aka Mitchell Creek

The McClellan / Mitchell Creek district is in the northeastern corner of Jefferson County. The district lies in the drainage of McClellan Creek which flows into Prickly Pear Creek and the drainage of Mitchell Creek which flows into the Missouri River. The main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad runs through the district. The American Smelting and Refining Company smelter is located ten miles to the north.

The mines are in quartz monzonite of the Boulder batholith which contacts Cretaceous andesites on the east. Values of gold, silver, copper and molybdenum were found in the andesite cut by granite. The gold in the Mitchell Creek placer gravels was weathered from the gold-bearing veins in quartz monzonite (Lyden 1948; Stone 1911).

Little is formally written on the district. In 1891 Swallow mentions placer mines in the gulches and quartz lodes in the hills of McClellan Creek. Lyden (1948) estimated that the seasonal average recovery for placers on McClellan Creek was around $122. However, on Mitchell Creek he estimated that $500,000 in placer gold may have been removed from the gravels. Production was recorded between 1909 and 1916. In 1911 four operators recovered $2,007 in gold. Placer operations resumed in 1932 when two operators attempted some sluicing. Small operator sluicing continued in 1933 and 1935. In 1939 a stationary wash plant was built and worked 25,000 cubic yards from the Lewis Placer recovering 195 ounces of gold. The following year 107 ounces of gold were taken from the stream (Lyden 1948; Knopf 1913; Swallow 1891).

In 1911 it was estimated that the district had produced $1 million in lode ore. Hill (1912) mentions the 20 stamp Jewell & Sage mill as being in the district but gives no production figures or sources of ore. In the period between 1902 and 1957 the district produced 4,557 tons of ore worth only $127,332 (Hall 1912; Knopf 1913; Roby 1960).


Because the McClellan District is little noted in the mining literature, historic boundaries are difficult to determine. Stone (1911) discusses mines on the north branch of Jackson Creek, on a ridge south of Crystal Creek, at the head of Maupin Creek and along McClellan Creek. These mines are located in:

Section 8, T 8N, R 2W

Section 11, T 8N, R 2W

Section 16, T 8N, R 2W

Section 17, T 8N, R 2W

Roby (1960) defines a larger district which includes not only the drainages of McClellan Creek, but also Mitchell Creek. The district was expanded to included mines in section 4, and 22 T 8N R 2W; and sections 26 and 27 T 9N, R 2W. Figure 1 shows the boundaries of the district as defined by Roby.


Although there were a large number of mines, many were little more than extensive pros-pects. The following is a discussion of some of the mines to illustrate the general lack of production from the district.

Argentum Mine

The Argentum mine, one of the principal mines of the district, was discovered on November 18, 1866 by N. Merriam and Hershel Axe. The mine worked a fissure vein in granite; yielding 723 tons worth about $135,000. In 1873, over 100 tons were sent to Omaha for processing (Roby 1960).

Black Bear

The Black Bear, on a hilltop a quarter mile southeast of the Good Cheer, is on a quartz vein in granite that carries 12 ounces of silver and $1.70 in gold per ton (Stone 1911).

Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift mine on a ridge south of Crystal Creek was developed with three incline shafts and two pits. The pyrite, arsenopyrite and chalcopyrite ore assayed at .1 ounce of gold and 1.2 ounces of silver to the ton (Stone 1911).


The Economy mine is located on the John and Jim group of claims, across Mitchell Creek from the Last Chance mine. The Economy was developed by a 500 ft incline shaft with an estimated 500 ft of underground workings. Between 1915 and 1941 the mine was in production only 12 years. In that time it was credited with an output of 1,887 tons of ore, making it the largest producer in the district. Values recovered include 1,700 ounces of gold, 4,738 ounces of silver and 2,469 pounds of copper (Roby 1960).


The Euclid, which was near the Pilot mine, was developed with a 200 ft shaft. Some shipments from this mine carried over $80 per ton in gold. The vein is on or near the contact between granite and a porphyritic granite (Stone 1911).

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate, which was located in 1884, was reported to have a 200 ft shaft with 500 ft of levels on a quartz vein 70 ft wide. A 30-ton mill and concentrator that operated at the mine were burned in the 1920s. The mine produced $31,000 in gold and the ore was valued at $23 per ton (Stone 1911).

Good Cheer

The Good Cheer mine, located at the head of Maupin Creek, has a shaft 165 ft deep with 400 ft of levels. The 4.5 ft wide quartz vein was on or near the contact between granite and porphyritic granite. In 1919 the mine shipped some sorted ore that returned $15 per ton. Total production was around $8,000 (Stone 1911).

Last Chance

The Last Chance mine is in the John and Jim Group of mines in Mitchell Creek. Developed through a shaft, the mine produced only 186 tons of ore. The mine was in production from 1932 to 1934 and from 1944 to 1946 (Roby 1960).


The Pilot mine was developed with a 330 ft shaft and a 1,200 ft tunnel. Ore was primarily pyrite with values in gold (Stone 1911).


Emmons, Samuel Franklin

1885 "Geological Sketch of the Rocky Mountain Division", U. S. 10th Census, Vol. 13, pp. 60-104.

Hall, J. H. and M. L. Rickman


Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, Thirteenth Report, for years 1911 and 1912


Knopf, Adolph

1913 "Ore Deposits of the Helena Mining Region, Montana",

US Geological Survey

, Bulletin 527, Vol. 1, p. 92.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 26

. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Roby, R. N., W. C. Ackerman, F. B. Fulkerson and F. A. Crowley


Mines and Mineral Deposits (Except Fuels), Jefferson County

, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 16, Montana School of Mines, Butte, Montana.

Stone, Ralph Walter

1911 "Geologic Relations of Ore Deposits in the Elkhorn Mountains, Montana",

U. S. Geologic Survey, Bulletin 470

, pp. 75-98.

Swallow, G. C., J. B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver


Reports of Inspectors of Mines, State of Montana, year ending November 30th, 1890

. Journal Publishing Company, Helena.