HISTORIC CONTEXT

The Vipond mining district is located on the northern end of the Pioneer Mountains where some of the most important silver strikes of the Pioneer range were made. Vipond Park is a high plateau (roughly ten square miles in size), elevation ca. 8000 ft, surrounded by high rugged mountains and ridges (Figure 1). Sheep Mountain at 9578 feet is the highest peak in the district. The Vipond district was named after the first claim, made in 1867 by the Vipond brothers (Winchell 1914:78) and is generally included as part of the Quartz Hill district.

The country rock in the northeastern part of the district is a bluish-grey Paleozoic limestone while much of the plateau is covered with glacial gravels, probably from outwash from Sheep Mountain (Winchell 1914: 78-79). The veins of ore, usually in shoots in a gangue of quartz and silicious limestone, commonly strike north and dip steeply west. The metals present are chiefly lead and silver, with a little copper and gold. The ore from the Queen of the Hills mine, just south of Sheep Mountain at 8,200 feet, is, unlike most of the mines in the district, valued primarily for its gold, though it also contains native silver, cerusite, chalcopyrite, pyrite, galena, and argentite.

The first mining claim in the area was filed by John Vipond who located the Mewonitoc lode in April of 1868. His brothers, Joseph and William, soon were also prospecting the area. In 1869 William located the Gray Jockey mine. Further prospecting was done in 1870 and 1871. Development of producing mines was slow, in part, due to the lack of transportation. At this same time, the town of Dewey developed adjacent to the Big Hole River at the junction of the gulch leading to the Vipond and Quartz Hill mines. In order to get their ore to the smelters, in 1872 the miners built a road from the mines to Dewey, and then along the Big Hole River to Divide. Three pan-amalagamation mills were constructed in Dewey, in part to treat the Vipond Park ore.

Although most of the area's production came from the Lone Pine mine in the Quartz Hill district, the Gray Jockey mine and mill in Vipond Park yielded 22,789 ounces of silver from 2,161 tons of ore. Another productive mine, the Faithful, produced 268 tons of ore netting 1,569 ounces of silver (Sassman 1941; Geach 1972).

The Queen of the Hills mine was purchased for $75,000 by Charles W. Clark and E. L. Whitmore of Butte in 1900. The partners hired about 50 men to develop the property as a gold mine and construct a 10-stamp mill. In 1902 the mine and mill was acquired by the Tombstone Mining Company but there is no record that the mine ever produced any significant amounts of paying ore. Other than sporadic small-scale work by lessees, little further mining activity occurred in the district for the next two decades (Sassman 1941; Geach 1972; Winchell 1914).

The 1920s and 1930s saw renewed production from the Faithful, Gray Jockey and a few smaller operations but production declined after 1937 (Sassman 1941). Production figures for the district in the 1880s and 1890s are not known but total recorded production from 1902 to 1965 for the Vipond Park and Quartz Hill area was 57,261 tons of ore which yielded 1,118 ounces of gold, 1,024,485 ounces of silver, 198,991 pounds of copper, 72,032 pounds of lead and 500 pounds of zinc (Geach 1972).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

The mines on Quartz Hill are considered by most authors to be within the Vipond mining district, e.g., Winchell 1914, Wolle 1963, and Geach 1972, probably because the principal access to the district is from the county road which heads south from Dewey, crosses over Quartz Hill and into Vipond Park. The present district boundaries shown in Figure 1 enclose the area of mining activity which includes mines on upper Adson Creek, Sheep Mountain and Sheep Creek and primarily in Vipond Park north of Cannivan Gulch and south of Quartz Hill.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED SITES

The following are three of the main mines in the Vipond Park area. All are silver mines.

Gray Jockey

The property was originally patented (Pat. #2152 - Mineral Survey #390) on November 18, 1875 to Joseph A. Browne for the Gray Jockey lode and a mill site. Total improvements at that time consisted of a discovery shaft, another shaft and other workings worth $840.

The Gray Jockey was one of the few mines in the Vipond Park district which produced significant amounts of ore during the 1930s. Although most of the production came from the West Lone Pine and Argyle mines, the Gray Jockey, Faithful and others contributed to the total of $195,690 that the district produced in 1936 and 1937. However, by 1939 this total had dwindled to only $8,871 (Sassman 1941).

The Gray Jockey recorded production in 1917-1919, 1936-1937, 1951, 1961-1962 and 1965. A total of 2,161 tons of ore were mined during this period which yielded 22,789 ounces of silver, 18,094 pounds of copper, 1,634 pounds of lead and 18 ounces of gold (Geach 1972).

Mewonitoc

The Mewonitoc was the first lode discovered in the Vipond district, being claimed by John Vipond on April 1, 1868. The lode was described in 1871 as a network or system of lodes or pockets. Four shafts exposed an ore vein from one to four feet wide assaying at $410 per ton ($200 in silver and 40 percent lead). Sixty-five tons of the ore were treated at the Bohm smelter in Argenta. In 1874 ore was sold to Armstrong and Company who processed it at their Glendale smelter with a return of $150 per ton. The claim was sold to Joseph A. Brown in 1875 and then patented (Pat. #2155 - Mineral Survey #389) by Browne on November 19, 1875. By that time the mine had been improved with a discovery shaft, a shaft developed to 160 feet, cabin, shaft house and windless. In 1882, Browne was reported to be still shipping ore to Glendale with a return of 140 ounces of silver per ton. The mine's last recorded production occurred in 1891, when 46 tons were shipped to Glendale, netting $6,832 (Mineral Record 1871; 1875; 1882; GLO Records; Swallow, J.B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver 1891).

Faithful

The Faithful group was profitably worked for silver and gold during the 1870s but then was abandoned. The property was not patented until November 12, 1892 (Pat. #23394 - Mineral Survey #4081), when Joseph A. Browne acquired titled to the claim. At that point, the mine was extensively developed with a discovery shaft, seven other shafts, tunnels and cross cuts, a cabin and coal house (BLM Mineral Survey Records).

The property was re-opened a few years later through a vertical two-compartment shaft sunk about 100 feet in the footwall of the vein. The mine produced small amounts of ore in 1937, 1941-1943, and 1959. The total amount mined was 268 tons which produced 1,569 ounces of silver, 507 pounds of copper and 2,800 pounds of lead.

The Faithful mine was one of the mines in the Vipond district which produced significant amounts of ore during the 1930s. Although most of the production came from the West Lone Pine and Argyle mines, the Faithful, Gray Jockey, Monte Cristo, Silver Queen and others contributed to the total of $195,690 that the district produced in 1936 and 1937. However, by 1939 this total had dwindled to only $8,871 (Sassman 1941).

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