HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Warm Springs

aka Golconda (See Golconda district) aka Hot Springs

The Alhambra mining district, also called the Warm Springs district, is ten miles southeast of Helena, west of the Prickly Pear valley and is traversed by the Butte-Helena highway and, in historic times, the Great Northern Railroad. Alhambra (pop. 40) is the largest community in the district. To the east, the district encompasses an area drained by Warm Springs Creek and its tributaries. Altitudes range from 4,100 ft on Prickly Pear Creek to 7,900 ft on the upper reaches of the Warm Springs drainage. The placers in the districts were largely exhausted by 1875 (Roby 1960).

The topography is characterized by mature, well-rounded mountains that locally have steep but not precipitous slopes. Bedrock is mainly quartz monzonite. Aplite occurs in dikes and large masses. Pegmatite and porphyritic granite are common, and rhyolite is also present. Sedimentary rocks are absent. Ore deposits include placers as well as lodes of two ages, late Cretaceous or early Tertiary and late Tertiary. The older lodes are vertical, east-trending quartz veins carrying pyrite and chalcopyrite with some galena, sphalerite, and arsenopyrite. Some deposits contain molybdenite and tourmaline. The younger lodes are characterized by a chalcendoic quartz gangue which causes conspicuous outcrops. The ore minerals are sulfides of silver, copper, lead, zinc, and iron. The stream gravels of the district vary from 20 to 35 ft in depth and are primarily composed of decomposed granite. The gold, which is concentrated within a few feet of bedrock, is fine with a few coarse colors (Roby 1960; Strojan 1938).

The mines of Warm Spring Creek are mainly at the head of the Middle Fork, and are easily reached from the town of Alhambra. They are in an area of granite, just south of the mass of rhyolite and obsidian on Lava Mountain. The mines are all on vertical east-west quartz veins carrying galena, chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite, and iron pyrite (Stone 1911).

Lode mining began around 1866 when the Legal Tender Mine on Prickly Pear Creek was discovered. This mine, however, was not developed until 1872. By 1872 the Legal Tender mine, equipped with a whim hoist, had sunk a shaft 160 ft with drifts from the 80 ft and 160 ft levels. Most of the first class ore, worth from $128 to 870 per ton was shipped by wagon to Corinne, Utah and then to smelters in San Francisco and Europe.

The next era of mineral production from lode mines occurred prior to the turn of the century when the Carbonate group of mines began to produce and activity expanded to Warm Springs Creek. Mines in this sub-district are credited with producing more than a million dollars in ore. The gold-silver-lead-copper ore was mined primarily from a group of mines that included the Carbonate Chief, Bell, and Mockingbird. From some of these mines small shipments of ore had been made as early as 1889. In 1906 production from the three mines was valued at $47,756, but the next year when 41,829 tons of ore were mined, the value was almost $1 million. By 1908 the Bell tunnel had been extended to 360 ft; the Carbonate Chief tunnel was extended to 200 ft; and the Mockingbird shaft lowered to 250 ft. While the Mockingbird mine was only active two years and produced a mere 957 tons of ore; the return on the ore was 966 ounces of gold, 10,325 ounces of silver, and 686 pounds of copper. The production for the district peaked in 1907 when 5,020 tons of ore returned 6,379 ounces of gold, 54,192 ounces of silver, 50,369 pounds of copper, and 190,603 pounds of lead together worth $187,801 (Roby 1960; Schrader 1929).

Production returned to the district in 1934 when mines such as the Katie, located near Blue Grouse Creek began production and others such as the B & G resumed production. The Newburgh Mining and Milling Company was organized in that year and began new development on the Carbonate group, primarily the Fleming. A flotation mill was built and 7,000 tons of the Fleming's dumps were treated (Roby 1960).

Placer deposits were also reworked in the 1930s. In August of 1933 the Winston Brothers began dragline and washplant operations on Prickly Pear Creek five miles downstream from Alhambra. In late August of 1938 the Winston Brothers Company completed a six cubic foot Yuba Dredge on Prickly Pear Creek two miles south of Alhambra. The machine had the capacity to dig 35 ft below the surface of the water and was the first dredge to employ jigs in the place of riffle tables. The combined 358 horsepower required by the various mechanisms of the dredge was powered from a 60,000 volt powerline owned by Montana Power. A 30 horsepower boiler provided steam heat for the dredge (Strojan 1938).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Because most sources consider the Alhambra district and the Golconda district to be part of the larger Clancy district, the sub-district boundaries are little discussed in the historic literature. Roby (1960) states that the Alhambra district encompasses an area drained by Warm Springs Creek and its tributaries, yet also considered certain mines such as the Legal Tender on Prickly Pear Creek to be part of the district. Strojan (1938) in his article in Mining Journal, also included dredge operations on Prickly Pear Creek in the vicinity of Alhambra to also be part of the district. Figure 1 shows the locations of the Alhambra district (or sub-district of the Clancy district) and the Golconda district.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

B & G Mine

The B & G Mine is located on Warm Springs Creek seven miles from Alhambra and half a mile west of the Carbonate. The mine consisted of 27 claims including the B & G, Eagles Nest and R. P. Bland claims on the western extension of the White Pine claim. The B & G has an incline shaft 250 ft long and three levels with 1,200 ft of workings. About 800 ft east of the B & G is the Eagle Nest which has a 100 ft shaft. The ore carries gold, silver, copper and lead; a five ton shipment of ore from the Eagles Nest netted $40 per ton. In 1899 the mine operated under bond by R. A. Bell and employed 25 men. Initial development included a 250 ft two-compartment shaft and a steam hoist. Production for the B & G peaked in 1910, 1934 and 1936 while the Eagles Nest was most active in 1910, and 1939. All told, the mine was developed to include two adits (100 and 200 ft) and two shafts (90 and 250 ft) with about 1,200 ft of underground workings (Byrne 1899; Roby 1960).

Carbonate Group

The Carbonate Group, located at the head of Warm Springs Gulch seven miles south of Alhambra, is composed of the Carbonate, the Bell and the Mockingbird. In later years it was also called the Fleming and Newburgh group. The Carbonate mine is opened by three tunnels, the longest eventually reached 1,700 ft. The Bell mine has three tunnels: 500, 1,000 and 1,200 ft long. The Mockingbird, which is near the Carbonate and Bell mines, has a vertical shaft of 250 ft and in two years produced 966 ounces of gold, 10,325 ounces of silver and 686 pounds of copper. Together, by 1907, these three mines had produced 41,829 tons of ore with a gross value of $952,327, mainly in gold and silver. In later years the Fleming mine became the main producer. The Fleming was in production from 1935 to 1940.

In 1905 over 1900 ft of development work was done. In 1906 the mine employed 35 men to extract ore from a series of tunnels, the longest 1600 ft long reached a depth of 500 ft. Sulphide ore with gold, silver and lead values was shipped to East Helena at a rate of 200 to 250 tons per month. Production continued until 1907, then resumed for two years in 1912. In 1912 an airshaft, equipped with a steam hoist, was sunk to the 300 ft level and production continued steadily (Walsh 1912; Mineral Resource Index).

In 1934 the Newburgh Mining and Milling Company reopened the old workings of the group and built a gravity concentration and flotation mill at the Fleming. In 1934, 7,000 tons of ore from the Fleming Mill dump was treated. From 1934 to 1939, 67,352 tons of ore were treated or shipped to the smelter from the Fleming dump. The enterprise returned 6,424 ounces of gold, 32,922 ounces of silver, 29,903 pounds of copper and 101,105 pounds of lead (Roby 1960, Mineral Resource Index).

Katie

The Katie mine, near Blue Grouse Creek, was first in operation in 1934 when 13 tons of ore returned 644 ounces of silver, 9 pounds of copper and 81 pounds lead. In 1939 and 1940 the mine was operated by the Alhambra Gold Mines, Inc and shipped a small amount of ore (Roby 1960).

Legal Tender

The Legal Tender mine, located a quarter mile east of Clancy on Prickly Pear Creek, was first developed in earnest in the spring of 1872 when a shaft was sunk to 160 feet and extensive surface facilities were built. The mine was developed to 1,000 ft of underground workings. The mine would prove to be the most productive and with the richest ore of any in the district. The best ore, which assayed an amazing 10,000 ounces of silver per ton, was shipped to San Francisco and to Europe. In its five most active years between 1909 and 1927 the mine produced 450 tons of sorted ore which yielded 4 ounces of gold, 38,471 ounces of silver, 77 pounds of copper, 11,312 pounds of lead and 11,833 pounds of zinc. Ultimately the property produced $1 million worth of silver (Knopf 1913; Pardee and Schrader 1933; Raymond 1872; Roby 1960; Wolle 1963).

White Pine

The White Pine property is located a quarter mile south of the Fleming mine in the Carbonate Group. The mine consists of three patented claims developed by a 1,200 ft adit and a 300 ft adit. The mine was closed in 1911, but maintained for future production efforts which occurred in 1917, 1928, and 1929. In 1943 a crosscut was started from the nearby Fleming mine to cut the vein, but the attempt failed. The mine produced a total of 255 tons of ore which yielded 36 ounces of gold, 4,426 ounces of silver, 928 pounds of copper, 82,894 pounds of lead and 52,196 pounds of zinc (Roby 1960; Walsh 1912,

Mineral Resource Index

).

Willard Group

The Willard Group, at the head of the north fork, consists of the Dover, Relief, Osage, Alpha and Union claims. They are located on two east-west vertical quartz veins. The Union shaft was 270 ft deep. The Relief shaft was 60 ft deep and the Dover was excavated down to 73 ft. Over 300 tons were taken at water level in the Relief shaft. From a short tunnel below the Relief shaft over 100 tons were shipped. The ore from the Relief returned $40 per ton.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Mining Journal

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