In June of 1878, a gold rush occurred in the Bear Paw (or Bears Paw) Mountains, an outlier range in northcentral Montana and at that time within the Blackfoot Reserve. Gold had been found in the 1860's in prospects, but there was not enough was to warrant further developments. However, on June 14, 1878, the Benton Record described a secret discovery that had just been revealed and nearly every able-bodied man in Fort Benton was making ready to head for the new placers (Wolle 1963; Benton Record 1878).
Bear Paw Mountain streams were at first worked with pan and sluice. Some coarse gold was recovered, but the return on the effort was poor. Because the miners were essentially trespassing on Indian lands, the men worked with the constant danger from Indian attack. One prospector, "Old Man Lloyd", discovered a vein of argentiferous galena that ran 56 to 69 percent lead and many ounces of silver per ton. He dug a 60 foot shaft and found the deposit grew wider and richer with depth. He named the mine the Black Diamond, went to Fort Benton to record the claim and returned to find Indians in possession of his mine. After a violent encounter, he returned to Fort Benton and sold the mine (Wolle 1963; River Press 1888).
For most of the 1880's, the placers were illegally operating on reservation land, and no production was officially recorded. Indeed, Lyden (1948) reported no historic placers in the Bearpaw mining district. In 1888, part of the reservation was opened to the miners and a second rush to the district occurred. Ditches were dug and hydraulic mining began. Ordinary sluice boxes were said to recover from $2 to $3 per man and the better claims returned $4 to $6 per day.
The placer gold came from numerous veins in Cretaceous sediments and Tertiary volcanic rock. These veins were both small and narrow (Sahinen 1935).
The principle mineral prospects were located in the peripheries of old volcanic necks and stocks within the zone of altered sediments. These metamorphosed shales, with the intruded dikes and sheets, formed some of the principal ridges and divides of the district. The mineralization occurred along shear zones, breccia zones, joints, and small fractures that were in part due to the intrusion of the igneous masses. The ore materials consisted almost entirely of sulphides, which were probably precipitated from hot ascending waters. The veins were usually associated with dikes or sills which cut the sediments and both intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks.
The most valuable ore deposits discovered contained argentiferous galena carrying some gold, the associated vein minerals were quartz, calcite, zinc blende, pyrite, chalcopyrite, barite, pyrrhotite, and arsenopyrite. The mineralized veins ranged from mere seams to veins more than 20 feet in thickness, but the average width of all veins examined was less than a foot. Some of the veins could be traced for several hundred feet along the surface, but in other localities there had been considerable amount of faulting along planes at various angles to one another and this obscured the continuity of the veins (Pepperberg 1910).
With the solution of the Indian problem, the Black Diamond again became a source of interest. In 1888, Lewis V. Bogy and Charles Smith, a fellow Chinook businessman, relocated the Black Diamond claim. The mine which was situated three miles from the Lloyd post office was renamed the Bear's Paw mine. Worked intermittently for four years, the claim shipped seven tons of ore to Great Falls for treatment. After 1892, when the property was patented, no further work was done (Pepperberg 1910; River Press 1888; 1890; Wolle 1963).
In 1906 a copper vein was claimed by Stephen Randall about three-quarters of a mile southeast of the Clear Creek post office. This property was developed by the newly formed Copper Gulch Mining Company of Chinook. When a shaft on the property showed values in lead, silver, gold and copper, a small mineral rush occurred on the tributaries of Clear Creek and especially around White Pine Canyon (Pepperberg 1910).
In 1931 an adit being driven to develop a deposit of vermiculite discovered a 30-foot vein carrying $3.20 per ton in gold. This caused some additional interest in the district, but despite the enthusiasm generated by the three rushes to the district and the 1931 discovery, no lode mine of the district could ever be classified as a producer of ore (Lyden 1948; Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) places the Bearpaw district in the Bearpaw Mountains about 28 miles south of Havre. Wolle (1963) locates the district thirty-five miles south of the towns of Harlem and Chinook. Additionally, quotes from the River Press of 1888 and 1890 puts the mineral activity three miles from the Lloyd post office, the silver quartz mines on Silver Peak and the placer mines near the head of Snake Creek. Although the AMRB (1994) maps show the Bearpaw district as covering a very large area which includes the Bearpaw Mountains and an area to the south, it does not include the primary mines of the district which are north of the district boundary. Figure 1 shows the Bearpaw mining district as defined by AMRB (1994) with an extension to the northeast to include the Bear's Paw/Black Diamond and the Clear Creek properties.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Black Diamond prospect was originally located by "Old Man Lloyd" in the early 1880s. The mine was on a vein of argentiferous galena that ran 56 to 69 percent lead and many ounces of silver per ton. Lloyd dug a 60 foot shaft and found the deposit grew wider and richer with depth. He named the mine the Black Diamond and in due course left an assistant at the mine and traveled to Fort Benton to record the claim. When he returned he found his assistant had been run off and Indians in possession of the mine. Extracting himself with difficulty, he returned to Fort Benton and sold the mine.
One source indicated that the mine was later relocated and renamed the Bear's Paw. A separate Black Diamond claim is located on a spur between the main and middle forks of the White Pine Canyon near the Silver King. This claim was developed by a 14-foot shaft and has no record of production (Pepperberg 1910; Wolle 1963).
The Bear's Paw mine was located in NE section 19, T29, R19E, about three miles southeast of the Lloyd post office. It is on the summit of a high butte which forms a divide between Snake and People's Creeks. It may have been originally claimed in the early 1880's by "Old Man Lloyd", but its location on Indian lands prevented it from being worked. In 1888 , after the opening of the reservation lands to mining, the mine was relocated by Chinook businessmen Lewis V. Bogy and Charles Smith. They renamed the property the Bear's Paw (Wolle 1963; Pepperberg 1910).
The mine was then worked intermittently for four years. A 7-ton test load of hand sorted ore was shipped by wagon to Chinook and from there to Great Falls. At the smelter the ore returned 50 ounces per ton silver with 50 to 60 percent lead and some gold values. The mine worked a vein four to five feet wide with several pay streaks two to six inches wide. The mine was originally developed with a semi-vertical shaft that followed the changing direction of the ore for the first 70 feet. The shaft was then sunk straight down to 170 feet and the first 70 feet straightened. Several small drifts were run from the shaft onto the vein. The shaft house was a local landmark and could be seen for several miles (Pepperberg 1910).
The mine was on a butte of metamorphosed shales with sills of igneous rock and numerous dikes. The main vein material consisted of quartz and calcite that was banded and impregnated with small crystals of galena, pyrite, iron ore and scattered crystals of chalcopyrite. Some of the richer argentiferous galena pockets contained masses of mineral three or four inches in size. The shaft of the mine was sunk on a mass of shonkinite.
The mine was patented in 1892, after which all work on the property ceased. When the property was visited in August of 1909, the shaft house had blown down and the shaft itself was unusable (Pepperberg 1910).
The Copper Gulch group of claims was on the west slope of Greenough Butte near the head of Copper Gulch. The property consists of eight claims with the main shaft on the Dividend Claim. The mine was discovered in 1906 by Stephen Randall who found an interesting rock while looking for some cattle. When the rock was assayed, it proved to be copper bearing. Businessmen from Chinook prospected the property and formed the Copper Gulch Mining Company to develop it. Starting in 1907 men were employed, building a road to the Clear Creek county road. A mine was begun that consisted of a two compartment shaft 108 feet deep, at the bottom of which a 27-foot drift tapped the vein to the north. Numerous ore samples returned from $0.40 to $9 in gold and as high as 41 ounces of silver per ton, up to 10 percent copper and 6 to 50 percent lead.
Although the mine sparked a small mineral rush to the area, there is no record of production. The mineralization occurred on the metamorphosed rim of a stock. Ore was found along fracture and shear zones in a dike of syenite porphyry. The ore-bearing portion of the vein was four to five feet wide and consists of stringers of argentiferous galena from .5 to 6 inches thick (Pepperberg 1910).
Other mines mentioned by Pepperberg (1910) which did not achieve production include the Edison, Rex, Edith M., and Silver King.
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)
1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compied and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena
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Pepperberg, Leon J.
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The River Press
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Sahinen, Uuno M.
1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.
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, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940. Montana School of Mines, Butte.