HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Greenhorn Lewis and Clark

The Austin district, originally called the Greenhorn district after the Greenhorn Gulch placer mining camp, is located northwest of Helena, on the eastern slopes of the Continental Divide which comprise the headwaters of Sevenmile Creek. The district is generally north of the community of Austin. The district became known as the Austin district when the town of Austin was developed along Greenhorn Creek as a flag station on the Northern Pacific railroad line.

The area is underlain chiefly by shales and limestones composing the upper part of the Belt series; quartzite, shale, and limestone of Cambrian and Devonian age; and the Madison limestone, of early Mississipian age. These formations are intruded and metamorphosed by the quartz monzonite of the Boulder batholith.

The primary riches of the Austin district came from the placer operations which were conducted relatively late in time, compared to the major placer boom in Montana which was essentially over by the end of the 1860s. The district was first established during the 1880s by placer miners who worked Greenhorn Creek, Skelly and Jeff Davis gulches. Below Austin, Sevenmile Creek was worked by placer operations intermittently for 12 miles and was reported to have yielded $1,200,000 in placer gold. Greenhorn Creek, Skelly and Jeff Davis Gulches were actively mined by placer operations from 1910 to 1922 and from 1931 to 1944. They reportedly gave up gold valued at over $13,000 during these years. In 1939 a dry-land dredge was set up on Greenhorn Creek next to Austin and worked about a mile of the creek bed. The dredge, and three other operators, recovered 141 ounces of gold during that year (Pardee and Schrader 1933; Lyden 1948; Wolle 1963; McClernan 1983).

In the mountainous terrain surrounding Austin, lode mining was conducted from the 1880s to 1935, mostly for silver, copper and lead ore although some gold was recovered as well. The ore had an added value in a high iron content which made it useful for fluxing. According to Pardee and Schrader, most of the lodes were irregular pockets or pipe-like bodies of different sizes found in the Madison limestone. Total production from the district's lode mines up to 1930 was only of modest proportions, estimated to have been between $300,000 and $500,000, less than half that of the placers (Pardee and Schrader 1933; Wolle 1963; McClernan 1983).

Several of the more important mines were the Baldy Smith, the King Tut, the Copper Hill, and the War Eagle. The first three are north of Austin in the Skelly Creek drainage while the War Eagle is just south of the highway east of Austin. The Baldy Smith, a small operation, was owned by "Baldy" Smith of Austin consisted of several pits and a crosscut adit with short drifts. The Copper Hill, owned by J. W. S. Corr, consisted of two adits accessing two levels with the lode cut by a Burlington Northern railroad tunnel. Pardee and Schrader reported the mine produced about $3000 during the period from 1910 to 1912 and was worked on a small scale in 1930. The third mine, the King Tut, was first discovered about 1880. It was one of the first lode mines in the district and was developed by a 200-foot long adit, a vertical shaft and an inclined winze. In 1926-1927 the mine produced $14,000 worth of ore. Its last recorded production was in 1940.

The War Eagle, owned by the R. S. Hale estate, reported production between 1898 and 1900 of 75,000 tons of ore which was shipped to the East Helena smelter for use as a flux.

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

The Austin mining district was rather vaguely defined by Pardee and Schrader (1933) as an area occupying about a township surrounding the town of Austin, just east of the Continental Divide and the area drained by Sevenmile Creek. Sahinen (1935) describes the area, and although also vague, is similar to that of Pardee and Schrader. (Lyden (1948) lists the district (which is named the Greenhorn Creek) but this only refers to the placer workings along Greenhorn Creek.

Probably the closest to historical usage is the description by McClernan (1983) which shows the Austin district as an area including:

Sections 1-24, T10N, R5W

Sections 31-36, T11N, R5W

Figure 1 shows the various historically defined district boundaries.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

The primary riches of the Austin district came from the placer operations which were conducted relatively late in time. Greenhorn Creek, Skelly and Jeff Davis Gulches were actively mined by placer operations from 1910 to 1922 and from 1931 to 1944. They reportedly gave up gold valued at over $13,000. In 1939 a dry-land dredge was set up on Greenhorn Creek next to Austin and worked about a mile of the creek bed. The dredge, and three other operators, recovered 141 ounces of gold during that year (Lyden 1948).

Lode mining was initiated in the 1880s although most of the mining was in the first two decades of the Twentieth Century.

Baldy Smith

The Baldy Smith which was owned by "Baldy" Smith of Austin and was located a little over two miles north-northeast of the town. The mine consisted of several pits and a crosscut adit with short drifts (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

Bessie

The Bessie mine, located 2.5 miles northeast of Austin, was developed in 1905 - 1906 and had recorded production in 1908, 1910, and 1926. A 300 ft tunnel was driven and a 50 ft shaft sunk on the lead. Blue lime ore was shipped to East Helena (Walsh 1906; Mining World 1905; 1906; 1910; 1911).

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay, located about three miles north of Austin was discovered in 1900 by Richard Punch and his son. The mine was developed by a 350-foot inclined shaft and numerous surface cuts. The property produced $300,000 in copper, silver and lead ore which was also useful as a flux. Most of the mine's production occurred from 1900 to 1903 and then was worked intermittently (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

Copper Hill

The Copper Hill, owned by J. W. S. Corr, is a mile north of Austin. It consisted of two two adits accessing two levels and in addition the lode was cut by a Burlington Northern railroad tunnel. Pardee and Schrader reported the mine produced about $3000 during the period from 1910 to 1912 and was worked on a small scale in 1930 (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

Osage Chief

Also owned J. W. S. Corr, the Osage Chief (or Crissman) is south of the Copper Hill mine. It produced about $10,000 worth of gold-copper-iron ore between 1910 and 1912. The ore was mined from a large open cut (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

King Tut

One and one-half mile northeast of Austin is the

King Tut

of Leslie Lyle. First discovered about 1880, it was one of the first lode mines in the district and was developed by a 200-foot long adit, a vertical shaft and an inclined winze. In 1926-1927 the mine produced $14,000 worth of ore. Its last recorded production was in 1940 (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

War Eagle

Located about two miles east of Austin just south of the Northern Pacific Railway and the highway, the War Eagle, was owned by the R. S. Hale estate. Pardee and Schrader reported that between 1898 and 1900 the mine produced 75,000 tons of ore which was shipped to the East Helena smelter for use as a flux (Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Byrne, John and Frank Hunter

1899

Tenth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana for the Year ending November 30th, 1898

. Independent Publishing Company, Helena.

Hill, James M. and Waldemar Lindgren

1912 "The Mining Districts of the Western United States",

U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 507

. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 26

. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

McClernan, Henry G.

1983 "Metallic Mineral Deposits of Lewis and Clark County, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 52

. Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, Butte.

Mining World

1905 Volume 23, p. 652. December 9, 1905.

1906 Volume 24, p. 200. February 3, 1906.

1906 Volume 24, p. 285. February 24, 1906.

1906 Volume 24, p. 340. March 10, 1906.

1910 Volume 32, p. 191. January 22, 1910.

1911 Volume 34, p. 172. January 21, 1911.

Pardee, Joseph Thomas and F. C. Schrader

1933 "Metalliferous Deposits of the Greater Helena Mining Region, Montana",

U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin #842

, reprint of article in

Mining Truth

, Vol. 14, No. 10.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 Mining Districts of Montana. Masters Thesis. Montana School of Mines. Butte.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell

1963

Montana Pay Dirt.

Sage Books, Athens, Ohio.