HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Warm Springs Creek

aka Johnson Basin (sub-district) aka Olson Gulch (sub-district)

The district is in the Silver Lake area at the headwaters of Warm Springs Creek near Brown's siding six miles west of Anaconda. Small mines and prospects are widely distributed in the district; of these, the Blue Eyed Nellie is the most important. The district includes sub-districts of Olson Gulch and Johnson Basin. Silver production for the district was reported to be several hundred thousand dollars, primarily from the Blue Eyed Nellie mine with $60,000 from the Antelope and Chain mines (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963) with some manganese, tungsten and small amounts of other ores.

The story of the district was essentially that of a single mine, the Blue Eyed Nellie, which was the only property to achieve any significant production. According to Wolle (1963), the Blue Eyed Nellie mine was located in 1881 and developed as a limestone quarry by the McCay brothers on land owned by Frank Brown. The two brothers apparently never developed the mine but a partnership was formed between Brown and W. A. Clark to work the mine which had been bought by Marcus Daly. Ore from the mine was brought down the hill by a gravity tram and worked in a small smelter which was built on Warm Springs Creek. The mine operated until about 1890 when the ore body pinched out and Brown was reported to have headed for Alaska looking for another strike (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; Steere 1979; Anderson 1992).

In the mid-1930s development work on a vein of manganese ore was reported on the Soledad and Iron Crown claims by M. L. Stansfield and A. E. Wilson. Numerous other lode claims are found within the district and some prospect and development work has been done on the Homestake, Surprise, and Mohawk lodes but no production was recorded from any of the operations (Emmons and Calkins 1913; Gilbert 1935: Trauerman and Reyner 1950; Earll 1972).

The geology of the district indicates that Paleozoic limestones are complexly faulted and in places folded northeast of Warm Springs Creek. They are intruded by granitic and basic igneous rocks which have caused contact metamorphism. Nearly all of the ore deposits in this area are argentiferous replacement in calcareous rocks with ore occurring primarily in chimneys, irregular pockets or in thinly tabular bodies following bedding planes (Sahinen 1935).

Johnson Basin Sub-district

The Johnson Basin mines were active prior to 1906 when silver was mined, and again from 1954 to 1956 when the district was a tungsten producer. Although the original name has been lost, the oldest mine in the area is the Mike Hannon mine which was renamed after a later owner and developer of the mine. Other mines of note in the sub-district include the New Year - Tip Top, Richmond (Ontario), and the Welcome mine. These mines were developed at or just before the turn of the century. The Mike Hannon operated a crude hand-made whim hoist. The other mines had even less surficial development (Earll 1972).

Olson Gulch Sub-district

The Olson Gulch mines accessed by roads along Olson Gulch. The Silver Chain - Antelope, Cameron and Black Chief mines are in the Olson Gulch sub-district. The Silver Chain and Antelope mines reportedly produced $60,000 in silver in the 1880s while the Black Chief produced iron ore used as flux in the Anaconda smelters.

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

The Blue Eyed Nellie district encompasses a small area between the town of Anaconda and Silver Lake on the north side of U.S. Highway 10A. The district, as defined by F. N. Earll (1972), comprises a small area covering only four sections on the south-facing slopes of foothills bordering Warm Springs Creek. The district encompasses:

Sections 13, 14, 23 and 24, T5N, R12W

The earlier study of the area by Emmons and Calkins (1913) does not describe any district in the area but only discusses the Blue Eyed Nellie mine. The description of the area around the mine as a district may have come into use sometime later as a convenient means of describing the area which has a large number of lode claims. Sahinen (1935) echoes this by stating that the district is in the vicinity of Brown's siding six miles west of Anaconda. However, in his discussion of the geology of the district he describes the slope northeast of Warm Springs Creek, the area south of Warm Springs Creek and the head of the East Fork of Rock Creek. Emmons (1913) includes the mines of Olson Gulch and Foster Creek in his discussions of what he calls the Warm Springs Creek mines.

In fact, many claims were recorded as being from the Blue Eyed Nellie district even though they were actually in other districts. At best, the Blue Eyed Nellie district was a minor one and, as F. N. Earll states, much of its history has been lost (Emmons and Calkins 1913; Earll 1972).

The Olson Gulch mines are located on roads accessed from Olson Gulch. This sub-district is in sections 9, 10, 16, and 21 T5N, R12W. The Silver Chain - Antelope and Cameron mines are in the Olson Gulch sub-district.

The Johnson Basin sub-district has been defined as the area on the broad divide between Foster Creek and upper Warm Springs Creek, which is partially breached by the basin known as Johnson Creek (Earll 1972).

HISTORIES OF SELECT MINES

Antelope and Chain

Located in Olson Gulch about three miles above Warm Springs Creek, the Antelope and Silver Chain mines are said to have produced $60,000 in the late 1880s. The ore, argentiferous tetrahedrite in a quartz gangue, is similar to that found in the Blue-eyed Nellie. Early reports link the two mines, but most of the development occurred on the Silver Chain. This work included two shafts with drifts along the vein (Emmons 1913; Earll 1972).

Black Chief Iron Mine

Located two miles above Warm Springs Creek in Olson Gulch, the Black Chief Iron mine is a deposit of magnetite replacing limestone near granite. Several thousand tons of iron ore were extracted from an open cut to use as flux for the smelters in Anaconda (Emmons 1913).

Blue Eyed Nellie

The Blue Eyed Nellie mine is for all practical purposes the sole producer of the district, but originally began as a limestone quarry . The Blue Eyed Nellie mine was established by the McCay brothers in 1881 on quarry land owned by Frank Brown. Marcus Daly then purchased and developed the quarry to provide flux for his company's smelters in Anaconda. Frank Brown and W. A. Clark were said to be partners in the operation of the lime quarry. When the lime was found to contain rich lead and silver, a small smelter was set up on Warm Springs Creek opposite the entrance to the quarry. The veins petered out in 1890 and Brown was said to have left for Alaska (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963; Earll 1972).

The mine was developed by 2,500 feet of shafts, drifts and crosscuts at seven different levels. In the decade it operated, the mine produced about 600,000 ounces of silver and nine million pounds of lead worth about $1 million. A few years after the mine closed a forest fire burned the mine's surface facilities, filling the shafts with debris. One further attempt was made to reopen the mine when a 1,800 foot adit was driven into the hillside to intersect the 700 foot level of the mine workings but there is no record of any production from this effort. Examination of the dump revealed ore that was siliceous replacement of limestone; minerals included galena and gray copper and their oxidation products (Emmons 1913; Anderson 1992).

Cameron

The Cameron mine is located on the summit of a low ridge between Olson Gulch and Foster Creek. The mine is said to have produced several thousand dollars worth of silver ore in the late 1880s. The mine is developed through a number of pits and shallow shafts on pockets of lead-silver sulphides (Emmons 1913; Earll 1972).

Grey Rock

The Grey Rock is located in Olson Gulch about a quarter mile northeast of the Mayflower. About 350 feet of underground workings were excavated on the contact between Madison limestone and granite. The limestone contained considerable magnetite, garnet and diopside while the fractured zone of the granite was said to carry gold (Emmons 1913).

Mayflower (Golden Crown)

The Mayflower Claim is in the valley of a small tributary of Olson Gulch, about two miles above Warm Springs Creek. An adit was driven 175 feet northward to encounter a quartz lode said to contain gold. A lower adit was driven 600 feet but did not encounter the lode. Later the mine may have been known as the Golden Crown (Emmons and Calkins 1913; Earll 1972).

Morgan Evans

The Morgan Evans claim is in Olson Gulch a short distance southwest of the Antelope and Chain. The mine was developed through two tunnels with about 600 feet of underground workings. The mine worked a fissure vein with pyrite, chalcopyrite and bornite ore (Emmons 1913).

A number of other mines in the district are mentioned by various authors. The WPA (1941) lists the Romeo as operating in 1875, the Silver Heart as operating in 1938 and 1939, the Silver Moss in 1875 and the Lucky Boy in 1919. Emmons (1913) and Sahinen (1935) mention the George, Jetty, New Year (Emma), Welcome, Okareaka, Silver Hill and Silver mines.

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