The first miners in the area are thought to have discovered gold in the mountains in the late 1860s. The lodes were said to have been discovered by Joseph Anderson, but some sources state that a Mr. Hubble and others preceded Anderson. The mines supposedly lay within the boundaries of the Crow Reservation preventing the miners from developing their properties. A survey of the reservation, made in 1882, showed the lodes to be several miles outside its boundaries and miners soon streamed into the area where indications of ore had previously been found. By the fall and winter of 1883, a number of men had staked claims and built shelters near their prospects. Difficulties occurred when Henry J. Armstrong, the Crow Indian Agent, sought to drive the miners out claiming they were on reservation land. Each side claimed to be in the right. The dispute concerned the western boundary of the reservation which according to the 1882 survey,placed the mineral land well outside the reserve. The situation was eventually resolved when the miners claimed that the mines were discovered and worked twenty years before the Reservation was ceded to the Indians. Supposedly false testimony was made before the Sherman commissioners at Fort Laramie in 1868 to the effect that no mines or miners were working in that section and it was included in the Crow Reservation. Hubble, and presumably Anderson, were forced to leave their claims and even their tools as the reservation order took effect.

Miners stayed out of the area until 1882 when the reservation was surveyed and it was found that the mines were actually off reservation property. Joseph Anderson and his partner Jack V. Nye were among the first to return to the district. Sulphide-rich copper-nickel deposits were discovered by Nye and the Hedges brothers in 1883. These deposits were on Mountain View, Benbow and Initial Creek areas. In 1884, Nye traveled to Minneapolis and revealed his findings. As a result the Stillwater Mining Company was formed and began mining in 1885. Nye's claims were sold to the Stillwater Company, who sold shortly thereafter to the Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Company. By 1886, three eastern corporations were developing properties. These included the Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Company, Stillwater Mining Company, and Nicollet and Hennepin Mining Company. In 1887, Anderson sold out his interests in the mines for $3,000 (Wolle 1963; Page 1985; GCM 1988).

Shortly after the consolidation of claims by the Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Company, Nye City boomed. Nye City had been located a short time prior by Jack Nye, H. A. Thompson, E. R. Nichols and E. S. Case. In 1887, the community was a modest camp containing four log cabins, a boarding house and a saloon. With the boom, the community expanded in a few short months to a city of 500. Construction of houses, stores and the Minneapolis Mining & Smelting Company smelter appeared to employ most of the work force. A wagon road was laid out to provide a route for freight wagons and a tri-weekly stage. At its peak, the camp contained 40 to 50 buildings, seven of which were saloons. In a freak New Year's Day storm, wind demolished six of these seven watering holes. They were quickly rebuilt with more substantial materials. The town also contained the Cavanough Hotel, five or six restaurants and a Chinese laundry. Official services included a post office and an assay office, both operated by Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Company employee J. E. Mushbach. No church or school were ever built, but then again few women made the camp their home. The town was laid out in a crescent from the river bank to the smelter. Lots were sold as placer claims and as a result annual assessment work was required (Wolle 1963).

Nick Tredennick, who later achieved some success in the Cooke City mines, was the "official boss" of the camp. His brother Steve was the company's timekeeper and bookkeeper. Under their leadership, the Minneapolis Mining Company developments were put in order and several good veins of gold ore were tapped. However, in 1888 the status of the camp's exclusion from the reservation was again reviewed. At the same time, assays of the gold ore showed the deposits to be far inferior to the presumed values. In July of 1888, Joseph Anderson visited the camp and found it to be "the most dead town I ever saw".

Some mining continued until 1889. However, in that year the Secretary of the Interior declared that Nye City and the surrounding mining property were within the Crow Reservation and ordered the evacuation of the place. Work stopped and the residents left, leaving tools and heavy equipment behind. The Minneapolis Mining Company was the hardest hit by the decision, for it had opened up the region and had spent $200,000 in developing it (Wolle 1963).

While some miners stayed for a few years, Nye City soon stood abandoned. Watchmen were hired to protect the developed properties, but they could do little to prevent the illegal pilfering and salvage of buildings, equipment and other portable properties. Not long after abandonment, the former mining camp was stripped clean.

With political pressure the reservation boundaries were moved east and mining renewed. In 1904, a small 6-ton trial shipment of ore came out of the district. The load consisted of smaller units from various claims in the area. The ore was sent to Omaha for processing, but the return was so poor that activity in the district ceased.

With the outbreak of World War I there was a demand for chromite by the steel industry and interest in the area was renewed. Several mines were opened within the Stillwater Complex, some of the owners being T. C. Benbow, William M. Mouat, A. E. Fry and W. D. Dillon. The Benbow (Stillwater district), Mouat Nickel (Nye district) and Gish (West Stillwater district) mines were the main producers at this time (GCM 1988).

Bill Mouat, a nephew of the president of the Minneapolis Mining and Smelting company became interested in the land around Nye prior to World War II. Mouat hired Otto W. Miller, a Columbus resident with mining experience, to redeem the claims. In the early development nearly 8,000 feet of tunneling was done.

Interest was renewed in 1937 when the Anaconda Company became interested in the Mouat claims and began mapping, sampling and drilling. William Mouat and Ed Sampson, a geologist associated with Princeton University, claimed much of the land. With the advent of World War II, several mines in the greater Stillwater area became active. After $15 million was invested in the Mouat, the operation was mothballed in 1943 when foreign chrome became available. During the Korean War, the Moaut and the Mountain View mines were reopened by the American Chrome Company. In 1959 the Nye ferrochrome plant owned by the American Chrome Company produced 2,100 tons of ferrochrome.Concentrates from the mines were stockpiled at Nye (GCM 1988).

The Nye district is north of the Beartooth Mountain front in an area of pre-Cambrian rocks upon which Paleozoic and Mesozoic seas were deposited. This area was then uplifted and exposed to erosive forces which exposed the basement rocks. The front of the mountains is characterized by one or more thrust faults. The Stillwater igneous complex is the name given to a great igneous sheet that is exposed between Boulder Valley 14 miles south of McLeod and Little Rocky Creek, six miles southwest of Dean. It comprises a high plateau between 9,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level. Chromite occurs in several bands in the igneous sheet. The bands are remarkable in their continuity and is known geologically as the Stillwater Chromite Complex. Greater band widths have been exposed in the Mouat and Benbow properties in the Stillwater district.


Although some chromite mines are located in this district, historic sources do not differentiate Nye from the Stillwater, West Stillwater, Boulder River or Iron Mountain districts primarily because the mineral of interest -- chromite -- is within a band known as the Stillwater Chromite Complex which crosse all of the above districts.

Figure 1 shows the Nye district as defined by the AMRB (1994), the area of the Stillwater Chromite Complex within the Nye district, and the Nye City placer mining area.


Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Co.

The Minneapolis Mining & Smelting Co. property is located at and near the mining camp of Nye City. The property was developed from 1887 to 1888. Improvements included a smelter, and extensive underground workings. Concurrent with the company's activities, Nye City boomed to a community of 500. Most of the population was either directly involved with Minneapolis Mining and Smelting Co. development or derived their income from supplying or preying on the workers. While initial indications for the gold veins were favorable, by 1888 it became clear that the ore was of low grade. When the area's status outside the Crow reservation came into question, all development work stopped and never resumed (Wolle 1963).

Mouat Nickel Mine

The Mouat Claim is located in section 21 and 22, T5S, R15E, on upper Verdigris Gulch. The area is known as the Nye Lip a prominence between Nye Creek and Flume Creek. Prior to World War I, Bill Mouat, the nephew of the president of the Minneapolis Mining & Smelting Co. became interested in the area. He hired local resident, Otto W. Miller to renew to the claims. Adits were excavated named the Mountain View, Pine, Bearcat, No. 8, No. 2 and A. The initial development produced approximately 8,000 feet of tunneling. By 1937 only about 2,700 feet of these workings were accessible. In the early 1920s the Anaconda Minerals Company became interested in the property and mapped and tested the mine. In 1932 and 1933, the mine was worked by A. L. Howland as part of his Ph.D. project at Princeton. Anaconda Minerals conducted further testing in 1937. Eleven drill holes explored 6,432 feet of underground. In 1940, the mine was owned by M. W. Mouat and Edward Sampson. It was developed by an adit several hundred feet long.

World War II brought $15 million in developments to the mine. Surface improvements included a 50 bed hospital, a 200 pupil school, a bowling alley, a mess hall built to serve 450, and a well-stocked general store. When foreign chrome became available in 1943, the effort to develop the camp was suddenly stopped and 300 men thrown out of work. (Peoples and Howland 1940; Annin 1983; Page 1985).

Nye Placers

The Nye placers were never intended to be worked as traditional placers. Instead, placers were sold as lots in Nye City. While this provided a convenient route to establish building lot ownership, annual assessment was required to maintain control of the claims. The interesting question of how assessment work could be done on a property covered by a building was never answered. The very next year the bottom fell out of the Nye mining boom and the town that had been built on the placer claims was abandoned. The following year, 1889, the issue was permanently resolved; the area was declared to be part of the Crow Indian Reservation and all placer claims reverted to the public domain. Scavengers quickly removed all traces of improvements on the claims.


The Roughneck (Roughnock?) mine reported production in 1930. The property was reportedly developed by over 10,000 feet of tunnels. In 1930 about 200 feet of drifting produced one carload of low-grade copper ore (Sahinen 1935; WPA 1941). BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aaberg, Stephen A.

1993 "Stillwater Bridge Project Area Archaeological Survey Results", Montana Department of Transportation Project # BR9048(11), Helena

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

Annin, Jim

1983 Eighty Years of Memories on the Banks of the Yellowstone. Self-published. GCM Services

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Lyden, Charles J.

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

Page, Norman J., et. al.

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Peoples, Joe Webb

1933 "Stillwater Igneous Complex, Montana", (abst.) Am. Mineralogist, Vol. 18, No. 3, p. 117.

Peoples, J. W. and A. L. Howland

1940 "Chromite Deposits of the Eastern Part of the Stillwater Complex, Stillwater County, Montana", U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin number 922-N.

Porsche, Audrey

1984 "Cultural Resource Inventory: Stillwater Mining Company 161-kV Transmission Line", prepared for the Montana Power Company.

Rossillon, Mitzi and Mary McCormick

1991 "Cultural Resource Inventory of the Stillwater River Road Project on Montana Forest Highway 83, Stillwater County", prepared for Western Federal Lands Highway Division, Vancouver, Washington.

Schafer, Paul Abbott

1937 "Chromite Deposits of Montana", Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Mem. 18.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte. Western Cultural Resource Management, Inc. 1980 "Cultural Resource Field Inventory - Anaconda Stillwater Complex Project", Prepared for Camp, Dresser and McKee. Report # ST 5 009680. Ms. on file with WCRM, Boulder.

Wimmler, N. L.

1948 "Investigations of Chromite Deposits of the Stillwater Complex, Stillwater and Sweetgrass Counties, Montana", U. S. Bureau of Mines Report of Investigations #4368.

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.