aka Big Pipestone


While Pipestone Creek appears to have been worked historically, the only recorded production occurred after the increase in gold prices in the Great Depression. From 1932 to 1941 a few properties were intermittently active. The district's placer boom peaked in 1935 when three claims produced 4.8 ounces of gold. This level of production was nearly met in 1940 when one operator working a sluice produced four ounces of gold. The placer mines worked the gravel of Pipestone Creek and the nearby Tertiary lake beds (Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948).

The quartz monzonite of the Boulder batholith occurs in the southern part of the district. To the north the granite is covered by Tertiary lake beds of gravel, sand and clay. These materials appear to have been deposited in a bay that extended from the Jefferson Valley westward along the course of Pipestone Creek. Gold occurred in placers, lodes cutting granite and mineralized zones in brecciated and recemented granite. Production has occurred in the lodes, but only hand picked ore has been shipped from the brecciated zones. In fractures ore is free gold in quartz (Sahinen 1935; Roby et al 1960).

Although the Columbia mine appeared briefly in the mining literature in 1898, lode mining peaked around 1935. Most of the claims were made in Dry Creek four to five miles north of Pipestone Hot Springs. These claims include the Gloria Lee with a 30 foot shaft; the Grubstake with 550 feet of adits and a 50 foot winze; the Golden Valley with a 30 foot shaft; the Minnie Wilson with open cuts and three adits; the New Deal with a 30 foot shaft, a 30 foot drift and a 30 foot raise. The Blue Bell mine's production peaked in 1941 when 66 tons of ore were processed. The mine, also known as the Marsh, had a jig mill on the site which was powered by a nearby hydroelectric plant (Roby et al 1960; Gilbert 1935).

Steere (1979) also lists the Jupiter and the Silver Bell in the district. However, the Jupiter is generally considered to be part of the Little Pipestone district.


Sahinen (1935) places the Pipestone district 10 miles west of Whitehall. It is traversed by U. S. Highway 10 and the former main line of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad.

Lyden (1948) discusses the placers on Big Pipestone Creek which dumps into the Jefferson two miles southwest of Whitehall.

In her discussions of Whitehall, Wolle (1963) quotes Peter A. Dawson, "The Big Pipestone claims were six miles west of her (Whitehall) on Pipestone Creek. The Belcher ditch carried water from Fish Creek, seven miles to the workings."

Perhaps the best definition was in Roby et al (1960) which placed the district about six miles east of Butte in T3N, R6W and the eastern portion of T3N, R7W. "The district is bordered on the west by the Continental Divide and on the east by the crestline between Pipestone and Whitetail Creeks. The northern border of the district separates the drainage of Nez Perce Creek from the headwaters of International and Honey Creeks. The latter two drain the district and subsequently empty into Delmoe Lake". Figure 1 shows the district as defined by Roby et al (1960) and the smaller district as defined by the AMRB (1994).


Blue Bell (Marsh)

The Blue Bell mine is located in section 35 T3N, R6W about 5 miles by road north of Spire Rock. In 1935 the mine was described as one patented and four unpatented claims. Two men were employed in a 180 foot upper adit, a 580 foot lower adit and 40 and 100 foot raises. The mine worked veins 3.5 to 6 foot wide which assayed from $2 to $50 per ton; the 3,000 tons on the dump averaged $10 per ton. Although water was available, no mill was present (Gilbert 1935).

By 1960 the property consisted of one patented and seven unpatented claims. The mine development was listed as a shaft, a 700 foot adit and a 16 foot winze. The mine worked a fissure filled vein in quartz monzonite. The vein was about three to four feet wide and contained galena, pyrite, and chalcopyrite in quartz. In 1941 the mine produced 66 tons which yielded 34 ounces of gold, 373 ounces of silver, 1,026 pounds of copper and 8,755 pounds of lead. The mine is credited with 98 tons of ore between 1909 and 1948. This ore yielded 84 ounces of gold, 402 ounces of silver, 1,228 pounds of copper, 19,285 pounds of lead and 665 pounds of zinc. Most of the ore was milled on the property. When examined around 1960 the remains of a jig mill was observed along with a water-powered generator and other equipment (Roby et al 1960).


The Columbia mine was located about 2.5 miles from Pipestone Hot Springs and in 1898 was owned by C. W. Hoffman and E. R. Purnell. The mine employed six miners and four topmen. Underground development included two shafts sunk on a gold-bearing vein. The main shaft was 250 feet deep and the ventilating shaft was 190 feet. The two shafts were connected at the 100 and 190 foot levels. A 30 horsepower Ledgerwood engine hauled a bucket with a 5/8 inch steel rope (Byrne and Hunter 1898).

Minnie Wilson

The Minnie Wilson mine is located on Dry Creek four miles north of Pipestone Hot Springs. The property when described in 1935 consisted of two unpatented claims which had been developed with open cuts and three shafts: 15, 190 and 60 feet deep. The mine employed three men on six parallel veins that were 5 feet wide and averaged $5 per ton. One 8 inch vein assayed at $20 to $48 per ton. Past production was reported at $10,000 (Gilbert 1935).

New Deal

The New Deal mine is located on Dry Creek five miles north of Pipestone Springs. The property was composed of two unpatented claims. In 1935 the mine was reported to employ four men in a 30 foot adit, a 30 foot drift and a 30 foot raise. At the time the last shipment of 11 tons returned 168 ounces of silver per ton (Gilbert 1935).


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

Beck, Barb S.

1986 "Cultural Resource Inventory of the Halfway Creek Irrigation Diversion", Deerlodge National Forest, Jefferson Ranger District.

Byrne, John and Frank Hunter


Ninth Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana

. State Publishing Company, Helena.

Gilbert, Frederick C.

1935 "Directory of Montana Mining Properties",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 15

. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

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.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Steere, Peter L.

1979 "Cultural Resource Inventory and Evaluation, Homestake Pass Safety Federal Aid Project I-90-5(38)-233", Mineral Research Center, Butte.

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.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell


Montana Pay Dirt.

Sage Books, Athens, Ohio