aka Lost Cloud


The Polaris district is eight miles south of Elkhorn/Coolidge and 15 miles due west of the Indian Queen mine in the Birch Creek mining district at the southern end of the Pioneer Mountain Range. The Polaris district is also known as the Lost Cloud District after the Lost Cloud Mine (Winchell 1914; Wolle 1963).

The area was first placer mined beginning in 1869, but activity quickly switched to lode mining. In the period between 1876 and 1885, the district was a moderate producer of silver ore; the mines being the Silver Fissure and Dakota. Due to falling silver prices after the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893, silver mining in Polaris as well as the rest of Montana was radically curtailed.

In 1906 construction was begun at the Polaris Group on a 100 ton smelter featuring four blast furnaces. Machinery for the smelter had to be hauled by teams from Red Rock, 45 miles away. The plant was completed in 1907, but it was idled within a year of the first production (Sahinen 1935; Walsh and Orem 1906, 1912).

The district is in upper Paleozoic quartzites and limestones. Mineral values occur in association with quartz monzonite intrusions from the Mt. Torrey batholith. Ores are chiefly valued for their silver content but carry minor amounts of other metals (Sahinen 1935).

The Polaris mine was originally developed through a 570 foot shaft with levels at the 75 foot, 130 foot, 200 foot, 230 foot, 260 foot, 320 foot 450 foot and the main tunnel at 570 feet. In addition a winze on Tunnel No. 3 connects with the 75 foot level. A winze and stope on the Tunnel No. 1 connects to the Chase Tunnel. The Chase Tunnel has a cross cut and is connected to the 130 foot level by two raises. The Montreal Stope runs from the 130 foot level to the 230 foot level. A winze on the 320 foot level connects to levels at 450 foot, 517 foot and the Main tunnel at 570 feet. Some work was also conducted out of the shallow Corbett shaft adjacent to the old shaft (Walsh and Orem 1906, 1912; Geach 1972).

After the closure of the 100 ton smelter, the Polaris district has produced 4,884 tons of ore up to 1965, but only 1,769 tons in the historic period (pre-1945). This ore has yielded 312 ounces of gold (216 ounces from the historic period), 120,023 (59,121) ounces of silver, 20,937 (11,362) pounds of copper, 11,140 (5,035) pounds of lead and 12,100 (0) pounds of zinc. The aggregate value for the metals is listed at $138,899 (Geach 1972).


Winchell (1914) states that the district is in T5S R12W. The Montana Mine Index lists the Pioneer District as a sub-district of the Polaris district. Sahinen (1935) places the district at the upper end of Grasshopper Creek basin. Geach (1972) states that the district is essentially a one mine district (the Polaris) and that it can be defined as the drainage of Billings Creek on the west slope of Baldy Mountain. Figure 1 shows the Polaris district as defined by Winchell (1914) and as defined by Geach (1972).



The Dakota mine has a 1000 foot tunnel. It was apparently worked as a Polaris property in conjunction with the Silver Fissure mine (Winchell 1912; Wolle 1963).

Lost Cloud

The Lost Cloud mine was one of the early mines in the district, from which the district received its first name. The mine was originally developed by Chochrand & Company but was in the hands of lessees by 1891 (Wolle 1963).


The Polaris Mine, from which the district currently draws its name, is on the south side of Billings Creek in section 28, T5S, R12W. The mine is about three miles by road from the Polaris Post Office.

Although it was formally located on January 31, 1885 by John Chase, John S. Meade, William Bevon, Charles Case, Henry Meade and W. M. Servis, it had been worked by the locators since 1863. This initial development consisted of a series of shallow shafts and short adits. By 1886, the mine was in the hands of B. F. White, Phil Shenon, L. C. Fyhrie, and J. S. Meade. They had 20 men working out of a 200 foot shaft that was equipped with a steam hoist and a Knowles pump. Ore tested at 75-100 ounces silver per ton and was shipped to Dillon by wagon (Geach 1972; Wolle 1963).

In 1891 the Polaris Mining and Milling Company, a New York syndicate, purchased the mine and drove the lower Polaris adit 600 feet below the vein outcrop. Ultimately, this adit was extended from 1,800 feet in 1894 to 2,300 feet with several hundred feet of drifts on the adit level and an inclined raise to connect with the upper workings. Eight men worked underground and two topside. The company is said to have recovered a quarter million dollars worth of ore for their efforts. Later, financial problems created litigation that idled the mine. A $50,000 cyanide treatment plant was hastily erected to treat the mine's dumps. However, most of the values were in silver, ill-suited to the process and lost money every day it was in operation. The company found itself out the cost of the treatment plant with literally nothing to show for it (Shoemaker 1894; Geach 1972; Wolle 1963).

In 1900, J. E. Morse obtained the property in a sheriff's sale. Morse leased the mine to J. J. Cusick, et al for $25,000 and the property returned to production. Under the direction of W. B. Butler, eight to 12 men were employed in the mine and several six-horse teams were used to haul the ore to Dillon. By 1904 Butler and a miner named Van Zant were the only ones working the property (Sassman 1941).

In 1905 the property was sold to the Silver Fissure Mining Company which was organized in 1905 by Harry H. Armstead. The company employed 20 miners and 30 topmen to put a quarter million dollars worth of developments into their property. Improvements include a boarding house, bunkhouses, cabins, shed and a four blast furnace smelter rated at 100 tons. A new siding on the Oregon Short Line, named Armstead, was linked to the mine by forty miles of heavy duty road. On this route steam traction engines pulled special iron-wheeled cars filled with ore on its way to the railroad and equipment heading up to the mines. Five adits were employed to extract the ore: No. 1 (150 feet), No. 2 (200 feet), No. 3 (250 feet), No 4 (330 feet) and No. 5 (2600 feet). Workings were extended an additional 300 feet in 1906 to block out a large amount of ore with values ranging from 60 to 1000 ounces of silver per ton awaited the completion of the mill. Despite these much heralded improvements, lack of ore closed the smelter after only one year of operation (Geach 1972; Walsh and Orem 1906, 1912).

In 1918 a 50-ton mill was erected that employed cloridizing roasting and hyposulfite leaching. Only small shipments were made from the mill in 1919 and 1922. The smelter was destroyed by fire in October of 1922. The bunkhouse was later relocated downstream and now serves as the Polaris Store / Post Office (Geach 1972; Wolle 1963).

The Polaris mine is listed intermittently in the Mineral Record and Mineral Year Indices from 1905 to 1935. The mine appears in the mining literature from 1904 through 1907 and 1910, 1914, 1915 and 1918 (WPA 1941).

Silver Fissure

The Silver Fissure mine had a half mile tunnel with 5,000 feet of underground workings. The mine produced $60,000 in 1886. The mine was operated as part of the Polaris operation. The mine is listed in the

Montana Mine Index

in 1907, 1908, and 1917 with a listing in the mining literature in 1906 (Winchell 1912).

Silver Key

The Silver Key mine is located adjacent to the Lost Cloud Mine (Wolle 1963).


Billingsley, Paul and J. A. Grimes

1917 "Ore Deposits of the Boulder Batholith of Montana",

American Institute of Mining and Engineering Bulletin #124

. pp. 641-717.

Corry, Andrew

1933 "Some Gold Deposits in Broadwater, Beaverhead, Phillips, and Fergus Counties, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology

, Memoir 10.

Geach, R. D.

1972 "Mines and Mineral Deposits (except fuels) Beaverhead County, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 85


Hall, J. H. and M. L. Rickman


Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, Thirteenth Report, for years 1911 and 1912


Hill, James M. with introduction by 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.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Sassman, Oren

1941 "Metal Mining in Historic Beaverhead County (1862-1940)", Thesis Montana State University.

Shoemaker, C. S. and John Miles


Sixth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana

, Intermountain Publishing Company, Butte.

Smith, Lewis A.

1932 "Chromite",

Minerals Yearbook, 1932

, U. S. Bureau of Mines. p. 300.

Swallow, G. C., J. B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver


Reports of Inspectors of Mines, State of Montana, year ending November 30th, 1890

. Journal Publishing Company, Helena.

Walsh, William and William Orem


Biennial Rept of Inspector of Mines for 1905-1906

. Independent Publishing Co., Helena.

1912 Biennial Report of Inspector of Mines for 1911-1912. Independent Publishing Co., Helena.

Winchell, Alexander Newton

1911 "A Theory for the Origin of Graphite as Exemplified in the Graphite Deposit near Dillon, Montana",

Economic Geology

, Vol. 6, pp 218-230.

1914 "Mining Districts of the Dillon Quadrangle, Montana and Adjacent Areas", U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 574.

Wolle, Muriel


Montana Pay Dirt.

Sage Books, Athens, Ohio

Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey


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.