The Blue Wing district is a mile north of Bannack and about 15 miles west of Dillon along the height of land between Ermont Gulch and Grasshopper Creek. Discovered in August of 1864, the Kent veins were the first hard rock silver deposits to be claimed in Montana. The district developed into a silver mining district while other districts around it found their fortunes in gold. Within ten years of discovery, the Blue Wing district has been estimated to have produced $2,000,000 in ore, and an estimated $7,000,000 by 1910. Ore from the district, as rich as $200 to $700 per ton, was difficult to reduce and so was treated at smelters in Argenta; when these closed, the ore was sent to numerous mills in numerous locations including Swansea, Wales. The smelter at East Helena was able to treat the district's ore (Sassman 1941; Shenon 1931; Sahinen 1935; Winchell 1914; Wolle 1963).
The mines of the district are situated on or near contacts between igneous and sedimentary rocks. This geology is similar to that of Bannack to the south. The igneous rocks such as rhyolite, andesite, porphyry and diorite are generally on the east side of the district. Sedimentary rocks such as limestones and quartzites are generally on the east side of the district. Ore bodies occur mainly as replacement veins in limestone and granodiorite. Limestone deposits have been the most important to production, but all of these deposits lie close to granodiorite. The ore consisted of sulphides or sulpharsenides of silver, lead, zinc, antimony, copper, and iron. Oxides of these ores extended from the surface down to a depth of 250 feet; sulphide ores began at 50 feet and increased with depth. To a lesser degree ore was also found in fissure veins localized in recrystallized limestone adjacent to the contact with blue-gray limestone. Some veins have been mined in the granodiorite, but were not important sources of ore. Minerals found in the ore include native silver, native gold, cerargyrite, bromyrite, pyrolusite, atacamite, malachite, azurite, melaconite, smithsonite, cerusite, galena, pyrargyrite, proustite, argentite, tetrahedrite, pyrite, and sphalerite (Winchell 1914; Geach 1972; Sahinen 1935).
The first mine to be claimed on what came to be known as the Kent veins was the Blue Wing lode from whence the district derived its name. On July 25, 1864, A. K. Eaton, noted mining authority, placed a discovery notice on the Blue Wing. He was accompanied in the discovery claim by M. J. Bartleson and H. J. Buckley. Eaton's reputation was suf ficient to draw avid interest in the enterprise. Ownership records of the extensions on the discovery claim read like a roll call of Montana notables. Andrew Murrey, who was prominent in Bannack mining circles had claim #3 east. W. W. DeLacy, who later became famous as Montana Territories leading surveyor, owned No. 19 west. Sidney Edgerton, who played a role in carving Montana out of Idaho Territory and who become Montana's first Territorial Governor staked a claim on the Blue Wing on August 13. He was joined by Wilbur Fisk Sanders, who was a leading vigilante and was also instrumental in the formation of Montana Territory and by Lucia Darling who ran the first school in Bannack (Sassman 1941).
The nearby Kent lode was discovered on August 2, 1864 by John Birtwhistle, Robert Entwhistle and Joseph Mylroie. The same day the Whopper lode was claimed by John Innis, John Mellon, and W. H. Thomas. The Bannack Chief and Arizona lodes were also recorded in 1864. Eventually the Blue Wing, Whopper, and Bannack Chief became known as the Kent group (Sassman 1941).
Only one mill was ever built in the district. A small 5-stamp mill was erected on Spring Creek by M. F. Kirkpatrick. Besides the mill it was outfitted with two Frue vanners, but the operation was never a commercial success. Most of the Blue Wing ore was treated at the smelters in nearby Argenta (Sassman 1941).
Although the district quieted after the bonanza days of the 1860s, the district was again active in the 1880s. The Ruby, Del Monte, Bismarck, Charter Oak, Sibley, Silver Rose, Huron, and New Departure mines saw active development if not actual production.
The Blue Wing district produced a very small amount of placer gold in 1934 when 2.34 ounces were recovered (Lyden 1948).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Winchell (1914) describes the district as the region of the divide between Rattlesnake and Grasshopper creeks. The district overlooks the Beaverhead Valley. Geach (1972) places the district south of the Badger Pass district and north of the Bannack district while Sahinen simply states the district is north of Bannack. Figure 1 shows the boundaries of the district generally as described by Geach (1972).
HISTORIES OF SELECT MINES
The Artic mine is located about 3/4 mile north of the old Bannack-Dillon Stage road in sections 20 and 21, T7S, R11W. It was patented by the George W. Farlin. The only historical information on the mine are items in the
On May 23, 1885 it was reported that the mine was yielding high grade ore. On May 8, 1886 the Artic shaft was reported to be 160 feet deep with a 60 foot drift to the east. A carload of ore assaying at $70 per ton was waiting shipment. In 1972 the shaft was reported to be still open, though untimbered. No production records for the mine are available (Geach 1972).
When observed by M. A. Leeson in the early 1880s, the Bismarck mine was owned by L. C. Fyhrie and leased to Frank Williams & Co. The mine was in production, had been a producer in the past and had a good sized pile of 200 ounce silver ore on the dump (Sassman 1941).
Claimed by A. K. Eaton on July 25, 1864, the Blue Wing was the first of the early bonanza lodes of the district. Extensions of the discovery claim were owned by many of the early historical figures in Montana. Ore, pulled from a vein one to six feet in width, was rich enough to be shipped to San Francisco to be treated or sent to Swansea, Wales as ballast in sailing vessels. Most of the ore was assayed at 200 to 600 ounces of silver per ton. Later, the ore was hauled to Corrine, Utah and shipped by train to the east to be treated. In the fall of 1864 the owners of the mine, George Chrisman, George Miller, W. C. Hopkins, Andy Murray, and others went to New York City to sell the Blue Wing. Although they were offered $10,000 for the mine, the owners refused the offer since it was tendered in devalued greenbacks. Although no production records remain from the early period of production, the mine is reported to have produced over a million ounces of silver (Sassman 1941).
The Blue Wing claim is listed in the Mineral Record Index in 1871 - 1973, 1935, 1938, and 1940; it is also discussed in the mining literature in 1936. The claim is one of three veins worked in the Kent mine. See the Kent mine for further discussion (Geach 1972; WPA 1941).
The Charter Oak is located in section 4, T8S, R11W at an altitude of 7,100 feet. The mine has been developed through an adit with about 500 feet of underground workings. Ore pulled from a stope assayed at 2 percent lead, 8 percent zinc, .32 percent copper and rated 11.4 ounces of silver and .020 ounces of gold per ton. The mine was visited by M. A. Leeson in the early 1880s. At the time the mine was owned and operated by M. S. Herr who had worked the mine through the winter to a depth of 160 feet. Active from 1938 to 1964, the mine produced 506 tons of ore which yielded 20 ounces of gold, 14,845 ounces of silver, 3,409 pounds of copper, 15,700 pounds of zinc and 506 tons of lead (Geach 1972).
Located in section 28, T7S, R11W adjacent to the old Bannack to Dillon stage road, the property consists of the Del Monte, Bonaparte, Maltby S., Isabella, Francis H., and Barehill claims. The first period of production for the mine occurred between 1871 and 1876. In the early 1880s the owners, Sears and Roe, had a number of men working the property. When the mine was observed by M. A. Leeson in the early 1880s, 30 tons of first class ore had been hauled from the 230 foot main shaft. Most of the stoping was done on the 120 foot level (Sassman 1941).
Later, a considerable amount of ore was taken out by lessees in the 1890s. One of the cars shipped averaged over 500 ounces of silver per ton. The lessees extended the shaft to 253 feet which was well below the water table,necessitating pumping. Despite the cost associated with extracting and milling the ore and with pumping the mine, it has been estimated that the lessees netted between $30,000 and $50,000 for their efforts (Geach 1972).
In 1922 the mine was purchased from the Graves Estate by West Butte Mining Company. The new owners retimbered the shaft and ran a number of prospect drifts primarily on the upper levels. After a year work on the property ceased, the mine was allowed to flood. In 1935 the mine was reopened and produced ore until 1941. During this period, 394 tons of ore yielded 20 ounces of gold, 7,397 ounces of silver, 228 pounds of copper, and 206 pounds of lead (Geach 1972).
At this mine quartz diorite intrudes limestone. The cerargyrite ore is in a vein 16 inches wide. Silver values decline at 60 feet and at 80 feet the ore changes to the pyrargyrite, a sulphide ore (Shenon 1931).
The Bonaparte claim produced a lower grade of ore and is said to average 20 to 40 ounces of silver per ton with some assays as high as 450 ounces per ton. The Bonaparte was in production primarily in 1940 (Geach 1972). A 50 foot shaft was sunk on the Francis H. prior to 1931 and four shallow prospects excavated on the Barehill claim (Geach 1972).
The Del Monte mine is listed in the Mineral Record Index from 1871 - 1875, 1922, 1938 and 1940 when it was listed as the Bonaparte (WPA 1941).
The Huron mine is located in section 28, T7S, R11W just north of the Kent Mine. The property consists of the seven unpatented claims located by a man named Batchelor. The ore from the mine was originally sent to Swansea, Wales for treatment. In the early 1880s the Lamb brothers developed a new adit on the claim. Later the mine was obtained by John Costello who in turn sold half interest to Frank Sinnott in 1910. The remaining half was obtained by Sinnott after Costello's death. Ore from the mine was shipped in 1902 by V. W. Grace, and from 1918-19, 1925, and 1936-37 by Sinnott (Geach 1972).
The mine is also known as the Cottontail. As such it also produced ore in 1917 for Sinnott and Tweedy and in 1953 for C. M. Cass. A notice observed at the mine which names the property the Cottontail was signed by James F. Smith (Geach 1972).
The mine developed two narrow fissure veins cutting through recrystallized limestone and blue-gray limestone. Each vein was developed over a length of 500 feet by shallow shafts, trenches, and short adits. Ore was reported to be cerargyrite and patches of residual sulfides in a gangue of quartz and calcite (Geach 1972).
The mine is listed in the Mineral Record Index from 1871 to 1875, 1918, 1919, 1925, and 1938 (WPA 1941).
The Ingersoll mine is located in section 4, T8S, R11W a third mile north of the Charter Oak at an altitude of 7,000 feet. The property is composed of three patented claims: the Contact, the Bob Ingersoll and the Colonel Ingersoll. The mine was discovered in the 1860s and was said to have produced a significant amount of ore from open cuts and tunnels. In 1912 Phillip Lonergran, under a bond and a lease, extended the 150 foot tunnel by sinking a 200 foot winze. This winze crossed the contact between the limestone and granodiorite, extending well into the granodiorite. While the adit was driven in white limestone, the mineralized zone produced cerussite, cerargyite, bromyrite and malachite in a gangue of quartz and calcite (Shenon 1931).
The Kent mine is located about three miles northeast of Bannack in sections 28 and 33 T7S, R11W at the head of Spring Gulch at an elevation of about 6,800 feet. The mine worked three veins known as the Kent, Blue Wing, and Bannack Chief which are covered by the Jay Gould, Edith, E. M.Wilson and Nettie claims (Geach 1972; Shenon 1931; Winchell 1914).
The Kent veins were discovered in 1864 and were worked throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Ore was shipped by wagon to Corrine, from Corrine by rail to San Francisco, and from San Francisco to Swansea, Wales by ship. In the early 1880s, lessees managed to pull $68,000 in ore out of the mine in a mere 14 months. Later in the decade, two-thirds interest in the mine was acquired by Col. Philip Shenon. He ran a 850 foot adit from the Edith claim into the hill between the Kent and the Blue Wing. The end of the adit struck a body of lead-zinc ore, which became known as the "blind lead". Ore from the blind lead ran about 25 ounces of silver per ton (Shenon 1931).
The mine was worked from 1907 to 1909 by the Butte and Dillon Development Company. During this period of production 179 tons of ore returned about $15,000. S. P. Burr extracted 40 tons worth $10,000 in 1910 and 20 tons of ore worth $500 in 1917. The mine produced smaller amounts in 1919, 1928, and 1935. The total 1907 - 1935 production reached 276 tons of ore which reduced to 9 ounces of gold, 38,980 ounces of silver, 9,907 pounds of copper, 3,116 pounds of zinc and 72,261 pounds of lead. The return on the ore was estimated to be about $750,000.
The mine is at the base of the Madison limestone. Ores occur in irregular chambers and shoots roughly paralleling the limestone. The Kent and Whopper ore bodies were tabular deposits along well-defined fissures. The Kent ore body was the largest in the mine. The Hayes and Ewing ore shoot was a pipe-like deposit occurring at the intersection of the Blue Wing fissure with the contact of a white marble and a bluish-gray limestone. The Burr ore shoot was a peculiar winding pipe extending away from the Hayes and Ewing ore body. The Shenon tunnel, known as the "blind lead", exposed veins of ore in granodiorite with 170 feet of crosscuts. Ores are generally 15 percent lead with 5 to 6 percent copper (Shenon 1931; Geach 1972; Winchell 1914).
The mine was developed primarily from the Blue Wing Tunnel which was extended with a long drift on the 1060 foot level and the Burr (blind lead) drift; and by the Whopper Tunnel from which a winze provided access to lower drifts and stopes (Shenon 1931).
The Kent mine is listed in the Mineral Record Index from 1871 to 1872, 1907 to 1910, 1917 - 1919, and 1928; it is also discussed in the mining literature in 1903, 1907 and 1934 (WPA 1941).
The New Departure mine is located about 1.5 miles northeast of the Kent mine in the NW1/4 of section 26, T7S, R11W. The property is composed of seven patented claims: the Clift, Director, Guardian, Protector, Queen Sabbe, Shield and Signal. A group of unpatented claims known as the Chess group are adjacent. Most of the mine's production has come from the Signal and Shield (Geach 1972; Shenon 1931).
The mine was located by George Washington Stapleton in 1871. He developed an adit in the Queen Sabbe claim. Lawrence A. Brown and Joshua E. Clayton purchased the mine in 1880 for $2,500. Brown bought out Clayton seven years later for $3,500. He employed 15 miners and two top men at the mine to drive a 800 foot tunnel onto the vein. In the mid-1880s the mine was the most active in the district. In 1905 the heirs of Lawrence Brown sold the mine to the New Departure Mining Company for $50,000. In the next two years, New Departure employed up to as many as 40 and as few as nine men extracting ore from a series of adits ranging from 200 to 1000 feet. The ore ran as high as 300 ounces silver per ton. An additional vein of 150-200 ounce of silver per ton ore was located below water level and plans were made to install a plant and sink a shaft. However, this did not come to fruition. After 1907 the mine was worked by lessees until 1918. In that year O. M. Best of Dillon bought the mine. Best leased the property to John Coppin from 1923 until 1928 when the mine was sold. J. L. Templeman of Butte acquired the mine and had it in production until 1941 with the exception of 1930, 1937 and 1938 (Walsh 1906; Sassman 1941; Shoemaker 1894; Shenon 1931; Geach 1972).
From the advent of the Twentieth century to World War Two, 3500 tons of ore were taken from the mine, principally from the Homeside tunnel and crosscut, Farrell stope and Badger workings. The ore when reduced, yielded up to 171 ounces of gold, 177,805 ounces of silver, 10,827 pounds of copper, 11,664 pounds of zinc and 14 tons of lead. It was estimated the mine had produced over a million dollars worth of ore from the time of its location to 1931.
After World War II the mine was acquired by C. Gosta Miller of Dillon. In 1952 the Blue Dot Mining Company of Dillon began the Blue Dot adit 800 feet east of the previous activity to explore mineralization in the Signal claim. The adit reached 700 feet when the exploration project was stopped. Under an option, Spokane National Mines extended the Blue Dot adit in 1958. This resulted in the discovery of the lucrative 208 ore body. This ore body was developed from the Blue Dot level, the Stinker incline and the Silver Spring level from which 23,137 tons of ore were extracted by 1965. This amounts to 90 percent of the mine's Twentieth century ore production. However, over half of the silver and almost all of the gold was produced prior to the opening of the Blue Dot (Geach 1972).
Prior to the development of the Blue Dot adit, the oxidized ore was extracted to a depth of 250 feet. This ore was in the form of cerargyrite, cerussite,bindheimite, smithsonite, anglesite, malachite, azurite, gypsum and oxides of manganese and iron. The 208 ores are various sulphide minerals including sphalerite, galena, argentiferous tetrahedrite and probably some argentite (Winchell 1914; Geach 1972).
The New Departure mine is listed in the Mineral Record Index from 1872 to 1875, 1906 to 1917, 1923 - 1931, 1934, 1935 and 1940; it is also discussed in the mining literature in 1905 - 1909, 1931, 1936 and 1937 (WPA 1941).
The Pomeroy mine, located in sections 28 and 29 T7S, R11W, is northwest of the Del Monte mine and a short distance north of the old Dillon to Bannack road. It consists of three claims: the Quebec, Silver Buckle, and Silver Belt. The property was located in the 1860s and was in production in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1908 and 1909 Amede Bessett extracted 38 tons of ore from the mine which yielded 2 ounces of gold, 3,476 ounces of silver, 491 pounds of copper and nearly 2 tons of lead. The main workings consist of an incline shaft with open stopes that reach the surface. The mine ore was lead carbonate with values of silver. The property was idle from 1909 to 1966 when it was leased by Spokane National Mines, Inc. (Shenon 1931; Geach 1972).
The Ruby mine was active in the 1880s. Owners Trask, Graves and White installed the district's first steam hoist on a 130 foot two-compartment shaft (Sassman 1941).
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