aka Montana

HISTORIC CONTEXT

The Neihart mining district is located in the center of the Little Belt Mountains. The mining area is mostly within an area encompassing the Carpenter Creek drainage. Carpenter Creek is a tributary of Belt Creek. The town of Neihart, located on Belt Creek in Neihart Canyon, is the major community in the area. The district was known originally as the Montana district and was a major silver producer in the state and the primary producer in Cascade county, producing about 16 million dollars in silver between 1882 and 1929 (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; GCM 1991).

Prospectors from the Barker/Hughesville mining district are credited with making the first discoveries in the Neihart district in 1881, after the excitement from the initial discoveries in the Barker district came to an end. The first claim in the Neihart district was made in July 1881 at the Queen of the Hills mine. This mine was a rich, early producer of silver ore. Activity continued in the Neihart mining district in 1883-1884 with the development of additional mines, such as the Galt, the Mountain Chief, and the Ball (Sahinen 1935; Schafer 1935; GCM 1991).

Shortly after discovery in the district, the town of Neihart was founded. It was named after J. L. Neihart, an early inhabitant of the area and one of the prospectors credited with the discovery of ore in the district. By 1882 a small settlement had sprung up at Neihart, a wagon road had been cut through to White Sulfur Springs and ore was being packed out on horseback to the Barker/Hughesville smelter. The district was originally called the Montana mining district and, until Cascade County was organized in 1887, was in Meagher County (Robertson 1951; Schafer 1935; Weed 1900).

Concern over accessibility to processing facilities became a factor with the closing of the Clendenin smelter in the Barker/Hughesville mining district in 1883. After this time, ore from the Neihart district was shipped by pack train or ox-drawn wagons to Fort Benton where it was carried by steamboats on the Missouri River for transshipment to Swansea, Wales for treatment. Ore from the district was also sometimes transported to smelters in Omaha, Nebraska (Schafer 1935).

In 1885 a concentrator and smelter were built at the Mountain Chief mine on the north side of Neihart Baldy, a peak south of Carpenter Creek. These operated until the rich surface ores at the mine were depleted in 1887. At the same time, Colonel Broadwater attempted to develop the Broadwater mine. This was abandoned shortly due to lack of ores rich enough to support further activity. In spite of these setbacks, and a general decline in activity during the latter part of the 1880's, the district was recognized as one of the richest in the state.

The remote location of the mining district was a contributing factor which affected early development. Distance of the district from the processing facilities and the lack of good transportation were some of the primary concerns. The transportation difficulties were somewhat alleviated with the construction of the Belt Mountain branch of the Great Northern Railroad which connected Neihart with Great Falls in 1891. The smelter at Great Falls had been completed in 1888, providing a more accessible location for the processing of the district's ore (Schafer 1935).

Development in the Neihart district, which had slowed during the mid to late 1880's, began to increase again after the construction of the smelter and the railroad line. The hopes for continued growth and development in the district changed with the Panic of 1893, when the national demonetization of silver and the end of the United States government's mandatory silver purchases began to drive the silver prices down. Silver went from a high of $1.05 an ounce in 1893 down to $.53 an ounce by 1902. By the end of 1893, development in the silver-producing districts, including the Neihart mining district, had slowed to almost nothing. Although there was little activity after 1893, the richness of the district is indicated in its total production up to 1900, which included 4,008,000 ounces of silver, $800,000 of gold and 10,000,000 pounds of lead (Malone and Roeder 1976; Schafer 1935; Weed 1900).

After the turn of the century, although activity in the district continued to be slow, several large mines were successfully developed. These included the Big Seven, which had the advantage of both high gold and high silver values in its ore, the Florence, Galt, Broadwater, Ripple, Silver Belt, Hartley, Benton, Queen of the Hills and the Moulton. Three mills operated sporadically in the district during this period: the I.X.L. - Eureka, the Broadwater and the Morning Star. The I.X.L. - Eureka was a ten-stamp cyanidization plant, while the Broadwater was a concentrator. The Morning Star included a crusher, one set of rolls and jigs. These mills served the area, although some ore was still shipped from the district to distant smelters (Schafer 1935).

The area had another small boom from 1916-1919 as silver prices rose. Many mines in the area re-opened, including the Moulton and the Broadwater, which were combined and operated under the name of Cascade Silver Mines and Mills Company. The concentrating plant for this operation, which was located at Neihart, was remodeled and improved to handle 150 tons of ore a day. The ore was sorted at this plant, with some of it milled on the site and the remainder shipped to mills in other locations. Other mines operating in the district during this period included the Benton, Galt, Blackbird, Silver Belt, Ripple, Alice, Hartley, Big Seven, Cornucopia, Fairplay, Florence, London and Tom Hendricks. Many of these mines shipped their ore directly to smelters outside the district (Schafer 1935; Weed 1900).

In addition to the mill operated for the Moulton and Broadwater mines, several flotation plants were built during this period at or near the town of Neihart. These were operated during the time of higher silver prices and were closed when prices dropped again in 1919. During this period, the miners had to contend not only with dropping silver prices, but with declining silver values and increasing zinc values in the ore as they worked deeper into the mines (Schafer 1935).

In 1921, the Silver Dyke mine was purchased by the American Zinc, Lead and Smelting Company. One million tons of ore were blocked out and a 500-ton flotation mill was constructed on the site. This mine operated at capacity throughout the decade. In 1926, the capacity of the mill at the Silver Dyke was increased to 950 tons. Because of the type of deposits at the mine, work was by open pit methods, resulting in the digging of a glory hole on the site. The Silver Dyke operated until 1929, when the blocked-out ore was depleted and no new deposits could be found. During the time of its operation, the Silver Dyke was the largest producer of ore in the Neihart mining district and its silver production was second only to Silver Bow County in Montana (Schafer 1935).

Development since 1930 in the district has followed the pattern set earlier with increases in silver prices accompanying increases in activity and decreases in prices leading to a slow down in activity and development. Mines which have been producers of higher grade ore, and which have been operated more steadily during times of higher prices, include the Big Seven, Florence, Moulton, Galt, Ripple, Queen of the Hills, Rock Creek, Silver Belt. I.X.L., Broadwater, Benton, Dakota, Commonwealth and the Fitzpatrick.

Increased silver prices, lasting from the late 1930' to 1945, brought about the last major revival of activity in the area. By 1949 development had again slowed and many mines had been permanently closed. Most of the mines in the district have not been reopened or have been operated on only an intermittent basis since 1949.

The town of Neihart, located in the center of the district, has been the principal township for the district since its foundation in 1881. It was originally called Canyon City, but by April 1882, the boundaries of the town were agreed upon, as was the name. By 1885, the town boasted two saloons, two restaurants, one boarding house, a post office, a blacksmith's shop, two stables, and about 50 houses and numerous tents. Occupation of the town rose and fell with the growth and closure of the various mines. In 1891, a spur of the Montana Central railroad breathed new life into the flagging town. The 1893 Panic slowed production down on most of the district's mines, but the town survived, in part due to the consistent mining of the Broadwater and the Chamberlain mines with revivals occurring during World War I, 1919, 1929 and 1935 (Wolle 1963; Robertson 1951).

The Little Belt Mountains are considered to be a front or bordering range to the Rocky Mountains, and formed as a broad, dome-shaped uplift. The Neihart mining district lies near the center of this uplift.. The highest point in the range is Big Baldy with an altitude of 9,000 feet.

The geology of the Neihart mining district differs somewhat from other areas of the Little Belt Mountains. It is located at the southern end of an area of metamorphic rocks (pre-Beltian gneisses and schists) which are overlain by quartzites and shales. The metamorphic rocks are considered to be the oldest rocks in the mountains, constituting the central core or nucleus of the range. The stratified rocks are of later origin and have been "folded" over the earlier schists. "The bedded rocks show that the Neihart region has been the site of dynamic disturbance from the very earliest geologic time" and that the area was once the site of a Proterozoic sea. Faulting of the rocks in the district occurred during several periods of geologic disturbance. The third period resulted in the uplift of the mountain range (Weed 1900).

The ores of the district are silver and silver-lead, found in veins in the sheeted fissures of the range, and having been deposited either during or following the geologic disturbances. They belong to a single fissure system which runs on a north-south path through the area and varies in width and depth according to the rocks in which it is found.

The mining district can be divided into three units based on differences in the type and occurrence of the ore. The first is the Carpenter Creek area which is characterized by lower grade ore that contains a high proportion of copper. The second is the upper Snow Creek basin, which is characterized by ore that has low base metal content and higher gold content. The third is on the Neihart slope, which is characterized by richer surface ore that decreases in silver and lead content with depth (Sahinen 1935).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Weed (1900) described the Neihart district as "embracing the drainage tributary to Belt Creek in the immediate vicinity of the town of Neihart."

Sahinen (1935) located the district "on Belt Creek...in the vicinity of the town of Neihart"

Based on previous reports and a field analysis, GCM (1991) defined the following boundaries:

Northern border from east to west: the summit of Pioneer Ridge and the Pioneer Ridge pack trail from Middle Fork Hoover Creek to the area north of Lucy Park and Lucy Creek. The boundary then follows Lucy Creek to Carpenter Creek and continues west to Belt Creek;

Western border from north to south: Belt Creek from the confluence with Carpenter Creek to Narrowgauge Gulch and including an area one-half mile to the west from Spring Gulch to O'Brien Creek to encompass the confluence of Johnson Creek and O'Brien Creek with Belt Creek;

Southern border from west to east: from the point where Narrowgauge Gulch intersects with Belt Creek along the southern flanks of Neihart Baldy and Long Mountain:

Eastern border from south to north: from the eastern flank of Long Mountain to the Pioneer Ridge pack trail south of the Middle Fork Hoover Creek.

The district defined here includes the area between Belt Creek and Carpenter Creek and the tributary streams of Johnston Creek, O'Brien Creek, Narrowgauge Gulch, Rock Creek, Snow Creek, Lucy Creek, Haystack Creek, Mackay Creek and Squaw Creek (GCM 1991).

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Broadwater

The Broadwater Mine is located about half a mile east of the town of Neihart on the west slope of Neihart Baldy Mountain. The claims were located in 1881, but were not actively prospected until 1886, when Colonel Broadwater acquired control. Due to a lack of sufficiently high-grade ores, the property was sold in 1892 to W.J. Clark for $165,000. Once extensive operations began, large bodies of argentiferous galena were found. The mine yielded over 1,000,000 ounces of silver over the next two years. Operations continued through several owners until 1922 when the mine was closed. Between 1901 and 1922, the mine returned gross earnings of about $150,000 and netted $114,870 (Sahinen 1935; Robertson 1951).

The mine was reopened in 1928 by the Broadwater Consolidated Mines Company, and additional developing was done. About 24,000 tons of ore was blocked out by 1929, but the ore was not processed until 1940. From 1940 to 1947, 108,214 tons of ore was mined with a return of 822 ounces of gold, 381,850 ounces of silver, 61,832 pounds of copper, 5,974,967 pounds of lead and 7,472,786 pounds of zinc. An estimated $5,000,000 was produced from the Broadwater mine before 1940 (Robertson 1951).

Moulton

The Moulton mine is located on Rock Creek about one-quarter mile east of Neihart. The claim was located in the early 1880s by Jonathan McAssey and was surveyed for patent in 1888. By 1893, the mine had produced 450,000 ounces of silver. A gravity concentrator connected the mine by a tramway was constructed in 1899. With the concentrator, low-grade ores and tailings were treated until 1900, when the mine became inactive. Cascade Silver Mines and Mills Company took over the mine in 1917, and renovated the old mill. By 1919 it was treating as much as 150 tons of ore a day. The mill burned down in May, 1921 and was not rebuilt. Production basically ceased by 1923. Production of the Moulton mine to 1923 is estimated at about 1.5 million dollars. By 1949, all of the mine workings were inaccessible (Sahinen 1935; Robertson 1951).

Queen of the Hills

The Queen of the Hills Mine adjoins the Galt and Equator mines. The property was located in 1881 by James J. Neihart and surveyed for patent in 1884. It was the first claim staked in the Neihart district. Though initial excitement for the mine was high, significant operation did not occur until a few years later. The property was owned and operated by the Queen of the Hills Mining Company from 1890 to 1893 when operations were suspended due to low silver prices. Operations were resumed in 1894 by the Queen Mining and Milling Company. By 1897, the main adit was about 1,000 feet long, and a three-component shaft was sunk to 300 feet, with levels at 100 and 300 feet. The mine closed in 1897, and the lower workings were allowed to fill with water. The mine reopened in 1898 and operated fairly continuously until 1907, with much of the ore coming from the mine's O'Brien vein. Thus the mine was also commonly called the Queen O'Brien mine.

Since 1907, operations have been intermittent, with the Anaconda Copper Mining Company adding considerable development on the 300-foot level. The mine was operated from 1926 to 1929 by Leyson Brothers, who shipped 10,551 tons of low-grade ore to the Timber Butte mill in Butte to be treated by selective flotation. Ore produced from the mine between 1894 and 1928 is reported valued at $437,559.67. No production is recorded between 1930 and 1939. From 1901 to 1942, production is reported to have been 41,358 tons of ore, from which 130.78 ounces of gold, 430,629 ounces of silver, 4,872 pounds of copper, 2,037,465 pounds of lead and 2,160,105 pounds of zinc were recovered (Robertson 1951).

Galt

The Galt mine is located about one-eighth of a mile north of the town of Neihart, adjacent to the Queen of the Hills mine. The claim was first located as the Massachusetts claim in 1886 by Edwin Toole, et al. Before the railroad spur was extended to Neihart, the ore mined was dragged down the mountainside in deer skins, transported to White Sulphur Springs by pack horses, hauled by wagon to Livingston, and then sent to Omaha or Kansas City smelters by rail. As a result of this burdensome route for processing, operations were intermittent until 1895. In 1895, an agreement was made with the Queen Mining and Milling Company, which gave the Galt Mining Company the right to extend the main Queen adit for a distance of 400 feet so the adit could be used for developing the Galt vein. All of the ore taken from this extension was the property of the Queen Mining and Milling Company. The Galt Mining Company agreed to pay $1.25 a ton for all ore mined from the Galt vein and trammed out through the Queen adit. This agreement was originally for a three-year period, but was subsequently extended several times (Robertson 1951).

The mine operated in spurts: from 1900 to 1901, 1906 to 1908, and 1916 to 1929. In 1932 the Galt Mining Company was taken over by the Ford interests of Boston, and reorganized in 1935 as the Galt Mines, Inc. The mine was operated sporadically from 1935 to at least 1949. The mine is developed by two upper adits, the extension of the Queen of the Hills adit, and by a crosscut adit from the Equator claim. Several intermediate levels have also been driven between the Queen adit and the lower Galt adit, into the main ore shoot (Robertson 1951).

The Galt mine was the first mine to be operated successfully in the Neihart district. By 1920, the mine had produced over 800,000 ounces of silver valued at $552,000. In one part of the mine, the vein was 16 feet wide and averaged 70 ounces of silver per ton. By 1928, total production was estimated to have been about $1,000,000. Production from 1901 to 1948 is reported to have been 20,961 tons of ore, from which 145.22 ounces of gold, 476,584 ounces of silver, 5,010 pounds of copper, 1,798,223 pounds of lead and 706,927 pounds of zinc were recovered (Robertson 1951).

Hartley

The Hartley mine is about half a mile northeast of the town of Neihart on the northwest side of Neihart Baldy Mountain, north of the Broadwater mine. The claim was located in 1883 by Thomas Angers, et al., and later acquired by William Mueller, who began shipping ore in 1901. Between 1901 and 1917, Mueller mined and shipped ore valued at $170,698.09. During this time the main adit stretched to about 1,000 feet and a winze was sunk from this adit to a depth of 200 feet. Mueller sold the property in 1920 to the Neihart Consolidated Silver Mining Company. The winze was subsequently sunk to a depth of 500 feet. Nearly all of the vein above the 500-foot level was mined for a length of about 400 feet. Operations again ceased in 1924 (Robertson 1951).

The Hartley dumps were reworked in 1928 at a small mill, producing 380 tons of concentrates. The workings contained 12.1 ounces of gold, 640 ounces of silver, 171,803 pounds of lead and 454 pounds of zinc with a total value of $38,038.82. The mine lay idle from 1929 to 1933, and reopened in 1934 for continuous operation until 1940. During this period, ore was milled in a 35-ton flotation plant operated by the Ruby Silver Mines, Inc. Production from the Hartley mine from 1901 to 1940 was reported to have been 64,423 tons of ore, from which were recovered 164.04 ounces of gold, 1,535,426 ounces of silver, 10,028 pounds of copper, 3,894,765 pounds of lead, and 3,000 pounds of zinc (Robertson 1951).

Florence

The Florence mine is about one quarter of a mile north of the town of Neihart. The claim was located in 1886 by Richard G. Wight, et al. The Florence Mining Company began operations in 1889. A lower adit was driven 420 feet and a winze was sunk 65 feet by 1891. When the mine shut down in 1893, the winze had been sunk to the 100-foot level with drifts started on the 50- and 100-foot level (Robertson 1951).

The mine reopened in 1895, and was operated by the Florence Mining and Milling Company nearly continuously until 1910. During this time six adits totaling 3,450 feet were developed, including one adit that stretched 1,000 feet. In 1910, the lower part of the mine was allowed to fill with water. After 1910, all production was made from the adit levels or from a resorting of the dumps. From 1916 to 1931, about $80,000 worth of ore was produced. The mine again fell idle in 1931, and was operated from 1935 to 1943 by the Florence Company, with processing of ore being done at the M&I Mining Company's 60-ton flotation mill. The mine and mill were sold to the Bennet Mining Company which allowed the mine to become inactive (Robertson 1951).

Production of the Florence mine from 1901 to 1943 is reported to have been 105,189 tons, from which 98.39 ounces of gold, 2,015,666 ounces of silver, 11,166 pounds of copper, 4,323,319 pounds of lead, and 4,724 pounds of zinc were recovered. Early shipments of ore to the smelters are reported to have contained 50 to 200 ounces of silver per ton, 4 to 10 percent lead and up to 10 percent zinc (Sahinen 1935; Robertson 1951).

"88" Mill Site

Located in Section 19, T 14N, R 8E, the "88" Mill site and lode were claimed by the Hudson Mining Company, C.W. Carothers and John C. E. Barker in 1891.

The mill site was surveyed on January 18-22, 1892 by Henry V. Wheeler, U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor. The improvements on the site at that time included a discovery cut, shaft, tunnel and a powder house with a total value $620. The site was patented in August 1, 1893 by the Hudson Mining Company.

With the 1893 drop in silver prices, and the ensuing Panic of 1893, mining activity in the Neihart district declined. Little work continued and new development slowed considerably. There is no evidence of continuing development of the "88" mill after this time. It was not included on a 1935 map of mining activity in the district.

When the site was revisited in 1991, remains included the foundation of the mill, the remains of a second brick foundation and a boiler (GCM 1991).

Silver Dyke

Located in Sections 16 and 21, T 14N, R 8E, the Silver Dyke mine was purchased in 1921 by the American Zinc, Lead and Smelting Company. One million tons of ore were blocked out and a 500 ton flotation mill was constructed on the site. This mine operated at capacity throughout the decade. In 1926, the capacity of the mill at the Silver Dyke was increased to 950 tons. Because of the type of deposits at the mine, work was by open pit methods, resulting in the digging of a glory hole on the site. The Silver Dyke operated until 1929, when the blocked-out ore was depleted and no new deposits could be found. During the time of its operation, the Silver Dyke was the largest producer of ore in the Neihart mining district and its silver production was second only to Silver Bow County (Schafer 1935).

The Carpenter Creek tailings and ponds are associated with the Silver Dyke mine, and are located in the vicinity of several early claims along Carpenter Creek. These include the Amethyst Lode, located in 1886 by Charles Crawford et.al., the Boneto and Roger Lodes, located in 1892 by William Jennings et. al., the Crusader, "88," Snow Creek Valley and Crusader #2 lodes, located in 1888 and 1891 by the Snow Creek Mining and Townsite Company, and the Silver Knight Templar and Valentine lodes, located in 1892 by the Snow Creek Mining and Townsite Company. The claims were patented during the years 1892-1894. No information on mine development or production records were found for these mines.

Evening Star Mine and Mill

The mine and mill are located in the southwest quarter of Section 29, T 14N, R 8E. The Evening Star lode was located on January 1, 1884 by Phillip Burns (also spelled Philip Byrne), John Wilson and Charles Dodge. It was surveyed on July 14-15, 1891 by William Munroe, U.S. Deputy Surveyor and was patented on November 15, 1920 by Phillip Burns. At the time of the survey, a concentrator, flume and house were located on the claim.

The present Star properties are a consolidation of the Evening Star and London mines. The London mine was one of the earliest discovered in the Neihart mining district and was worked early in the history of the district through shallow surface workings and several adits. The Star adit was later driven from the Evening Star claim to develop the southerly extension of the London vein.

The mine was worked intermittently until 1939, when a 50-ton bulk flotation mill was built on the Evening Star claim. The mill was remodeled in 1944 and again in 1969. Work was done on the site in 1969, including the construction of office and shop buildings. The mine and mill have been in operation sporadically since the mill was constructed in 1939.

Important Mill Site

Located in Section 30, T 14N, R 8E, the Important mill site was claimed and surveyed for patent on January 26, 1884 by the Hudson Mining Company. A lode on the site was located on January 1, 1885, also by the Hudson Mining Company.

The site was surveyed on July 26-28, 1887 by George M. Stafford, U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor. At the time of the survey, the site contained improvements valued at $45,160, including a 40 by 150 foot concentrator ($45,000), a 16 by 20 foot office valued at $75 located west of the concentrator in the vicinity of the existing railroad right-of-way, a 16 by 20 foot storehouse valued at $75 located east of the concentrator and a discovery shaft valued at $10. The site was patented on April 9, 1892 by the Hudson Mining Company.

With the drop in silver prices in 1893, mining activity in the Neihart district decreased greatly. Mills and mines either shut down completely or drastically reduced production. There is no evidence of continued production of the Important mill after this period. A 1935 map of mining activity in the district does not include the mill.

Other Mines

Other relatively important mines in the district include the Mountain Chief, Star, Equator, Dacotah, Silver Bell, Black Bird, Spotted Horse, Ingersoll, Rock Creek, Big Seven, Lexington, Ripple, Tom Hendricks, Cornucopia, and Whippoorwill. Numerous other mines make this district a significant contributor to the state's silver production (Sahinen 1935; Robertson 1951).

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