Historic Narrative

aka Lump Gulch

aka Buffalo Creek

The Clancy mining district consists essentially of the drainages of Lump Gulch and Clancy Creek, both tributaries of Prickly Pear Creek. The district is directly south of Helena and was first developed by placer operations along Prickly Pear Creek around 1865. The gold placers did not prove to be very profitable, but rich silver lodes were discovered the next year by Joseph Fultz who discovered the Legal Tender mine (located on Prickly Pear Creek and in the Alhambra sub-district) and Thomas G. Merrill who located the Liverpool. 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 Corrine, Utah and then to smelters in San Francisco and Europe. Merrill thought the Liverpool claim was not worth developing and abandoned the property but he returned in the early 1880s and relocated the claim. He lacked the capital to properly develop it until John S. Miller of Helena became a partner in the early 1890s. At first the quartz veins were thin but it was quickly found that they were inverted lodes which got larger as the mine went down. The ore was of such rich quality that within 18 months the mine paid $200,000 in dividends, employed 45 men and by the end of the 1890s produced $1,500,000 worth of silver. The mine continued to produce on a small scale, intermittently, until 1951 (Knopf 1913; Pardee and Schrader 1933; Becraft et al. 1963; Wolle 1963; Krohn and Weist 1977).

The dominant rock of this district is the quartz monzonite. With it are associated dikes and large masses of aplite. Intrusions of pegmatite and porphyritic granite are also present and in many places late Tertiary rhyolite rests on the eroded surface of the quartz monzonite. Deposits occur as lodes in the quartz monzonite and comprise representatives of both the older and the younger groups. The younger deposits have been more productive; containing rich silver bearing lodes containing galena, sphalerite, and tetrahedrite. They occur in the central and southern part of the district, mostly on and near Clancy Creek and Lump Gulch (Schrader 1929).

Encouraged by the success of the Liverpool and Legal Tender (see also the Alhambra sub- district) mines, some two dozen other lode mines were opened in the district, mostly along the Lump Gulch drainage. The town of Lump Gulch City grew during the 1870s to around 200 persons and contained a hardware store, post office, machine and blacksmith shop, a general merchandise store, a butcher shop and an assay office. Both Clancy and Lump Gulch City were primarily supported by the King Solomon, Free Coinage and Little Nell mines which produced exceptionally rich silver ore, totaling about 2,618,000 ounces of silver for all three mines (Wolle 1963; Becraft et al. 1963).

The Little Nell and Liverpool mines were once again active by 1908. They supplied the 20 ton Gold Crown Concentrator and in 1911 the Frohner 30-ton mill was constructed to handle the Lump Gulch ores.

By 1915 only $5000 worth of ore was produced, but a brief revival of mining operations occurred in 1920 when the price of silver was established at one dollar per ounce. Over $218,000 in silver was produced that year but by 1929 the figure had dropped to $3000. Only small-scale lode mining has been done in the district since 1930. Since World War II, development and small-scale work has been done at the Maggie, Rhoades, and Meadow mines. Total production from the district has amounted to somewhat more then $4,000,000 (Pardee and Schrader 1933; Roby et al. 1960; Becraft et al. 1963; Lawson 1972; 1974; 1976; 1977).

The placer gold deposits on Clancy and Prickly Pear creeks were dredged between 1933 and 1947.


The Clancy district is located around the town of Clancy in Jefferson County. Knopf (1913) does not give any description of the area covered by the district other than to say it encompassed the area around the town of Clancy. He does describes the mining operations in the district as including: the Legal Tender, Kennedy (or Jackson Creek), King Solomon, Little Nell and Yellowstone Prospect, all of which are either a few miles to the west, or just a short distance to the east of Clancy. The area included basically the Clancy Creek and Lump Gulch Creek drainages, no more than five miles to the west of Clancy, plus an area a few hundred yards to the east.

Pardee and Schrader (1933) describe the Clancy district as covering a far greater area than that of Knopf:

As considered herein it [the Clancy district] extends from Red Mountain east to the Elkhorn Mountains and therefore includes nearly all of the drainage basins of Clancy, Buffalo, and Warm Spring Creek and Lump Gulch, as well as a considerable part of the valley of Prickly Pear Creek, the trunk stream (Pardee and Schrader 1933:227).

Sahinen (1935) vaguely described the district as Clancy and Alhambra. He states that the district is traversed by the Butte- Helena highway (now I-15). Sahinen also included the area of upper Lump Gulch and Buffalo Creek within the Buffalo Creek district

Becraft, Pinckney and Rosenblum (1963) reduce the area somewhat from that of Pardee and Schrader to an area that:

...includes the northeastern part of the Jefferson City quadrangle roughly north of Jefferson City and east of Lava Mountain and the Spruce Hills. Also included in the Clancy district of most older reports are the mines in the drainage of Warm Springs Creek east of Alhambra, in the Clancy quadrangle. Parts of the Clancy district have been referred to as the Warm Springs, Alhambra, and Lump Gulch districts (Becraft et al. 1963:63).

Roby, Ackerman, Fulkerson and Crowley (1960) describe the district as covering the area:

The Clancy - Lump Gulch district embraces that part of Jefferson County tributary to Lump Gulch and Clancy Creek. The district centers in T8N, R4W & R5W. The Butte - Havre branch of the Great Northern Railway, U.S. Highway 91, and Prickly Pear Creek traverse and border the district to the east, the Continental Divide on the west, Quartz Creek to the south, and Jack Mountain and the divide between Jack Creek and Clark Gulch to the north (Roby et al. 1960:40).

One of the problems with the mining districts in the region south of Helena is that they overlap with each other, as is mentioned above. None of these districts were ever specifically defined. The boundaries appear to have been redefined as convenient and used historically to describe the area where mining operations were the most active at that time. Thus, when the Lump Gulch drainage was at its peak during the 1890s it was described as the Lump Gulch district. Later, when it had become dormant, it was simply included in the Clancy district. The Alhambra and Buffalo Creek districts have also been similarly incorporated into the Clancy district. The most plausible district definition would approximately be that as described by Roby, Ackerman, Fulkerson and Crowley (1960). The area would cover all or portions of the following:

Sections 4-9, 16-20, 30-31, T8N, R3W

All sections, T8N, R4W

Sections 1, 12, 13-15, 22-25, 34-36, T8N, R5W

Sections 31-34, T9N, R3W

Sections 23-36, T9N, R4W


The mines of the Clancy district were primarily silver and lead mines, most of which operated in the late nineteenth and first few decades of the twentieth century.

Bell Mine

The Bell mine, located eight miles south of Clancy was owned by C. W. Flemming in 1900. He employed 20 miners to work two tunnels 500 and 900 ft in length. Ores contained quantities of gold, silver and lead. Production was recorded from 1905 to 1917 and in 1928 (Byrne 1901; Mineral Resource Index).

Little Nell

The Little Nell was one of the district's earliest mines. Its early history is scarred by the accidental death of a worker underground in 1896. By 1898 the continued decline in silver prices forced its closure and the unemployment of its 30 workers. It resumed production from 1907 to 1929. In 1908 the 100 ft shaft was sunk to the 500 ft level. Smelter returns show a production of $400,000 which includes the reworking of the old dumps in 1911 (Byrne 1899; Roby 1960; Shoemaker 1896).

Liverpool Mine

The Liverpool Mine is located in Lump Gulch 1.5 miles north of Clancy. The mine was active in the late 1890s and again from 1916 to 1921. In 1898 the Mine Inspector for the state of Montana reported the mine to be 500 ft deep and that a streak of high grade ore was encountered. A new hoisting works was installed in 1902. In 1905 Harry C. Branch was killed in the mine by falling rock. In 1906 the mine was described as having a 750 ft two-compartment shaft and over 1,000 ft of development work. The operation employed 30 men to extract 180 tons of ore a month that ran as high as 500 ounces of silver per ton. The highest grade of ore was shipped to Denver for treatment. The mine used compressed air drills and a steam hoist. The last recorded production occurred in 1940 (Byrne 1899; Walsh 1906).

King Solomon Lode

The King Solomon Lode is located two miles west of Clancy on Clancy Creek. It was located in 1889 was described in 1897 as a 125 ft two-compartment shaft served by a whim which wound a 5/8 inch rope and bucket. In 1905 the shaft was extended from 200 to 250 ft. Over 400 ft of drifting was done along with a 150 ft raise to connect with an earlier shaft. Ore was extracted at a rate of 100 tons per month by a crew of eight to ten. Although the mine closed in 1911, the next year the shaft was refurbished with a skip for hoisting and an Ingersoll compressor was installed for operation of drills. The mine was worked intermittently throughout its history until its final recorded production in 1916. Total returns for smelted ore was reported to be $100,000 in silver-lead galena ore. In its final form the ore was pulled from adit tunnels that reached a maximum depth of 270 ft and from a 300 ft deep incline shaft (Byrne 1897; Walsh 1906; 1912; Mineral Resource Index).

Mammoth Mine

The Mammoth Mine was reported in 1898 to be owned by Merrill and Miller and operating under a lease to G. A. Bailey. The ore body had been developed through a 400 ft adit that was connected to the surface through stopes. Twelve men were employed extracting the silver-lead ore (Byrne 1898).

Rosa Mine

The Rosa Mine was active around 1910. When it was visited by William Walsh in 1909 it consisted of a 100 ft shaft with 500 ft of workings on the vein. The mine was being worked with a gasoline power plant. The ore had values of silver and lead.


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