aka Henderson aka Black Pine

Placer gold was discovered by Joe Henderson along Henderson Creek in 1865. Production for the first four years was reported to be $300,000 and total production by the turn of the century to be more than one million dollars. The placer gold in the district is derived from deposits in the nearby Henderson and Sunrise mountains. The claims were worked by ground sluicing, hydraulic giants and drift mining in the terrace gravels along the north bank of Henderson Creek. However, after the end of the first boom, the placer district was left for the Chinese to work (Emmons and Calkins 1913; Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948).

The district is between the long ridge of the John Long Mountains and Flint Creek, northwest of Philipsburg. The area is underlain by sedimentary rocks of Beltian age, including extensive areas of Newland and Spokane formations that are steeply tilted and faulted. A granite porphyry dike is exposed on the north end of Combination Ridge about a mile northwest of the Combination mine. An irregular body of intrusive grano-diorite forms part of the north end of Henderson Mountain and is exposed on the north side of Henderson Gulch. Sedimentary rocks have been metamorphosed from contact with the intrusive igneous rocks. Diopside, epidote, trolite and magnetite were formed in impure Newland limestone. Ores are found only in the sedimentary formations: in fissure veins in quartzite and in replacement veins along fissures in limestone and calcareous shales. Some of these deposits are in metamorphosed zones, but are not contact deposits. Ores from the Combination mine contain silver values while the Henderson ores contain gold values. Some copper has been found in the sulphide ores (Sahinen 1935).

Some accounts say that hard rock production in the Combination district dates from the 1870s when a load of ore was shipped to the Hope mill in Philipsburg, but no lode development occurred as a result. In 1882 A. McAndrews filed claims on some low grade ore deposits in the heavily timbered area. But not until 1885 were the owners of the lode claims convinced it was worth their while to process their lode ore. In November of that year 400 tons of ore from the Combination mine was run through the Hope mill. The free-milling ore returned 77 cents silver per ton (Volin et al. 1952; Wolle 1963; Steere 1981).

With this return, James A. Pack leased the property for $25,000 and formed the Black Pine Mining Company, a syndicate of Pack, A. McAndrews, Frederick W. Flint, Joseph H. Harper, Ralph B. Wallace and William P. Shryock. Roads were built and the most promising vein, the Combination, was explored and developed. A 10-stamp silver mill, operational by July of 1887, was erected two miles from the mine in the bottom of Willow Creek Canyon. Ore was brought down the winding narrow road by eight to sixteen horse teams hitched to freight wagons. However, the costs exceeded the expectations of the investors; no further investment money was forthcoming to cut roads. From the mill, concentrates had to be hauled to Philipsburg by an 18-head pack string. Just as the mill began to work the high grade ores, litigation suspended work. By September of 1887 the mill was closed by the sheriff. The mill and related holdings of the Black Pine Company were sold at auction to a group of original investors who still believed in the property (Steere 1981).

The reorganized Combination Mining & Milling Company concentrated on the Combination lode. The mill was back in operation by June 1888 and by the end of the next fiscal year it had crushed 9,000 tons with an average return of $22.76 ($205,000 gross). The mine operation continued to grow and the mill was expanded to 20 stamps in 1891 (Volin et al. 1952; Wolle 1963).

Although the operation was making money, it had several set-backs and misfortunes. A forest fire in 1889 destroyed a hoist at the Black Pine and about fifty buildings. In December of 1891 Benjamin Cox was killed by an explosion of powder. Four months later John T. Flynn was killed when he was caught by a hoist cage. Although the mill worked at full capacity, the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act in 1893, an anathema to silver mining in general, caused the mine to close and on July 1st, 1893 threw 130 men out of work. Because the ore contained some gold values, the mine was able to reopen and achieved limited production until 1897. By this time 100,000 tons of ore had been extracted from the mine recovering 2,135,000 ounces of silver and 1,411 ounces of gold. From 1904 to 1957 only 39,000 tons, primarily dumps and tailings, were milled. Total returns for the district was reported to be $1,650,000 (Hogan 1892; Shoemaker 1893; Volin et al. 1952; Wolle 1963; Steere 1981).

The company towns of Black Pine and Combination prospered and declined with the mines. Black Pine was developed along one street with numerous miner's cabins, stores, shaft houses and one large bunkhouse. The town was somewhat unusual in that the company prohibited saloons and honkytonks within city limits. The company sought men with families in tow to work the mines and mill. As a result, Whiskey Hill, a collection of saloons, brothels and honkytonks developed on the edge of town. The town survived through the 1930s. Some of the buildings were standing as late as the 1950s when a lease holder of the mine knocked them down (Steere 1981).

The second company town, Combination, developed around the mill in Willow Creek Canyon. This community centered on the mill and contained the company offices and a number of cabins.

Interest in the district's placer gold was renewed in 1939 when a stationary washer and dragline shovel began operations on the New Deal property. From 1939 to 1941 the plant recovered $18,000 in gold. In 1943 the H & H Miner Dredge Company installed a connected-bucket dredge on Henderson creek. This dredge operated from 1943-1946 through World War II. Because scheelite, a calcium tungstate, was needed for the war effort, the dredge was allowed to continue operations when all other dredges and gold mining operations were shut down. In 1943 the 4 cubic foot bucket dredge recovered $69,685 in gold and about $100,000 in silver and scheelite. In 1944 the dredge produced 3,582 fine ounces of gold, 15,795 pounds of scheelite and 88,000 pounds of abrasive sands from 620,000 cubic yards of material. All totalled between 1943 and 1947, the operation recovered 215,000 pounds of 63 percent tungsten concentrates worth more than $450,000 (Lyden 1948; Hundhausen 1949).

During World War II tungsten became the focus for renewed activity in the district. One ton of hand sorted ore from the Combination mine containing 21 percent tungsten trioxide was sold to the Metals Reserve Company depot in Philipsburg. Four veins containing the ore were explored by a total of two miles of trenches, and 16 diamond drill holes. Numerous samples were taken from surface outcrops, underground workings and from drill holes (Volin et al. 1952; Hundhausen 1949).


Emmons and Calkins (1913) place the Combination / Henderson district near the north margin of the Philipsburg quadrangle between Flint and Willow Creeks. Sahinen (1935) places the district in the vicinity of Henderson Mountain, 10 miles northwest of Philipsburg. The Henderson Creek placers, a sort of sub-district, are along the stream of the same name which is a northeast-flowing tributary of Flint Creek. Figure 1 shows the district essentially as described by Emmons and Calkins (1913).


Black Pine

Located in sections 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21 T8N, R14 W, the Black Pine mine is composed of 60 mineral claims and 15 mill sites. The Black Pine mine was worked in conjunction with the Combination operation. Four shafts of the Combination operation were developed through the Black Pine claims: the Barrett, Harper, Harrison and Lewis. The Lewis was the primary hoist. The combined mine operations are credited with 2,135,000 ounces of silver and 1,411 ounces of gold between 1881 and 1897 (Walker n.d.; Emmons and Calkins 1913).

In the 20th Century the Black Pine mine operated only sporadically. It reported production in 1919, 1929, 1934, 1935, 1938 and 1940. It was discussed in the mining literature in 1933 and 1935 (WPA 1941).

Bunker Hill

The Bunker Hill mine is located about half a mile below the Henderson mill in Henderson Gulch. The mine was first opened in 1894 and has developed to five tunnels with about 2,200 feet of underground workings. The mine is said to have produced about $20,000 in gold and silver (Emmons and Calkins 1913).


The Combination mine is west of Henderson Mountain on the crest of the ridge between Smart Creek and Lower Willow Creek at about 6,500 feet elevation. The mine is 12 miles northwest of Philipsburg. The mine was discovered in 1882 but not developed until 1885 when 400 tons of ore were run through the Hope mill in Philipsburg. That same year the mine was bonded to James A. Pack for $25,000. A 10-stamp mill was built on Willow Creek 1.5 miles northwest of the mine in 1887. When, after only a few months, the mill could not make payment, the property was seized by the sheriff and sold at public auction. The syndicate that purchased the property became organized as the Combination Mining & Milling Co. The new company was controlled by C. D. McClure, one time manager of the Hope Mill and organizer of the Granite Mountain and Bimetallic syndicates in Philipsburg (Volin et al. 1952; Emmons and Calkins 1913).

In 1890 the Combination mine employed 80 men to work two shafts. The Harper, a 2-compartment shaft which employed a bucket and small hoist engine, was down 200 feet. About 700 feet from this shaft another shaft, the Harrison was being sunk and had reached 265 feet. The following year the Harper and Harrison shafts were connected and the older Harper shaft was abandoned for hoisting purposes. A large shaft house was erected on the Harrison and larger hoisting equipment installed to raise and lower a cage. The work force was doubled to 160 men. Work was still progressing when falling silver prices brought operations to a halt on July 1, 1893 (Hogan 1891; 1992; Shoemaker 1893).

With this arrangement the mine and mill continued to work from 1888 to 1897 and produced 2,135,000 ounces of silver, 1,411 ounces of gold with a combined value of $1,496,862. While these figures indicate great wealth, the cost of extraction very nearly equaled the value of the bullion. From 1928 to 1947 the mine was intermittently active with 39,062 tons of ore processed to extract 587 ounces of gold; 243,718 ounces of silver; 357,323 pounds of copper; 262,889 pounds of lead and 27,922 pounds of zinc. Much of the production, especially the base metals, came from reworking tailings and waste dumps (Volin et al. 1952; Emmons and Calkins 1913).

The Combination mining property consisted of 52 patented lode-mining claims, 5 claims held by location and assessment work and 15 patented mill sites developed through eight vertical shafts and three adits with about 14,000 feet of workings on 20 levels. These openings near the town of Combination provided access to a large blanket deposit. The Lewis shaft, on the west slope of the ridge, cuts the ore body several hundred feet down. It was designed to be the main hoisting shaft, but was shut down a short time after its completion. Levels were cut at 100 foot intervals. The Harrison shaft, 960 feet away, is connected to the Lewis shaft by a long incline. The Harper shaft is connected to the Harrison shaft by an incline. The mine was listed as a constant producer in 1898, despite the low price of silver. But when the mine was inspected in 1907, the mine had long been idle; levels below 14 were flooded at the time. The mine would not report production again until 1926 when it was operated for four more years (Calderhead 1898; Emmons and Calkins 1913; WPA 1941; Volin et al. 1952).

In 1936, a new company, the Combination Silver Mines, was organized to buy the property. However, the conversion of Black Pine Stock to Combination stock never occurred. The mine was worked by lessees until 1940 when a Combination stockholder, August Buschmann foreclosed on the mortgage and bought the property at a Sheriff's sale. Thereafter the Buschmann family leased the mine to various operators through the 1950s (Steere 1981).


The Douglas mine is on the west slope of Henderson Mountain about two miles east of the Combination mine. The mine had two adits, one 50 feet above the other, with about 700 feet of underground workings. The vein was encountered 300 feet from the portal of the lower tunnel. The mine worked a fissure vein deposit in the shales and shaley sandstones of the Spokane formation. The quartz ore is oxidized and iron stained. The better grade of ore ran 25 ounces silver and $13 in gold per ton. Just below the mine was a mill equipped with a Gates rock crusher, two steam stamps (unusual for Montana), amalgamation plates and cyanide tanks. Although 200 tons of ore had been treated, due to the lack of equipment to treat slimes, the recovery of values was indifferent. Only a small amount of ore was run through the mill (Emmons and Calkins 1913).

Henderson Gulch Placers

The Henderson Gulch placers are east of the Sunrise mine and adjacent to the George Washington placer. The placers were first active in 1866. By 1910 the creek was credited with $1 million in production. While the gold placers were not worked after 1910, they were tested in 1926. Around 1936, William Schneider discovered scheelite sand (Calcium tungstate, Ca WO4) in the placer gravel. Tests followed and in 1940, William Noon representing H & H Mines, purchased Schneider's two claims and consolidated the previous gold placer claims in the creek bottom. In 1943 H & H Mines of Portland placed a modified electric 4 cubic foot bucket dredge on the creek. The dredge worked throughout World War II because of the great demand for tungsten. By 1947 the dredge had shipped 214,000 pounds of 63 percent tungsten concentrates. From 1943 to 1949 the dredge was reported to have produced $750,000 in gold and tungsten. When tested in the 1950s, the nearby undeveloped George Washington placer had 5 to 20 feet of overburden (Hundhausen 1949; Walker n.d.)


The Peacock mine is three quarters of a mile northeast of the Douglas mine. In 1906 it was owned by the Scott Brothers as was the Douglas. Two tunnels with 700 feet of work were driven eastward into the limestone of Henderson Mountain. The lower adit strikes the lode 45 feet from the portal. The upper tunnel, 45 feet above the lower tunnel, has 300 feet of drift and cross cut on the lode. Ore values were in silver and copper (Emmons and Calkins 1913).

Queen or Sun Rise

The Queen /Sunrise mine is located on Sunrise Mountain in section 2, T8N, R14W, four miles from Black Pine in Henderson Gulch and consist of 38 patented and eight unpatented claims. The placers below the mine produced $300,000 in gold prior to 1870. From 1892 to 1903 the Sunrise produced $120,000 in gold; some gold was later recovered from reworking the tailings. The Queen workings consist of 7,500 feet of drifts and inclines. The Russel workings, 1,200 feet north of the Queen, consist of 500 feet of drifts and inclines. For a distance of 2,200 feet along the apex of the lode, the ore body has been exposed by 20 drift tunnels ranging from 50 to 600 feet in length. A 20-stamp mill with Wilfley tables and slime tanks was in operation at the mine by 1896. The mill wet-crushed the ore before amalgamation and concentration. Ore from the various tunnels was collected in an ore bin and then transported to the mill by a gravity tramway; other tunnels used surface chutes or level tramways to transport ore. The camp that developed around the mill was known as Henderson. Although the mine was active in 1890, the mine and mill were idle when visited in 1907 (Emmons and Calkins 1913; Gilbert 1935).

The mines worked a tabular quartz vein with extensive replacement in both walls of Newland limestone. The vein ranges from 1 to 10 feet with an average thickness of 3 feet. The vein is 1,400 feet long and 1,600 feet downdip. Sulphide ores were encountered at a depth of 200 feet. Ores include pyrite, bornite, cuprite, limonite and free gold. The ore carries $4 to $10 gold per ton. (Walker n.d.; Emmons and Calkins 1913).

The Henderson mill is situated in Henderson gulch just below the Queen mine. The ore passed through four batteries of five stamps. Each stamp weighed 980 pounds, dropped 5 to 6 inches 90 times a minute. The pulp passed over amalgamation plates to an elevator that delivered it to classifiers at the top of the mill. The sized ore then was directed to five Wilfley tables, from which the middlings were sent through a Bryan mill back to the tables. The finer light material went to a double-deck Buddle or slime table; slimes were shipped and fine sands passed to the tailings dam. The process was not effective on low-grade ores and much of the tailings were said to be treatable with the cyanide process (Emmons and Calkins 1913).


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