The Gold Butte mining district is located in Liberty County in the Sweet Grass Hills. The Sweet Grass Hills are made up of three buttes that rise dramatically up from the prairie on their south aspect, with rolling hills extending on the north almost to the Canadian border. The Blackfeet have long considered the Sweet Grass Hills as sacred land. The major river in the area is the Marias, which drains the Sweet Grass Hills to the south. The center of the mining district was East Butte (6,985 feet in elevation) where the Brown-eyed Queen mine was located. Most of the mining activity in the area occurred to the west on Middle Butte, near the town of Gold Butte.

Each of the three buttes comprising the Sweet Grass Hills is an isolated mountain range composed of a complex of igneous intrusions and the older sedimentary rocks that surround them. The igneous rocks are mostly syenites composed mainly of feldspar and are rich in sodium and potassium. The smaller hills known as Grassy and Haystack buttes are single igneous intrusions. Magnetite-rich iron-ore deposits were formed by contact metamorphism of Mississippian limestone next to intrusions of syenite (Alt and Hyndman 1986).

In 1884 a prospector made a gold strike in the Sweet Grass Hills, and by 1886 400-500 miners had come into the area. Lodes of silver, copper, iron and "fine marble" were reportedly found on East Butte by 1888 and in 1889 a miner named Phil White discovered a promising galena lead in the East Butte area. The short-lived mining boom, however, was concentrated to the west of the Gold Butte mining district ("Map": 1888; The Sweet Grass Hills: 1889; Davis 1963; Shelby History Group 1964).


During the historic period, the "Gold Butte district" referred to the mining district in the vicinity of the town of Gold Butte in Toole County. In 1932, Dingman described the Gold Butte district as 23 miles east of Sunburst (a station on Great Northern Railroad). Sahinen called it the "Gold Butte (West Butte)" district:

The Gold Butte district is in the Sweetgrass Hills, an isolated group of mountains in northcentral Montana, about 25 miles east of Sunburst, a station on the Great Northern Railroad (Sahinen 1935).

Figure 1 shows the large area defined by the AMRB (1994) as the Gold Butte district. A smaller area shows the primary mining area. The district as described by Sahinen (1935) would include this small area as well as a westward extension into Toole County to include Gold Butte.


Brown-eyed Queen

The Brown-eyed Queen produced rich copper ore for several years (dates unknown). After the mine shut down, a resident of the area recovered $500-700 worth of copper from waste ore at the mine (Davis 1963).


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

Alt, David, and Donald W. Hyndman

1986 Roadside Geology of Montana. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company.

Calderhead, J. H.

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

Davis, Jean

1963 Shallow Diggin's. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Press, 1962.

1888 "Map from Reconnaissance Oct. 26-31, 1888, made by Order of Col. E. S. Otis." Available at Montana Historical Society, Helena.

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias

1935 Mining Districts of Montana. M. S. thesis, Montana School of Mines.

Shelby History Group, MIA

1964 Shelby Backgrounds.

1889 "The Sweet Grass Hills." Helena Daily World. March 7, 1889, p. 8.

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.