Development of the Wolf Creek district on Prickly Pear Creek north of Helena began about 1890, after the building of the Great Northern Railroad. Placer mining has been of little importance in this area. Lyden (1948) states that nothing has been learned concerning placer mining activity prior to 1904, and since then only during four years (1934, 1935, 1945, and 1946) has any production been reported. Production is estimated at $40,000 in copper and $10,000 in lead.
The area is underlain by shales, argillites, and quartzites of Proterozoic age, and quarttzite of Cambrian age (Flathead). These are intruded by a few sills and dikes of diorite, and on the northeast they are unconformably overlain by a great mass of volcanic rocks, chiefly flows, tuffs, and breccia. Faults of large displacement have been noted (Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948).
Lodes containing copper with silver and gold are widely distributed in the area of Beltian rocks. Most appear to be localized in tear faults associated with the Wolf Creek thrust zone. The ore consists for the most part of primary chalcopyrite with pyrite and quartz. Post-mineral faulting is common but does not appear to offset the veins. The placer gold was probably weathered from veins in Belt rocks that are mined for copper but contains some silver and gold (Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948).
Most of the mining development has occurred at the Hudson and Bissonette mines on Little Creek and the New Era or Rosenfield mine on Wolf Creek. The combined production from these mines is estimated at $35,000 in copper and $10,000 in silver. Other mines in the district include the Herwood, Old Silver, and Sheep Creek (Sahinen 1935; Montana Bureau of Mines ND).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Sahinen (1935) places the district south and west of Wolf Creek station, on the Great Northern Railroad about 30 miles north of Helena.
Pardee and Schrader (1933) described the district as an indefinitely bounded area lying mainly south and west of Wolf Creek station. It includes parts of the drainage basins of Wolf Creek, Little Creek and two or three small tributaries of Little Prickly Pear.
Figure 1 shows the district similar to the description by Pardee and Schrader (1933) and Sahinen (1935). The large district as defined by AMRB (1994) is for Department of State Lands' inventory.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Bissonette mine, also known as the Liberty, is located in northwest section 3, T14, R4W on the divide between Little and Wolf creeks and adjoins the Hudson claims on the northeast. The property is composed of the Champion and Liberty claims of O. H. Bissonette. The mine was developed by two adits, each several hundred feet long. Tunnel No. 2 on the Little Creek slope was caved at 500 feet when examined. Tunnel No. 1 about 110 feet higher was closed by caving at 300 feet. The mine worked a quartz barite (Montana Bureau of Mines ND; Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).
The Herwood is located in southwest section 26, T15N, R5W on Gladstone Creek about one mile west of the New Era mine and six miles from th Wolf Creek settlement. The mine was developed by a 200 foot adit. A sample shipment of 2,700 pounds returned $100 to the ton in copper, silver and gold (Montana Bureau of Mines ND; Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).
The Hudson mine is located in northwest section 9, T14N, R4W on Little Creek a short distance above its junction with Little Prickly Pear Creek and about three miles from the Wolf Creek Station. The property consisted of several claims owned by S. C. Hudson et al. On the south side of Little Creek, three adits explored a vein of crushed argillite and quartz. The longest of these adits was the upper most which was 100 feet long. On the north side of the creek on the Honeycomb claim an adit 240 feet crosscuts a vein which was drifted for about 100 feet. Ore occurs in small bunches or pipes. Returns from the smelter on a shipment of 16 tons showed 10 percent copper, and 5 ounces of silver and 0.01 ounce gold per ton. A second adit 150 feet higher showed richer returns on a shipment. Further up the slope on the Montreal claim, shallow workings exposed a small vein of quartz with iron oxide and copper stains (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.; Pardee and Schrader 1933; McClernan 1983).
New Era or Rosetta
The New Era mine at Unionville is located in northwest section 30, T14N, R4W on the southwest side of Wolf Creek about five miles from the settlement of New Era on the G. N. R. R. The claim was developed by a 700 foot adit with about 400 feet of crosscuts and branches. The adit exposed a fault vein for a distance of 600 feet. Copper ore from the mine ranged from 7 to 25 percent. The mine produced $25,516 in copper during 1922-1926. The mine reported production every year from 1922 to 1929 (Montana Bureau of Mines ND; Pardee and Schrader 1933; Sahinen 1935; WPA 1941).
Old Silver, Adams and Sheep Creek
The Old Silver claims are in northeast section 25, T15N, R5W on the east side of Gladstone Creek .5 miles above its mouth and .5 miles southwest of the New Era Mine. The claims were worked by an open pit and an adit on the Old Silver.
The Apex claim of O. D. Adam is located on the ridge south of Wolf Creek. The mine worked a small quartz claim containing barite.
The claim on Sheep Creek is about three miles south of Wolf Creek. Two shafts were sunk 200 feet to develop a copper lode. Work ceased prior to striking the lodes at depth (Montana Bureau of Mines ND; Pardee and Schrader 1933).
Lyden, Charles J.
1948 The Gold Placers of Montana. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 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 Bureau of Mines
ND "Wolf Creek District", Vertical mine files.
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", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Shannon, Earl Victor
1921 "Massive Laumontite From Montana", Am. Mineralogist, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 6-7.
Swallow, G. C., J. B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver
1891 Reports of Inspectors of Mines, State of Montana, year ending November 30th, 1890. Journal Publishing Company, Helena.
Tyler, Paul McIntosh and Petar, Alice Virginia
1934 "Arsenic", U. S. Bureau of Mines, Econ. Paper 17.
Wolle, Muriel S.
1963 Montana Pay Dirt. A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State. Sage Books, Denver.
Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey
1941 Montana Mine Index, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940. Montana School of Mines, Butte.