HISTORIC CONTEXT 

The Independence mining district is located high in the Absaroka Range in Sweet Grass County, with most of the mines located in the Basin Creek drainage a small tributary of the upper main Boulder River. Although gold was discovered in the area in the 1860's, it was not actively developed until the Crows ceded the land in 1882. The main mining boom occurred from 1888 until 1893, when a number of stamp mills were built and the mining town of Independence flourished. The Hidden Treasure, the Independence, and the Daisy were the main producers; the chief values were in gold, silver, copper and lead.

Access to the district is by road from Big Timber, following the Boulder River south for over 50 miles. The Boulder River originates in the mountains near Haystack Peak and flows northward, entering the Yellowstone River at Big Timber. The relief in the Independence area ranges from around 9000 to 11,000 feet. The patented claims are mostly located at the head of Basin Creek, although some mines were developed in drainages along the west side of the Boulder River.

Most of the Boulder River region is underlain by Archean crystallines involved in the Beartooth uplift. The Archean gneisses and schists to the south have been covered and intruded by Tertiary rocks, including basic and acidic andesites, dacites, basalt, and quartz monzonite. Mineralization of the district was probably related to the eruptive center at Independence Peak. Most of the region's known ore deposits occur in veins and are within or near a small diorite stock that cuts the extrusives about one mile east of Indepen-dence. The Independence vein is in granite (Reed 1950; Sahinen 1935; Kuhlman 1940; USGS 1983; Rubel 1964).

The settlement and development of the Boulder River Valley was greatly affected by the status of Crow lands. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 defined the territory of the Crow nation to encompass the area now known as Sweet Grass County. The Crow ceded all lands west of the East Fork of the Boulder River in 1882 due to political pressures from mining interests, and in 1891 the western boundaries of the Crow Indian Reserve were modified to the present boundaries. The first settler in Sweet Grass County established a ranch west of today's Big Timber in 1873, and several small settlements soon developed in the Big Timber Vicinity. The Boulder River Valley south of Big Timber was settled in the 1870's; the first post office was established there, at McLeod, in 1886 (GCM Services 1989; Pioneer Society 1960).

Gold was first discovered on Baboon Mountain in the Independence district in 1864 by John Allen and Barney Hughes, when the area was still within the Crow Indian Reserve. Local, small-scale placer activity occurred on the Boulder River and tributary drainages in the 1860's and 1870's, but little prospecting occurred until the western part of the Crow Indian Reserve was ceded to the United States and opened to the public in 1882. Professor Hayden and his party, for example, discovered gold float in the upper Boulder River in 1872. Although the group followed the auriferous gravels up Basin Creek to the lode deposits, they did not stake any claims on the veins. In 1879 William Langford, Seth Parker, and Albert Schmidt opened up a few gold and silver quartz leads. The first known claim, Placer (west) at the head of Basin Creek, was located in the spring of 1882, but little more than assessment work was done until 1889. The main boom occurred from 1888 to 1893, after a pack trail was cut through the woods to the mines ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Engineering and Mining Journal 1895; Kuhlman 1940; Wolle 1963; Pioneer Society 1960).

Joe Keeney reportedly recorded the first claim at Independence and Solomon City, in 1879. Between 1889 and 1891 several mines were opened, including the Poorman, Hidden Treasure, and Independence. By 1892 the Independence camp was running full blast, with auxiliary camps at Solomon City and Horseshoe Basin; approximately 150 men were working in the area. The town of Independence was located at the fork of Basin Creek in Park County, about three miles below the head of the Boulder River.

The main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which entered the area in 1882, follows the south side of the Yellowstone River through the county. The miners soon built a road from the railroad at Big Timber. Freight hauled along the road included crushers, ball mills, concentrators, and at least one sawmill. By the end of 1893 the miners had telephone service from Independence to Big Timber (Pioneer Society 1960; Anthro Research 1982; U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Wolle 1963).

A number of stamp mills were installed to serve the mines in the district. In 1892 a 10- stamp mill was set up on Basin Creek for the Hidden Treasure Company and a 3-stamp Kendall mill at the Independence townsite for the Independence Company. The next year three 10-stamp mills were installed, one at Independence, one for the King Solomon Company, and the third for the Daisy mine (Treasure State Mining Company). The Poorman Company brought in a Crawford mill that same year. In 1893 a waterwheel-driven hydroelectric power plant was built on the East Fork of the Boulder River, and electric wire was strung to the Treasure State (Daisy) and Poorman mills, and to the town of Independence ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Engineering and Mining Journal 1895).

Production in the district peaked in the early 1890s. The town of Independence had as many as 400 residents. During this period seven stamp mills were running. Ore was being mined from the Independence, King Solomon, Poorman, Golden, Hidden Treasure, and Crown claims. Between 1890 and 1893, the Independence mill produced $42,000 in gold bullion. The mining boom ended due to the depression of 1893, the exhaustion of the accessible oxidized ore, and poor management. Transportation difficulties also contributed to the decline of the mines during this period, where the trip by horse from Big Timber to the camp took five days (Kuhlman 1940; Western Mining World 1900; Reed 1950).

In August 1894, the Independence mine and mill were reopened under a lease. The Independence and the Daisy were active from 1894 to 1897, when E. H. Cowles bought the Hidden Treasure, Independence, and other properties and built Cowles Camp and a 10-stamp steam mill. Cowles sold out to Boston investors in 1900 but continued to manage the operations until the Hidden Treasure mill burned in 1904, after which operations were suspended. Some claims in the district were opened up in 1896 and 1897, but difficulties of concentration and transportation and also poor management practices led to the failure of most of these properties (U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Engineering and Mining Journal 1895; Kuhlman 1940).

From 1900 on, the highest recorded gold production was from the Hidden Treasure, the Daisy, the Independence, and the Skiline mines, in that order. Total production is unknown but was much greater than reported. From 1890 to 1905 the district reportedly produced ore valued at $120,000. Between 1895 and 1898 and 1901-1904 the mines in Sweet Grass County produced 111 ounces of gold and 926 ounces of silver ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Reed 1950; Sahinen 1935).

Workings were again reopened in the early- to mid-1930's and extended on the Daisy and Independence mines, and a gravity concentrator was built at the Daisy. As had happened before, the free-milling oxidized ore was rapidly mined out, and the remaining gold-bearing sulfide ore was not amenable to economic gold recovery by the methods in use at the time, and the operation was abandoned. Between 1930 and 1939 the county produced 272 tons of ore containing 62 ounces of gold and 909 ounces of silver (USGS 1983; U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Sahinen 1935; Reed 1950).

There were three known placer claims in the district, all along Basin Creek; the placer gold was undoubtedly eroded from the veins of the Independence area. Approximately 4000 tons of gravel were worked on one claim, probably by Ethan H. Cowles in 1906 (value about $8 per ton). Another placer was located about 500 feet below the former. Hydraulic mining was tried at that site in approximately 1930, and prospectors later worked the gravel by hand. One miner who worked the sluice ways in the 1930's reportedly averaged $12 worth of gold per day. The third placer was on Basin Creek about 200 feet above its junction with the Boulder River and was worked by hand in the 1930's (Kuhlman 1940; Lyden 1948; Rubel 1964).

BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT

The Independence district, according to Sahinen (1935), is "the eastward extension of the Cowles district of Park County. It lies on Boulder River about 60 miles south of Big Timber, the shipping point." The Bureau of Mines (1989) attempted to clarify the various historic names of the district as follows:

Most claim records, as well as official mineral survey plats, refer to the Boulder mining district; however, since the Independence was one of the principal mines, popular usage refers to the area as the Independence district. The western part of the mining district, including the townsite of Independence, has also been referred to as Cowles or Haystack mining district. Early in its history, the Independence mining district extended as far as 20 mi to the north; however, the Natural Bridge area later became a separate district.

The USGS (1983) described the "Boulder (Independence) district" as "near the head of the Boulder River," saying that it included the area around Independence Peak as well as mineralized areas as far northwest as Carbonate Mountain (in Park County). Figure 1 shows the district as described by the USGS (1983) and the larger area defined by the AMRB (1994).

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES

Daisy

The Daisy property, also known as the Treasure State, Duffy or Yager, was located on Basin Creek 55 miles south of Big Timber and a short distance southeast of the Independence mine (Section 23, T7S R12E). Two adits and connecting raises developed a fissure in diorite. The vein system contained both oxidized and pyritic gold ores in a siliceous gangue. The claim was originally operated 1894-97 by the Treasure State Company, which drove a 205 feet adit to intersect the vein. An electric-powered stamp mill was built at the portal where the ore was concentrated and amalgamated. The operation was abandoned when free-milling ore was exhausted and sulfides were encountered. An additional problem was transportation; in 1895 it was reported that the Basin creek trail was too rough for concentrate haulage (U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Rowe 1941; Reed 1950).

In 1933 a second adit was driven 480 feet. The next year, when the claims were under lease, a 35-ton gasoline-powered gravity concentrator was built, but it was permanently shut down within a few months of completion. In 1939 gold ore from the mine was treated in a small table-concentration mill, and a car of crude gold ore was shipped direct to a smelter. The Daisy reportedly produced 66 ounces of gold, 293 ounces of silver, and 3,789 pounds of copper in 1939, and it produced gold in 1940 as well (Rowe 1941; U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Mineral Yearbook 1940; Reed 1950).

The last recorded production at the Daisy was in 1950, when it produced 18 ounces of gold, 118 ounces of silver, 536 pounds of copper, and 893 pounds of zinc. In 1950 the group of four contiguous patented claims were owned by the Cowles Mining Company of Boston, Massachusetts (USGS 1983; Reed 1950).

Duffy #4

The Duffy #4 claim was opened in 1896, and a ten-stamp mill was installed and was powered by electricity from the plant 2 1/2 miles away. About 1000 tons of free milling ores were stoped out, but concentration of the gold in the sulfide zone met with little success (as elsewhere in the district), and none was shipped to a smelter (Kuhlman 1940). In 1933 another adit was started 125 feet lower than the original. It was driven 480 feet and then the work ceased. In 1938 and 1939 development began again, and a 50-ton mill was built at the site. Samples of the ore in the upper adit yielded an average of 0.38 ounces of gold per ton, 2 ounces of silver, and 0.9% copper (Kuhlman 1940).

Hidden Treasure

The Hidden Treasure mine was located across the gulch (south) from the Independence mine in sec. 23, T7S, R12E. The mine was opened between 1889 and 1891 and it "ran rich in free gold." It was initially managed by William Townsend (or Thoreson) and Maurice Roth of Livingston. Ethan H. Cowles opened up the Hidden Treasure claim in 1897. In 1906 he drove three adits, and ore was carried to the mill by a 400 foot tramway. Between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of ore were handled in a ten-stamp mill. Assaying of the concentrates showed 0.33 ounces of gold per ton, with traces of silver and copper. Work ceased at the site in 1908 (Western Mining World 1898 and 1900; Reed 1950; Wolle 1963; MacKnight 1892; Kuhlman 1940).

Cowles employed about 30 men at the mine in 1900, at which time the stamp mill was running 24 hours a day. In that year a new tunnel was driven below the original tunnel. In 1902 Cowles incorporated the Cowles Mining Company. According to Bureau of Mines records, the Hidden Treasure produced a total of 91 ounces of gold and 750 ounces of silver in the years 1901 and 1904 ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Western Mining World 1900 and 1902).

The principal workings at the mine consisted of three adits and a shaft. The workings explored a fracture zone in sercitized diorite. The ores extracted were strongly oxidized and contained free milling gold in a siliceous gangue. The Hidden Treasure and the Hidden Treasure No. 4 were located in an area of disseminated sulfide mineralization. The disseminated zone carried pyrite as the only major metallic mineral, along with trace amounts of chalcopyrite (Reed 1950; Rubel 1964).

During the 1930's the workings were opened again in hopes of finding the source of the free gold in some of the Basin Creek gravels. At that time a ball-mill was constructed to process the ore from two new adits, but the operation was apparently a failure. Some concentrates sent to a smelter, however, had gold values of $16.50 per ton. In 1949 the property was owned by the Cowles Mining Company of Boston, and all equipment except for a small pan had been removed from the property (Reed 1950; Rubel 1964).

A large tract of placer ground was located at the bottom of the gulch. Two other outfits were working the placer diggings below Cowles' property, and men working on nearby properties included Adam Troutman, Henry Kline and Al Smith, and Preuitt and Renfrow (Western Mining World 1900).

Independence

The Independence claim was patented by the Independence Mining Company in 1893. In 1890, H. E. Leveaux of Cleveland purchased the mine and installed a one-stamp mill to treat its ore. This included 35 patented and unpatented lode claims in Sections 14 and 23, T7S R12E, at an elevation of approximately 8,500 feet. The mine was located on the spur of a steep cliff, allowing for easy disposal of dump material. High-grade ore was moved via a wooden chute down to Basin Creek (Ryan 1984; Wolle 1963; MacKnight 1892; Reed 1950; Rubel 1964).

Before the depression of 1893, the three owners of the Independence mine (H. E. Leveaux, J. B. Hooper, and John Anderson) organized a stock company, drove three tunnels, and enlarged their mill. They also built a 1,000 foot tramway to carry ore from the upper tunnel into their ore house at the lower mill. A 120-stamp amalgamating mill was built in 1899 to treat the Independence ores at the junction of Basin Creek and the Boulder River. The mill on the Boulder River treated 72 tons of ore from adits No. 1 and 2 and recovered 16,566 ounces of gold and 9.33 ounces of silver, recovering about 54% of the values. The ore averaged about 0.45 ounces of gold per ton (Wolle 1963; Reed 1950; Kuhlman 1940).

The Independence mine was reportedly active during 1894-97, 1900-1904, 1928, 1931, and 1934. In 1933 the Independence produced 12 ounces of gold, 20 ounces of silver, and 16 pounds of copper. In 1934 a Dr. Yeager of Big Timber leased property from the Cowles Mining Company and reopened the mine, but two workmen were killed, and soon after that the work was given up. In that year the mine produced gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc, and "old tailings" were worked. In the 1930's a small tonnage was mined at the site, but the ore was unsuccessfully treated in a small gravity concentrator on the adjacent Daisy property (Reed 1950; Mining Truth 1928; Mining Journal 1931, 1934; Mining Yearbook 1934; U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Staunton and Keur 1975).

As many as seven adits were driven on the property. At least 1,500 tons of ore averaging as much as 1.36 ounces per ton of gold were produced by high-grading from the stopes in adits 1 and 1 1/2. An 1895 report stated that the average recovery for an 18-month period was 0.6 ounces per ton of gold. Calderhead (1898) reported that the mine yielded nearly $100,000 in gold in one season ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989).

The Independence vein is a narrow fracture filling and replacement in diorite. Most of the production consisted of oxidized ores containing free gold in a siliceous gangue. The primary ore could not be treated without prohibitive losses. The principal mine workings are two adits with an estimated horizontal range of 500 feet. In 1948 all equipment had been removed from the property. Improvements at the property included two ore bins, a bunk house, and the tramway. In 1950 the Independence Consolidated Mines Company of Big Timber owned the property ( U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989; Reed 1950).

King Solomon

The King Solomon claims were located around 1897 by J. W. Nelson & Company. Solomon City was the name of the camp that grew up around the claims. It was located about 2 1/2 miles up the mountain from the Independence camp (Wolle 1963).

Poorman

Before the crash of 1893, the Poorman was owned by Billings and Big Timber capitalists, and they operated a three-stamp mill at the mine. Ethan H. Cowles re-opened the Poorman claim in 1897. It reportedly was a producer, but no production records exist (Kuhlman 1940; MacKnight 1892).

Skyline

The Skyline (also known as the Ski Line, Tramway, or Mountain View) mine was located in Section 12, T7S, R12 E, in the East Rainbow Creek area. The first known claims in the area were located in 1892. The only adit exposed a small mineralized siliceous deposit, formed at the parting between quartzites and overlying shales of Paleozoic age. Host rocks are quartzite, limestone, and shale, which are underlain by granitic gneiss and capped by volcanic breccia. A sample contained 10% lead, 0.02 ounces gold, and 6.84 ounces silver per ton. In 1941 and 1942 the Skiline mine produced 1 ounce of gold, 19 ounces of silver, and 924 pounds of lead (Reed 1950; USGS 1983; U.S. Bureau of Mines 1989).In 1949 the only underground working was on a steep north slope above the floor of the East Fork Canyon. A small cable tramway lowered ore from the workings to the canyon floor. Frank Murray owned the property and produced up to 150 tons of ore in 1949 (USGS 1983; Reed 1950).

The Skyline claim is the only lead-sulfide replacement deposit in sedimentary rocks that was recognized in the Independence area (Rubel 1964).

Yellow Jacket

Ethan H. Cowles opened up the Yellow Jacket claim in 1897 (Kuhlman 1940).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

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