret for only a short period of time as others shortly followed. By March 1, 1865, a number of cabins had been constructed on different claims and there were nearly a thousand men in German Gulch. Tremendous activity ensued with many ditches under construction. Lower Town, near the three forks of Norton, Beefstraight and German Gulch Creeks contained 80 houses in early June. Near the head of the gulch was Upper Town with almost 30 houses. At the junction of Edwards Gulch with German Gulch was another cluster of structures known as Centerville.
...Every man was working as only the pioneers of Montana could work. Little excitement arose to disturb the workers, except when someone would reach bedrock and finding it rich would pass the word along more to encourage the miners than in a spirit of exultation. The population was made up of men of all nationalities, but there never was a more genial assembly of workers. Good nature seemed to prevail practically all the time and few quarrels occurred (Edwards 1908:4).
* This summary of German Gulch is condensed from Fredlund et al (1991) with much of the early history of German Gulch from an unpublished manuscript by W. R. M. Edwards who was one of the original pioneers in German Gulch (Edwards 1908).
Besides the many miners, three doctors arrived in German Gulch in the summer of 1865, including Dr. George Beal who became an important figure in German Gulch and Butte. A number of commercial businesses were developed in the various German Gulch camps including several grocery and general merchandise stores as well as a brewery, saloons, blacksmith shops, bakeries and several sawmills.
Wages were high in the early days of German Gulch camp. From 1865 to 1870 nearly 400 men were at work in the gulch earning an average day's wage of between $6 - $7. The camp provided an important market for the farms and ranches of the Deer Lodge valley. Although referring to mining in Montana Territory in general, Raymond (1869:139) notes:
Wages reach their maximum in summer, and minimum in winter; and for the following reasons: During part of the spring, summer, and early fall, the placers offer a ready field for labor, and wages are, consequently, at their height. The price varies from $2.50 to $8 (gold dust) per day, equal to $3 to $10 currency; the last figure being the exceptional remuneration of first class "drifters." It is quite improbable that less than the former price will be paid for many years to come, for the simple reason that there are still thousands of acres whereon a man may, by his own unaided labor, obtain that amount as a daily minimum. Indeed, such placers are denominated [sic] by the miners "China diggings," i.e., fit only for the Chinese, and are now passed by without a second thought. The average miner of all the new Territories is far superior, both in natural intelligence and acquired knowledge, to the laborers of the older States. He requires a large income, and, owing to a chronic habit of improvidence, is often in actual want.
In ordinary years the placer miner can count upon eight months, during which the streams are not frozen, and hence he must earn enough during two-thirds of the year to support him during a twelvemonth.
At the end of the 1860s the easy gold had been taken from German Gulch -- the amount estimated to be between $5 and $10 million. Many of the miners had left, leaving the supposedly worked out claims to the Chinese or others. With the end of the 1860s a new period of mining began in German Gulch, large scale hydraulicking by organized Chinese and Euroamerican companies.
Original claims were consolidated after 1870 into companies, most of which worked the claims by hydraulic mining. The claims filed during this time appear to represent a consolidation of a large number of smaller claims filed in the 1860s. The deed records indicate that the companies owned the claims, adjacent property and water rights. It is also apparent that Chinese miners became an important economic force in German Gulch in the 1870s and continued to be a major factor in the placer mining activity at least until the turn of the century, primarily reworking placer ground mined by the Euroamericans in the 1860s. Based on the claim records, it appears that most of the Chinese claims were in the central area and near Lower Town while the Beal family maintained control of the property in the upper part of the drainage -- the area of Upper Town. Edwards (1908) notes that by 1870 there were around 150 Chinese in the area.
Although there does not appear to be any outright hostility to the Chinese in German Gulch there were undoubtedly problems between the white owners and the Chinese companies working the claims. One incident is documented in The Butte Miner of September 12, 1876:
The Chinamen at work on the Union Company's ground in German Gulch have ceased operations and state they will throw up the contract made with owners. Mr. Clark is said to have struck a rich vein of gold quartz, which was discovered by tunneling at the head of the gulch. There are now some 12 white men and from 90 to 100 Chinamen at work in this locality.
Raymond (1873) reported that German Gulch and Yamhill (Gold Creek district)for the year 1872 produced more gold than the lode claims, one reason being that water held out longer, thus lengthening the amount of time mining could continue in the late summer. German Gulch, specifically, was noted as having a good season in 1872:
In July nine companies of white men were here engaged in mining, most of whom had been using the abundance of water to the greatest advantage by washing off the heavy top earth. Some of them had commenced washing up, and some large clean-ups were made. Chinamen have purchased mining ground in German Gulch during the last year to the amount of $61,000, and yet there is no perceptible falling off in the number of white men. Two new claims were opened above Dr. Beale's (sic) ground, which, up to the present season, was the uppermost claim worked (Raymond 1873:272).
The records indicate that the whites controlled most of the claims in the early part of the 1870s, but The Butte Miner of August 5, 1876 suggests the Chinese had acquired most of the companies in German Gulch:
"...still continues to yield a fair compensation to the different companies now operating, though mostly owned and operated by Chinese. There are six companies employing 93 men in all.
In 1876 there were 15 white men in German Gulch and 92 Chinese, all reported to be doing well through July 25 since rains had filled the ditches again to capacity (The Butte Miner , June 24 and June 25, 1876). In August of 1876, The Butte Miner reports there were eight single white men and two families, with the remainder of the population Chinese in German Gulch. Mining in German Gulch continued through the 1890s almost entirely through hydraulic operations.
The final chapter in the history of German Gulch is the development of the lode claims and the continuing involvement of the Beal family who were involved in efforts to expand mining activity in German Gulch from the early placer mining through the hydraulic operations in the 1880s and 1890s. The family, beginning with Dr. George Beal in 1865, maintained a close association with the German Gulch area, as owners, and by actively mining placer and lode claims. They also owned ditch companies and were involved in all aspects of mining in the gulch. Dr. George Beal arrived in German Gulch from Virginia City in the summer of 1865. Increasingly involved in business activities in Butte, Beal moved to Butte from German Gulch in 1876 and built the Centennial Hotel near the present site of the Finlen Hotel and was elected the third mayor of Butte in 1881-1882. After his death in a carriage accident at German Gulch in 1901, his son, Perry, and his grandson, George, continued to maintain mining interests at the upper end of German Gulch. In 1907, the Montana Gold Mountain Mining Company was organized to develop lode and placer claims in German Gulch. It was incorporated in Butte on July 15, 1907. Perry Beal was one of the original stockholders and remained associated with the company until his death in 1932. The company was capitalized at $2.5 million with 500,000 stock shares issued at $5 per share and was incorporated for a period of 40 years. It was formed primarily to raise capital to further develop the mines located near the head of German Gulch.
The Montana Gold Mountain Company took over placer and lode claims originally located in the 1880s and 1890s by Dr. George Beal and Perry Beal. The company built a concentrating mill on the creek near the mouth of tunnel #4 on the Clara Jurgens claim. The mill was valued at $5,000 and consisted of a battery of stamps, an amalgamation plate, two Wilfley tables, a boiler, a 25 h.p. engine and a Huntington Mill. However, as a result of the financial panic of 1907, it made only one run and was shut down on December 7, 1907 (Ingalsbe 1916b). There is no evidence that this mill was ever operated again.
In addition to the concentration mill, the company maintained three log cabins which were used as a bunk house, cook house and office (Ingalsbe 1916b). They also constructed a sawmill, operated by water power, and two placer ditches. The Montana Gold Mountain Mining Company continued to issue annual reports through the 1930s, but it appears that little development work was done.
The company leased portions of the claims between 1937-1939 to the Anaconda Company who conducted extensive exploration work for possible development as a lode deposit (Ingalsbe 1916b). A sample of ten tons of ore was taken in the summer of 1915 for testing by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. The sample averaged between $2.50 to $3.50 per ton in gold (Ingalsbe 1916b). The Anaconda Company calculated five million tons of ore at $4.75 gold/ ton at the 1932 gold price of $35.00 per ounce (Ingalsbe 1916b). They described the low-grade ore zone as poorly defined but measuring 1400 feet easterly, 1000 feet northerly and 400 feet vertically. The Anaconda Company did not pursue the project any further, probably due to the fixed price of gold which made mining low-grade deposits unprofitable.
Although The Montana Gold Mountain Mining Company remained dormant and issued no annual reports during the war years, papers were filed to extend the existence of the corporation to 1987. Exploration continued by a number of companies in the 1970s and with the increase in the price of gold in the late 1980s, this low-grade ore deposit has become an economically feasible mining project and Beal Mountain Mining Company, a subsidiary of Pegasus Gold Corporation, is now profitably mining the prospects that the Beal family worked to develop over the years.
The geology of the gulch is different between the lower and upper end of the gulch. Volcanic flows or intrusives occupy the lower end of German Gulch--rhyolite extends up the gulch for about 2 miles above the three forks. At the head of German Gulch there are quartzites of probable Cambrian and Beltian age. Quartz monzonite, similar to that of the Boulder batholith, lies between the quartzites and rhyolite. The quartzites strike east and dip 70 to 75 degrees south; are much broken by faults; and are intruded by some quartz diorite sills (Sahinen 1935).
In addition to the placer deposits, German Gulch has some extensive deposits of low-grade gold-ore. The low-grade deposits are at the head of the gulch in the Beltian quartzites. The 'ore' is said to be exposed for over a 1,000 feet in length and breadth on the northwest side of the gulch, and an adit at creek level cutting across the strike of the quartzites for a distance of 780 feet and attaining a vertical depth of 400 feet, is said to be in 'ore' for 70% of its length (Sahinen 1935).
The gold occurs both native and as a telluride,and with it are associated pyrite, chalcopyrite, malachite, melanterite, gypsum, serpentine, talc or sericite, hematite, limonite, and quartz (Sahinen 1935).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) places the district in the western part of Silver bow County, about 18 miles west of Butte.
The Siberia placer mining district, established in 1865 (Wolle 1963), included all claims from Edwards Gulch west (up the gulch). The Central district included all claims from Edwards Gulch down to the Norton-Beefstraight Creek junction. Below the junction of Norton and Beefstraight Creeks, was the Old Frederick district. The latter saw limited activity compared to the Central and Siberia districts.
Early references to German Gulch on maps and in historic records are often to "German Town." This probably referred to Lower Town since it was relatively flat and open with a larger population, and probably functioned as the major supply center for activity in the upper part of the gulch.
Fredlund (1992) states:
At German Gulch there is no defined mining district boundary. Historic mining districts were established to afford some order and quasi-legal control of claims and mining practice when there was no law, or at least no accessible means of legal enforcement, in the relatively isolated frontier mining camps. Placer mining was the primary method of mining in German Gulch and two placer mining districts were established: the Siberia district and the Central district. Below the confluence of German Gulch, Norton Creek and Beefstraight Creeks, was the Old Frederick placer mining district which was relatively unimportant economically and has not been included in the historic district boundaries.
The northern boundary of the historic district is Beefstraight Creek. There was some placer activity within the Beefstraight drainage, but it was limited as no gold was recovered. However, Beefstraight Creek was important as a major source of water for the placers in German Gulch. Several ditch systems were constructed to bring water from Beefstraight Creek and its tributary Minnesota Gulch, to various placer operations in German Gulch. The western and southern boundary of the historic district is the Continental Divide. The eastern boundary is an arbitrary line from Burnt Mountain to the junction of Norton, Beefstraight and German Gulch Creeks.
Figure 1 shows the German Gulch Historic District boundaries (Fredlund 1992) which includes the primary activity in the district, the Siberia district, the Central district, and the Old Frederick district (Wolle 1963).
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
Placer claims filed in German Gulch (1870-1890).
Mineral Mineral Date Date
Entry # Survey # Lot # Patent # Acreage Filed Patented Claimants
85 72 38 1191 40 1-14-73 2-4-75 Elijah W. Moore & Charles Hause
119 73 40 954 40 7-25-73 6-30-74 Ernst Miller, William Stolle, Frederick Ellerhorse, Ernst Spier, Joseph Ehrhard
100 74 41 2213 7.4 4-17-73 4-5-77 Dennis Driscoll
85 75 37 1163 15.98 1-13-74 1-16-75 Thomas Ford
87 76 39 1446 25.68 1-7-73 8-11-75 Thomas Ford, Hugh B. McGlary, Dennis Driscoll, Martin Kating
563 - 43 4955 29.34 4-15-80 1-19-81 George Beal and Perry Beal
Lot 36. This lot is located at the base of the gulch in the area of Lower Town. It is described as beginning at Norton Gulch and extending up to the lower line of ground formerly owned by Thomas Ford. The only deed record for this lot listed W.S. Hensley as selling the property to Fouey Gee on August 30, 1871. Locality 48 appears to be within the boundaries of Lot 36.
Lot 37. This lot is located approximately one quarter mile from the foot of the gulch just west of Locality 48. The first known entry for this lot was Ah Tung and Company but there is no date when the land was purchased. The deed records indicate that Ah Tung and Company sold their holdings to Jefferson McCauley and others on July 21, 1871. Thomas Ford patented the lot on January 1, 1875, after selling a portion (claims 15-31) to Elijah W. Moore. Moore went into debt and was forced to sell to Samuel T. Hauser (a prominent Montana businessman who had probably grubstaked Moore). Hauser eventually sold the claims back to Thomas Ford. It appears that Ford then bought Lot 38 on Oct. 21, 1878 from Charles Housel, Elijah Moore's partner.
Lot 38. This lot is approximately one-half mile from the foot of the gulch just west of Locality 48 and Lot 37. The first known claimant for this lot was a group consisting of W. R. H. Edwards, B. F. Notestein, and Edward Fairfield. [Edwards is the early settler who wrote the account of life in German Gulch which has been used extensively in this background history.] They sold their claims to John Maillet (Millet?), Elijah Moore and Leo W. Foster on Aug. 26, 1871, who were also involved in Lot 37. The first known Chinese association with Lot 38 was prior to 1871 since they are listed as selling 3800 feet of mining ground in Lot 38 to Jefferson McCauley on July 21 of that year. The original claimants (Edwards et al.) then sold the rest of their holdings to Elijah W. Moore and C.C. Housel on Sept. 7 1872. When Moore went broke and had to sell Lot 37 -- Lot 38 was also sold. Thomas Ford obtained it on Oct. 21, 1878 and sold it the next day to Ah On.
Centerville. A small commercial community was located between Upper Town and Lower Town at the convergence of two roads. A bakery, brewery and several saloons were apparently in business in this area as early as 1868. Casius H. Clay sold his "Bakery House" to William Hensley on Aug 26, 1868 and then Hensley sold it and a brewery to Alfred Mahler one month later. Two days later Mahler sold both establishments to John C. Wessel.
Placering also occurred in this area. Ground located across the gulch from Centerville was mined as well as ground southwest of the settlement. William Edwards, his wife, B. F. Notestein, and E. B. Fairfield were the first known claimants of the ground across the gulch. They sold to Leo Foster and William Ray who apparently ran a store further up the gulch.
Foster and Company ground. Claims southwest of Centerville were known as Foster and Company ground. George W. Moore and Andrew M. Madison are the first known owners of this claim. They are listed as selling a half interest to Thomas Lowe on Sept. 6, 1870. It is possible that Leo Foster and A. M. Madison were earlier claimants as they are listed as sellers of a parcel in the area in 1872.
Eureka Company ground. Interpretation of the deed and claim records indicate that the Eureka Company ground was west of the Siberia/Central District line. It was probably first included in Lot 40 and later given Mineral Survey no. 537042. It included claims 11-30 which were approximately 100 ft in length. It appears that this same area was later known as the George Washington Placer described as lying between placer M.S. 73, Lot 40 and M.S. 74, Lot 41.
The first claimants on the Eureka Company ground were two groups: one consisting of William Johnson, John Bennett, Lucius Mane and Mr. King who filed on May 2, 1865, and the other group who filed on a nearby claim, John Wilson and Charles Base, who then sold to Messrs. Greenude and Donahue on July 24, 1865 (Figure 3-1). The first known Chinese on this ground were Ah Gow (Gou), Quong Wah Hong and Yok Chow (Yank Chau) who were the Eureka Company. They are listed in the deed books as selling part of their holdings to Ernest Spier, H. Evans and Joseph Ehrhardt on July 8, 1871 and therefore, were probably established in the area sometime before that date. Wah Shaw and Company acquired claims in the same area a few months earlier from William Moore. The last claimant was Perry H. Beal, the son of George Beal, who obtained it from Thomas Gardner on July 24, 1878. The last person of Chinese descent known to have been in the area was a man called "Napoleon" who lived in a cabin on the property and who actively placer mined at least until 1916 (Ingalsbe 1916a).
Lot 40/California Company ground. This lot is located between the Central and Siberia districts and included what is Lot 40 and the Eureka Company ground. According to the deed records, the earliest known claimants were Frank Harnois and Joseph Label, possibly from French Gulch. They are listed as selling half of two claims to Baptiste Gaston on July 13, 1866. The first known Chinese on Lot 40 appear in a mortgage transaction on September 24, 1873. Hing Lee, Ah Sing and Gee Sam sold their holdings in the lot to Ernst Muller, et al. (Figure 5-1), who later patented it on June 30, 1874. The California Company or Bo Hing Hong Company consisted of about twenty Chinese who owned or at least worked the lot long enough for it to become known as California Company ground.
Lot 41. This lot is about a mile west of Centerville in the Siberia District, and may include the community of Upper Town. Dennis Driscoll patented this lot on April 7, 1873 and is the first known holder of the land. He sold the portion located next to the claims known as the Eureka Mining Company to Sing Wah Hong on Dec. 8, 1873. On the same day, however, Driscoll repurchased the same land. There were probably earlier owners and occupants but they did not officially record the ownership.
Lot 42. This lot is about one mile from the head of the gulch, just below the Union Company ground. The first known claimant for this lot was George W. Beal, who is listed as selling several claims to Hillary Hamis on April 3, 1870. Beal was very active in this lot as he is listed as buying or selling sections of it seven times within seven years. The first known Chinese to have owned land in the area was Wah Hing, who sold claims to George Beal on Nov. 3 1875. Wah Hing is also mentioned in later transactions with Beal. On Dec 31, 1877 Beal sold property in the city of Butte as well as several claims to R. W. Donnell, S. E. Larabie and W. A. Clark, all prominent businessmen in Butte.
Lot 43/Union Company ground. This lot is located about a mile from the head of the gulch. The first known claimant for this lot was W. L. Moore. He is listed as granting interests to Hugh B. McCleary on Sept. 25, 1871. It is believed that this lot was known as Union Company ground and that there was a sawmill and a blacksmith's shop located on the property. It does not appear that any Chinese ever owned claims in this lot although they are known to have worked for the Union Company. It was included in the holdings of George Beal, who acquired it on Sept. 19, 1877. As with Lot 42, he sold part of it to R. W. Donnell, S. E. Larabie and W. A. Clark. It appears that he then sold the rest of it to his son Perry on Feb. 9, 1878.
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