The Ajax Creek mines are on a tributary of Lake Creek 15 miles west of Jackson and 22 miles southeast of Wisdom in the Bitterroot Range (or Beaverhead Range on some maps). The district essentially consists of a single mining operation -- the Ajax. The Ajax is located in a glacial amphitheater occupied by Ajax and Lena Lakes on the east slopes of the Continental Divide at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. The western border of the district is on the Continental Divide which forms the Montana-Idaho border (Geach 1972; Winchell 1914; Sahinen 1935).
The slates and quartzites of the district are metamorphosed sediments of the Belt series of Algonkian age. Free milling gold and galena ores occur in strong quartz fissure veins that cut through the slates. Some copper stained quartz was observed in the dumps (Sahinen 1935; Geach 1973).
The Ajax mine was discovered by W. S. Burnett in 1874 and originally named the Carrie Leonard. In the 1880s the claim was relocated by Frank Brown who gave it the name Ajax. Later the mine was owned by Alva J. Noyes, the first settler in the Big Hole Valley. Noyes described the trials and tribulations of owning the mine in his book Ajax. A small stamp mill was erected on the property in the 1890s, and in 1903, under the Montana-Ajax Company, the company tore down the old mill and erected a 10-stamp mill. The property had a sawmill and a boarding house for the workers on site (Sassman 1941). However, while the mill produced several more bricks of bullion, the operation lost money and Noyes had to sell his ranch to pay the dept.
The mine resumed activity around 1915 and was again active prior to 1935. No figures of production were reported for the later periods. The mine, and therefore the district, produced 1,643 tons of ore between 1902 and 1940, yielding 979 ounces of gold, 7,621 ounces of silver, 276 pounds of copper, and 140,239 pounds of lead (Geach 1972; Sahinen 1935). One other mine is mentioned in the literature, the Jackson. It was developed in 1957 and produced 10 tons of ore (Geach 1972).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
The Montana Mine Index lists Ajax as a sub-district of the Wisdom District. Sahinen (1935) notes the Ajax district as being in the Beaverhead Range 14 miles southwest of Wisdom. Geach (1972) essentially defines the Ajax district as the Ajax mining property in the upper Swamp Creek drainage. The claim map of the Ajax mine shows the Idaho - Montana border forming the Hattie & Erma claim's western border. Figure 1 shows the Ajax district as described by Geach (1972).
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Ajax mine is located on the headwaters of Swamp Creek and consists of the Ajax, Ajax Extension, Hattie & Erma, and Edna & Edith. The mine worked a strong vein of quartz that carried values of argentiferous galena. The mine was originally named the Carrie Leonard when claimed in 1874. After the claim lapsed, Frank Brown relocated the mine and named it the Ajax. The mine then came into the hands of Alva J. Noyes, the first Big Hole Valley resident. Noyes tried to develop the property with a small stamp mill, but the mill proved ineffective at retaining the gold values of the ore. In 1903 the Montana-Ajax Company was organized to exploit the mine with Noyes as secretary of the company. The company tore down the old mill and with $1 million in capitalization built a larger 10-stamp mill with two concentration tables. Although several bricks of gold bullion were cast, the operation was not profitable. By 1905 the mine had closed. The mine was again briefly active around 1915 (WPA 1941; Geach 1972; Sahinen 1935; Winchell 1914).
The mine was developed through four adits. The three upper adits were driven on a quartz filled fissure vein. The fourth adit was driven to crosscut the vein at depth. The highest adit, No. 1, was driven 131 feet on the vein. From the adit two incline raises were excavated to the surface. The No. 2 adit, about 160 feet below No. 1, was driven 222 feet. A raise on the adit connects to No. 1. The No. 3 adit is 160 feet below No. 2 and was driven about 250 feet from the portal. From it two winzes were sunk to a depth of 12 feet. The fourth or lower adit was later covered by a rock slide and only the waste dump remained visible.
In 1904 records show that the ore averaged $7.19 per ton primarily in gold. However, the ore remaining to be mined assayed at only $4.27 per ton.
The Jackson mine is located in unsurveyed section 27, T 6S, R17W on the south flank of Freeman Peak. Although a road had been built to the property, it was impassible in 1972. The mine developed a 150 foot adit on a narrow quartz vein and produced only 10 tons of ore in 1957 (Geach 1972).
Byrne, John and Frank Hunter
1898 Ninth Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana. State Publishing Company, Helena.
Byrne, John and Frank Hunter
1901 Twelfth 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."
Geach, R. D.
1972 "Mines and Mineral Deposits (except fuels) Beaverhead County, Montana", Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 85.
Hill, James M. and Waldemar Lindgren
1912 "The Mining Districts of the Western United States", U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 507, pp. 181-198, U.S. Government Print. Off., Washington, D. C.
Noyes, Alva Josiah
1966 The Story of Ajax; Life in the Big Hole Basin, Buffalo-Head Press. Sahinen, Uuno M. 1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.
1941 "Metal Mining in Historic Beaverhead County (1862-1940)", Thesis Montana State University.
Winchell, Alexander Newton
1914 "Mining Districts of the Dillon Quadrangle, Montana and Adjacent Areas", U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 574.
Work 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.