HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Big Elk aka Saltese

The Denemora mining district is located on the north end of the Bitterroot Mountain range south of the town of Saltese, a station on the Northern Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroads. Although some placer mining was undoubtedly conducted in the streams which are all tributaries of the St. Regis River, no mention of production was found. Copper mining has been intermittent since the 1870s, but no steadily producing mines were developed (Sahinen 1935).

There is little information on this district in the mining literature, but it is likely that the development of the district is closely related to the development of the Northern Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroads and the town of Saltese, which came into existence prior to 1891. The area was first visited by packers, trappers and prospectors who named Packer Creek, and originally called Saltese "Packers Meadow." Within the Denemora district most of the mines are located southwest of Saltese in the Silver Creek drainage, however, the more important area producers are two to five miles north of Saltese in the Packer Creek district along the fracture zone caused by the Osborn fault (Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).

Sometime before 1891, Colonel Meyers, a "veteran of several wars," built the St. Regis House on Packer's Meadow to service travelers, freighters and stagecoaches using the Mullen Road. The village which grew up around the inn became known as Silver City, and was an important supplier for the mines in the Packer Creek and Denemora districts as well as for placer mines across the pass in Idaho. In 1891 the name of the town was changed to Saltese after a Nez Perce chief. In addition to supplying mining operations, Saltese was an important lumber town and boasted eleven saloons around the turn of the century. The notorious 1910 forest fire in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains forced the abandonment of several small mining towns and seriously threatened Saltese, but the town was successfully defended and is still occupied today (Wolle 1963; Sahinen 1935).

The mines saw slight fluorescence in the mid-1910s and mid-1920s as evidenced by production reports, although apparently not enough to be highlighted in the literature. This growth is reflected in the fact that in 1914 Mineral County was carved out of the western part of Missoula County (Sahinen 1957; Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.; Lindeman et al. 1984).

The area is underlain by greenish - blue calcareous shales and impure limestones of the Wallace formation of the Pcotesozoic Belt series. A large diabase sill or sheet of diabase called the Wishardo sill intrudes through sediments in the southeast portion of the district. No other igneous rocks are exposed (Sahinen 1935).

Ore deposits of the region occur in well defined, nearly vertical fissure veins, in which the gangue is primarily siderite, along with other carbonates and quartz. Most ores are copper bearing, although the Agnes mine worked a lead-bearing vein. Some of the copper veins carry as much as $2.00 per ton in gold under 1935 values. Veins consist of siderite, quartz, limonite, pyrite, chalcopyrite (and galena in the Agnes) or their oxidation products, and vary from a few inches to ten feet in width. Oxidation extends to at least 175 feet in some veins, with some faulting and crushing (Sahinen 1935).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

Sahinen (1935) locates the district southwest of the station town of Saltese which would appear to include the Silver Creek drainage (Figure 1).

Lyden (1948) and Wolle (1963) make no mention of the district or associated creeks or mines.

The Last Chance mine, which is discussed as part of the Packer Creek district to the north, is considered part of the Denemora district by some resources (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

Based on Montana Bureau of Mines (n.d.) information, the Denemora district is bounded on the north by the St. Regis River, on the east by Deer Creek, and on the south by the Idaho border. Significant drainages include Denna Mora Creek, Rainy Creek, Silver Creek and Big (or Big Elk) Creek.

Historically, the Denemora and adjacent Packer Creek districts were often included as part of the Saltese district.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

No significant information was found on individual mines, although some production was reported, primarily in the 1910s and 1920s: The Bald Mountain reported production in 1913, 1914 and 1915. Other important mines include the Richmond, Switchback, Agnes, Amazon Dixie, St Lawrence and Boston Colby, most of which are in the Silver - Dominion Creek drainages within the Denemora district boundaries as defined by Sahinen (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.; Sahinen 1935).

Agnes

The Agnes is located two miles south - southwest of Saltese on Big Sunday Creek. The mine was developed by three adits which worked copper deposits. The vein of siderite and quartz contained irregular distributions of galena and chalcopyrite. Total development was listed at 800 feet (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

Amazon Dixie

The Amazon Dixie mine reported production in 1919, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 and 1926 (WPA 1941).

Bald Mountain

Located at the head of the south fork of Dominion Creek a short distance east of the Montana - Idaho border, the mine consists of a 1,500 foot adit and several hundred feet of drifts. The mine worked narrow siderite veins and some sparsely disseminated chalcopyrite (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

Boston - Colby

The Boston Colby mine is located half a mile west of Saltese between the railbeds of the Northern Pacific and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. The mine was developed by a 900 foot tunnel with 450 feet of drifts along the vein. The vein was from four to ten feet wide in the west drift, but pinched out in the east drift. While the vein contained quartz siderite, limonite, pyrite, and chalcopyrite, the values in the ore were considered too poor to mill (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

Monitor

The Monitor mine is located southwest of Saltese, beyond the Switchback mine. The mine shipped 500 tons of ore prior to 1910 when surface structures were destroyed by fire. The mine had a shaft 700 feet deep with several levels and drifts. The main vein was said to be 15 feet thick.

St. Lawrence

The St. Lawrence mine reported production in 1913, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1921, and 1923 (WPA 1941)

Switchback

The Switchback mine is located two miles southwest of Saltese just below the Monitor mine road. A vein of siderite a few inches thick was developed by a 150 foot drift. The ore reportedly carried $2.00 per ton in gold (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

Taft

The Taft mine is about one mile west of Taft on the south bank of the St. Regis River. The mine was developed by a tunnel along a zone of fissuring. Ore assayed at $2.00 per ton and 2 percent copper (Montana Bureau of Mines n.d.).

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