aka Beaver Creek

The Winston district, 20 miles west of Helena, is located on the northeast slopes of the Elkhorn Mountains, southwest of Winston. Ore was first discovered in 1867 by George Brooks at what is now the East Pacific mine near the center of the district, and production has continued intermittently since, most actively from 1889 to 1902, from 1905 to 1908, and in 1911. The mines of the district have produced about $3 million in gold, silver, lead, and copper, of which $2 million came from the East Pacific Mine, $400,000 from the Iron Age camp, and $200,000 from the Stray Horse mine (Herbort 1986; Stone 1911; Pardee and Schrader 1933).

The district is a rounded mountainous region that is underlain by flows, tuffs and breccias of the andesite-latite group. At the the East Pacific mine the rock is mostly dark gray andesite that is finely porphyritic. Quartz monzonite, commonly called granite, forms six small areas within the district. Four of these are along Weasel Creek, one near the East Pacific mine, one on Beaver Creek and the largest area is at the head of Weasel Creek and contains the Little Olga mine. The deposits are lodes and veins found both in the andesite and quartz monzonite. These deposits occur in two sets -- north/south veins in which the valuable metal is chiefly gold, and east-west veins valuable for lead and silver (Schrader 1929; Pardee and Schrader 1933).

Most of the productive ore occurred in a belt about five miles wide which extends from the vicinity of Winston up the slopes of the Elkhorn Mountains eight miles to the southwest. The principal mines are grouped about three locations: around the East Pacific, in the vicinity of the Kleinschmidt and the group of the Iron Age camps. The surface developments of the East Pacific are on Spring Gulch near its junction with Weasel Creek, about five miles southwest of Winston. The East Pacific group also includes the Freiburg, January, Sunrise, and Cabin mines. The Iron Age camp is at the foot of the mountains two miles south of Winston. The Kleinschmidt camp is near the summit of the Elkhorn Mountains, about 8 miles southwest of Winston.

The area was first settled in the mid 1860s by homesteaders and Civil War veterans. Most of the first residents settled around Beaver Creek and filed for homesteads after the land was surveyed. The town of Beaver Creek (or Beaver Town) was established on Staubach Creek with a company charter and a post office in 1872. In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad was constructed through the valley, passing north of the settlement but with a local siding named Placer. Because Beaver Town was built on swampy ground, new development tended toward the railroad siding. The post office made the move to Placer in 1887 and Beaver Town was abandoned by 1889.

Early settlers in Beaver Creek were ever mindful of the possibility of gold being discovered in any creek bed or gully and from very early spent their spare times prospecting the hills. In the general area, placer gold was discovered around the headwaters of Wilson Creek in 1858 with the first mining activity in the area occurring soon after the Civil War when five Frenchmen took up placer claims along French Bar near Canyon Ferry. Chinese laborers were hired to dig a 32 mile ditch beginning around Winston to provide water for the placers. Locally, some gold was found in Weasel Creek, but the district produced only $200,000 in placer gold after 1866. Interest instead turned to the hillsides where lodes were discovered as early as 1867, but no serious development occurred until 1879 (Herbort 1986; Lyden 1948).

The Iron Age lode was one of the first to be developed, and operated primarily before 1906. Located in 1879, the mine soon had a 10 stamp mill. As the mine dug deeper, the ores became more difficult to treat and the stamp mill was abandoned. This complex ore was shipped to East Helena; Corrine, Utah; and overseas to Wales for treatment. A camp of 250 souls sprang up around the mine and mill and became known as the Iron Age Camp.

The East Pacific mine also had a camp associated with its surface plant. Referred to as Eagle City, the camp had mine shops, and offices , a three-story bunk house, a boarding house and numerous miner shacks (Herbort 1986).

By 1890, the mines in both Weasel and Iron Age Gulches were producing substantial amounts of ore. The ore was hauled by horse or mule drawn wagons from the mines and loaded onto railroad cars at the Placer siding. With the heavy loads, it was a difficult task to get the railroad trains rolling uphill from a dead stop. In 1891 the Winston Brothers from Minneapolis took a contract for hauling ore from the East Pacific Mine. They succeeded in getting a siding constructed on higher ground about a mile south of Placer, making the ore haulage easier. The siding became known as Winston and a town plot consisting of twenty acres was set in 1892. In 1893, the U. S. Post Office in Placer was moved to Winston. George Lamb served as first postmaster. Nothing remains of the towns of Beaver Creek and Placer (Herbort 1986).

In 1928 the Montana-Idaho Mines Corporation began to operate both the East Pacific and the Kleinschmidt camps jointly and treat the ores in a central milling plant. At the same time at the Iron Age camp, the Muffly properties were reopened by the Golden Messenger Company (Pardee and Schrader 1933).


The Winston District is ill-defined in the historic literature. Corry (1933) places the Winston mines within a greater district that includes the Park and Radersburg mines. Most references to the Winston district are discussions of the three main camps; the Iron Age, East Pacific and Kleinschmidt. Pardee and Schrader (1933) merely state that most of the mines are approached through Beaver Creek or its tributary, Weasel Creek. Lyden (1948) displays the district on a map that shows two shaded areas on Beaver and Weasel Creeks, all of which are in T8N R1W.

More recently Earle (1964) arbitrarily set out a rectangular area on the northwest slopes of the Elkhorn Mountains to be the district. The district extended from the Kleinschmidt mines in the south to Winston in the north. The district includes:

Sections 6, 7, 18, 19, 30, 31, T8N, R1E

Sections 1-4, 9-16, 21-28, 33-36, T8N, R1W

Sections 1-4, T7N, R1W

Section 6, T7N, R1E

In 1951 Reed had defined the district as the above but excluding the town of Winston and the two sections in the southeast corner of the block. Figure 1 is a map showing the district boundaries as set by Earle (1964).


As noted above most of the mining was associated with one of three areas within the Winston district: the Kleinschmidt, the Iron Age and the East Pacific.


The Custer Mine was owned by Charles Clark in 1898 when it was reported 20 men were working drifts (Byrne 1899). It is located just north of the Iron Age mine.

East Pacific

The East Pacific mine group located five miles from Winston contains more than 18 claims, most of which are situated on the slopes of Spring Gulch, a tributary of Weasel Creek. The mill and the main tunnel are on the northwest side of Spring Creek. George Brooks first discovered gold-bearing rock about 1867 near the top of the mountain. The first production began in the 1880s from a shaft at the discovery point. Ore was first mined in the oxidized zone which extended down to about 300 ft. Below this zone is an enriched zone of sulphide ores. Ore extends down to the 800 ft level. In 1886 the mine was purchased by the Winston Brothers of Minneapolis, who were connected with the Northern Pacific Railway. They sank a new shaft and developed three tunnels. Some ore was shipped in 1887, but most of the production occurred intermittently between 1889 to 1895. The total production for this period amounted to $573,418.65.

Robert A. Bell bought the mine in 1896 and began driving a fourth tunnel on Spring Creek adjacent to the mill to tap the ore at depth. In 1898 50 miners and six top men were employed. Improvements were listed as three tunnels, two of which were 1800 and 2700 ft in length. By 1900 the fourth tunnel had reached 3,000 ft of which 600 ft were in paying ore; a winze connected two drifts at the 300 and 500 levels.. Bell operated the mine continuously for about six years netting $689,960 above the costs of smelting and freighting the ore to East Helena (Byrne 1898; 1900).

The mine continued production in the first years of the new century, despite two fatal accidents. In 1903 the mine was purchased by the East Pacific Mining Co. which was principally owned by Bell. In 1902 the company built a 50-ton concentrator to treat second class ores. In 1905 the mine was sold to the Winston Mining Company which also had R. A. Bell as president; the sale apparently provided capital to make improvements including expanding the mill to 100 tons to work the mine dumps and lower value ores. In 1905 and 1906 the mine employed 60 men and shipped concentrates and bullion netting $103,149.85. Production was finally halted in 1906 by the exhaustion of third-class ore and litigation (Byrne 1902; Pardee and Schrader 1933; Ferguson 1906; Walsh and Orem 1906; 1912).

In 1925 the mine was once again sold, this time to the Montana Mines Corporation. This company excavated about 3,000 ft of drifts, raises and connecting shafts. By the end of 1927 the company had produced $48,000 in ore. The mine continued intermittent production through 1940 and reached a depth of 1,000 ft (Corry 1933).

The underground workings of the East Pacific mine aggregate about 4.5 miles. This development includes four tunnels. The main workings which produced a high quality of galena are a 800 ft cross cut with drifts on the vein. A winze is sunk on the No 4 tunnel 1,950 ft from the adit portal; drifts were turned from the winze at the 500, 600, 700 and 800 ft levels. Above ground the development included shops, offices and quarters for 140 men to run the mine and mill. Power was provided by a hydroelectric plant on Beaver Creek and an auxiliary steam plant at the mill (Pardee and Schrader 1933; Schrader 1929).


The Freiber


mine is on the east side of Weasel Creek, opposite the East Pacific. It was first worked by Louis Zeikler before 1880. The mine was reported to have two adits and a shaft. From 1885 to 1900 the mine produced about $5,000 in gold ore from the upper adit.

Iron Age

The Iron Age mine, located three miles northeast of the East Pacific, was discovered in 1879. The camp consists of the Iron Age, Lily, Eclipse, Martha Washington, Hyantha, Joe Dandy, General Sherman, and General Custer claims. The deposits are in nearly a dozen east-west veins which contain chiefly gold with some silver and copper. Most of the veins pinches out at the 300 ft level, however the General Custer vein continued to the 600 ft level. A 10 stamp mill was built on Beaver Creek to treat Iron Age ore, but as the ore became more difficult to treat, the mill was abandoned and the ore shipped to the smelter. In 1898, 20 men were working under lease in several short tunnels. The mine was idle in the first years of the new century until 1908 when interest was renewed. When it was taken over by C. H. Muffley in 1911, the mine was dewatered to the 700 ft level and limited shipments to the smelter resumed. The mine was worked intermittently until 1940 (Byrne 1898; Walsh and Orem 1912; WPA 1941).


The January mine is on the east side of Weasel Creek nearly opposite the East Pacific mine. It was reported to have produced $50,000 in free milling gold that ran about $45 per ton. The mine was developed with two tunnels.

Kleinschmidt camp

The Kleinschmidt camp two miles south of the East Pacific is a group of eight veins. The most productive of this is the Little Olga. In 1912 it was reported that this mine employed six men driving a 600 ft tunnel. In the mid 1920s $115,000 in silver-lead-gold ore was extracted. In 1929 a 3500 ft crosscut was driven to tap the vein at depths of 500 ft.

Martha Washington

The Martha Washington in the Iron Age camp was developed in 1912 with a 300 ft two-compartment shaft connecting to 400 ft of development work. The sulphide silver-lead ore was raised by a steam hoist. The mine employed 25 men. The first production was recorded in 1913 and 1914; the mine was also worked throughout the 1930s (Walsh and Orem 1912; WPA 1941).

Stray Horse

The Stray Horse mine is on the east side of Weasel Creek a mile south of the East Pacific. It consists of a number of claims owned (1933) by the Amalgamated Mining and Copper Company. These claims include: the Little Olga, Emil H., El Portero, Filler No. 1, Filler No. 2, Quartette, Dew Drop, Cynosure, Little Casino and Big Casino. The mine was one of the early mines of the district, but was primarily productive beginning in the fall of 1889. In that year Frank Ashley and Dave Cannon constructed a tunnel near the top of the ridge. Later the mine was worked by the Cannon Brothers, Dave Humphrey, Sutton & Roseburg (1893-4), and the Helena Mining Company (1896-1898).

Smith and Jackson reopened the mine in 1902 and operated it for three or four years. During a period of 30 days of their operation, the mine is said to have produced a car load of ore a day. The main workings of the mine are five tunnels of aggregate length of 4,000 ft. The mine's ore came from two parallel veins 120 ft apart, some of the ore ran as high as 80 percent lead, 150 ounces of silver per ton and a little gold. The crosscut of the Little Olga worked what was known as the Gold vein which contained gold bearing pyrites. The Cynosure vein was coarse pyrite with a little galena and chalcopyrite with gold values. The Emil H. vein was developed through two shafts to work the quartz with gold bearing pyrites. The Goodman vein was opened with a tunnel on the Quartette claim. The Irish Syndicate vein extends through the Big Casino and Little Casino claims which developed the vein through three shafts last worked in 1900 (Pardee and Schrader 1933).


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