In 1895 rumors circulated of a carload of ore that was reported to have assayed with unprecedented amounts of gold. The rumors touched off a gold rush to Brewster Creek on the lower end of Rock Creek, a tributary of the Clark Fork of the Columbia. At the height of the rush 2,000 people scrambled for riches in and along the creek and the town of Quigley was founded at the mouth of the creek. Grover Cleveland, then President of the United States, and other prominent investors also listened to the rumors and threw 1.5 million dollars into capitalized development in the district. This investment resulted in the development of three mines, erection of a stamp mill and the grading of a 12 mile railroad bed up Rock Creek. A 7.5 mile aqueduct was excavated to provide Rock Creek water to the mill at Quigley. The railroad bed was built with Chinese labor and was to connect Quigley with the Northern Pacific. However, all the development and related activity was based upon a wild rumor; in reality, the mines contained little or no gold. In 1896, one year later, town and mines were abandoned while the railroad bed and aqueduct were left in a partially constructed condition (Keyser et al. 1974).
The gold rush, which turned out to be a "humbug", did result in one producing mine, the Golconda. The Golconda was first developed by the Golden Sceptre Mining Company in 1896. A shaft was sunk, probably to the 100 foot level, but no paying ore was discovered. The company, unable to make any return to defray expenses, collapsed with the district.
The next July, the Alps Mining Company, took over the property. The new company was rumored to have heavy financial backing from St. Louis. The mining operation was put in the charge of J. W. Opp, superintendent. Eleven men were reported to be working in the mine. Apparently, the new endeavor immediately discovered paying ore at the bottom of the previously dug shaft. The shaft was sunk through the high grade ore to the 125 foot level. A cross cut determined the ore body was 18 to 20 feet wide. The ore was free-milling and assayed at $200 per ton (Western Mining World 1897b; Western Mining World 1897c).
To define the extent of the ore body, a $5,000 bond was taken out on the adjacent Gold Bug claim. The Alps Mining Company then prospected the mine. Later, the company erected a 10-stamp mill that was rated at 30 short tons per day. This mill was still active in 1912. The last reported shipment from the Golconda and Gold Bug mines was oxidized copper ore shipped to Anaconda for smelting in 1931 (Western Mining World 1897a; Hall and Rickman 1912).
The second area of historic mining occurred near the East Fork of Brewster Creek primarily centered on the Rainy Day mine. Little other mining occurred in the district. The Rainy Day mine was a consistent producer with some production reported nearly every year between 1911 and 1928. In 1923 a 5-stamp mill was reported to be operating on the property (Sahinen 1935; WPA 1941).
The Alps mining district is located at the north end of the Sapphire Mountain range. It centers around Brewster Creek, a tributary of Rock Creek. Rock Creek empties into the Clarks Fork about five miles below the mouth of Brewster Creek. Geologically, the district is underlain by rocks of the Belt series which have been intruded by stocks of granitic rock. No information is available on the geology of the ore deposits (Sahinen 1935).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) placed the district near the Bonita station on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Gilbert (1935) cites a source that erroneously places the 1897 Golden Sceptre mine in the Moose Lake mining district. Figure 1 shows the location of the district as defined by the AMRB (1994) based on Sahinen (1935) with the primary mining areas of Brewster Creek and the Rainy Day mines identified.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Golconda adjoins the Gold Bug. The Golden Sceptre Mining Company drove a shaft on the mine in 1896, but the company collapsed before paying ore was found. The following year the property was developed by the Alps Mining Company. The manager, J. W. Opp put 11 men to work on an ore body found on the bottom of the shaft dug by the Golden Sceptre Company. The men sank the shaft through the ore body and then cross cut the lead. When they had blocked out the ore, the rich ore body was found to be immediately above the bottom of the 125 foot deep shaft and measured 18 to 20 feet wide. The ore was free milling and averaged $200 per ton (
Western Mining World
1897a; 1897b; 1997c).
Previous to 1897 the mine was owned by Messrs. Gundecker, Champe et al. In 1897 the Gold Bug mine was bonded to the Alps Mining Company for $5,000. The Alps Company intended to prospect the property to fully demonstrate the extent of the adjoining Golconda deposit. The mine reported mineral production in 1931, 1934, and 1935 (
Western Mining World
In 1923 a lot of ore was treated in the 5-stamp mill at the Rainy Day property. Although not a big producer, the mine reported some production every year between 1911 and 1928 with the exception of 1916 (WPA 1941).
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)
1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compiled and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena
Gilbert, Frederick C.
1935 "Directory of Montana Mining Properties",
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 15
. Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Hall, J. H. and M. L. Rickman
Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, Thirteenth Report, for years 1911 and 1912
Keyser, James D., Audrey L. Murray and Floyd W. Sharrock
1974 "Historical and Archaeological Survey Rock Creek Drainage". Prepared for the USDA Lolo National Forest by Department of Anthropology, University of Montana. Missoula
Lyden, Charles J.
1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 26
. Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Pardee, Joseph Thomas
1918 "Ore Deposits of the Northwestern Part of the Garnet Range, Montana",
U. S. Geological Survey
, Bull. 660, pp. 159-239;
(abst.) Washington Acad. Sci. Journal
, Vol. 8, p. 290.
Sahinen, Uuno M.
1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Sanders, Darrell, and Maureen Winn
1994 "Cultural Resource Inventory Report for the BLM - Plum Creek Land Exchange (Formerly BLM - Champion Land Exchange)", BLM, Butte.
Western Mining World (WMW)
1897 "Alps District" Vol. 7. No. 146, p. 364. July 3, 1897.
1897 "Alps District" Vol. 7. No. 147, p. 374. July 10, 1897.
1897 "Alps District" Vol. 7. No. 148, p. 388. July 17, 1897.
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.