While it is likely that the Lowland mining district was discovered by placer miners, little information is available regarding the origins of the district. In the 1870s the area was known as the Ruby district. The Ruby and Kit Carson mines, located along Lowland Creek, appear to be the source of the placer gold.
The district is just west of the small community of Bernice on Interstate 15 between Butte and Helena and is within the Boulder batholith. The bedrock of the district is predominantly dacite and rhyolite of Tertiary age. Tuffs, welded tuffs, breccias, and flows date from the volcanic activity during the Tertiary.
The main mines of the district, the Columbia, Kit Carson and Ruby shipped their ore from Bernice which was on the Great Northern Railroad which connected Basin to Butte. Because of this, the ore production was often included in the Basin district figures. Not included in the Basin district's production figures, are the total production figures for the Lowland district from 1925 to 1951; 1,578 tons which yielded 161 ounces of gold; 9,651 ounces of silver; 5,307 pounds of copper; 15,840 pounds of lead; and 1,300 pounds of zinc together worth $16,108 (Roby et al 1960).
The focus of district activity appears to be the Ruby mill which was located adjacent to the Ruby mine and across Lowland Creek from the Kit Carson. This small 10 - stamp mill and concentrating plant was erected in 1898 and could run from 35 to 45 tons of ore per day. In the summer of 1898 the mill was shut down. The mine and mill were re-opened in late 1899 when the mill was improved with the addition of two Tremain stamps. The mill also began to run ore from the Columbia mine (Byrne and Hunter 1898; 1899).
The first recorded placer operation in the district was relatively recent and related to the Depression-era rise in gold prices. In 1933 one operator washed 1.5 ounces of gold out of the stream. The next year 13 operators on the creek recovered a combined 15.7 ounces of gold. This meager return may have resulted in the general abandonment of the stream; in 1935 only one operator remained, producing $70 for his efforts. The production was industrialized in 1938 when a dry-land dredge was brought onto the creek, recovering more than 1,900 fine ounces of gold in its first year. The dredge continued to operate until 1941 working gravels with 18 to 25 cents per cubic yard. Total gold recovered was valued at $296,590 (Lyden 1948; WPA 1941).
Other mines in the district include the Aurora North and the Dead End (Mierendorf et al. 1982).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Lyden (1948) states that Lowland Creek is a tributary of the Boulder River and that it flows into it from the south about seven miles west of Basin. The stream runs through the Ruby mining district that dates back to the 1870s. Because this area has had little production, Roby et al (1960) lumps the Lowland, Elk Park, Beaver Creek and Nez Perce districts together.
The AMRB (1994) shows the Lowland district as including Lowland Creek and its tributaries, and the headwaters of Boulder Creek (Figure 1), although most of the mining activity appears to have focused on Lowland Creek rather than the upper Boulder.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Columbia mine is located in sections 11 through 14 in T5N R7W, about 1500 feet southeast of the Ruby mine. The mine was developed out of three or more adits that range from 100 to 1000 feet in length; one of the adits connects to the Ruby mine. The mine worked the Columbia deposit which was a pronounced joint system. The vein was a zone of brecciation 12 feet or more wide. Fragments of dacite were coated with a crystalline crust of quartz (Roby et al 1960).
In late 1899 the Lowlands Gold Mining Company of Butte was organized. The company leased and bonded the Columbia and Amazon mines and ran the ore from the mines through the rented Ruby mill. The company employed 12 men who worked in the mine, building ore chutes, constructing new wagon roads, and doing other improvements. The mine was next in production from 1906 to 1927. Production records from this period are combined with those of the Ruby mine as described below (Western Mining World 1899; Roby et al 1960).
The Kit Carson mine is located in sections 9 and 10 T5N, R7W on the north side of Lowland Creek. The mine is about 1,000 feet north of the Ruby mill. The mine was developed from two adits about 500 feet long and a shaft of indeterminate depth. In 1899 D. Poitras and sons were reported to be working on a 75 foot shaft that had reached 65 feet. In 1908, Poitras and Dunn were pulling some rich ore from a tunnel. A zone of brecciated dacite was worked. The mine reported production intermittently from 1908 to 1935. The mine is credited with 138 tons of ore which yielded 144 ounces of gold, 7,959 ounces of silver and 21 pounds of copper.
In 1939 and 1940 the Kit Carson placers recorded gold production (Western Mining World 1899; Mining World 1908; Roby et al 1960; WPA 1941).
The Ruby mine is in section 2 & 11 T5N, R7W on the south slope of Lowland Creek about 14 miles southwest of Basin. The mine, which consists of two claims, was located in the 1870s and patented in 1888. In 1897, the property was considered to be nearly worthless when it was bonded to the Gold Mountain Mining Co. This company erected a 10-stamp mill with five vanner tables in 1898 on Lowland Creek. The company employed 22 miners and 12 topmen working a 200 foot 2-compartment shaft and a 700 foot tunnel. The hoisting plant was a 25 horsepower Ledgerwood engine which raised a bucket with a 3/4 inch steel rope. The mine was timbered with tunnel sets and stulls. In addition to concentrates from the mill, the mine also sent raw ore to Butte for treatment (Byrne and Hunter 1898; 1899; Calderhead 1898).
The mine and mill were idled late in 1898 but the next year the mine and mill were reopened and the mill was expanded with the addition of two Tremain stamps. This increased capacity and made possible the working of lower grade ore. Employing 24 men the company sank the shaft to the 400 foot level and continued extracting ore. By December the mill was also active working ore from the adjacent Columbia mine. Rich ore was blocked out in both the Ruby and the Columbia (Byrne and Hunter 1899).
The mill was again idled when first class ore apparently ran out in 1908; after which smelting ore was shipped to the Washoe Smelter in Anaconda. At the time of conversion to smelting ores, 15 men were extracting ore from an ore body 60 feet wide. Since the Columbia and Ruby ores were worked in the same mill and later shipped to the smelter together, production figures for the two mines are combined (see Columbia production figures). In 1910 the mine was owned by Patrick Dowling and 25 men were employed extending the adit to 2,700 feet, an addition of 1,100 feet.
The mine was worked out of a 400 foot shaft and an adit estimated to be 300 feet long. The adit intersects the shaft 150 feet below the shaft collar. The ore zone extended from the Ruby shaft to the Columbia claim, a distance of several thousand feet. An ore shoot on the Ruby shaft was 260 feet deep, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. The shoot was said to have produced $600,000. Another shoot south of the Ruby shoot was 170 feet long and 4 feet wide. Native silver is common and the grade of ore decreases with the size of the dacite fragments filling the fissures (Roby et al 1960).
The last year of recorded production was 1920 when the Ruby mine was worked separate from the Columbia. Total mine production for both the Ruby and Columbia mines is recorded at 5,522 tons of ore which yielded 10,796 ounces of gold, and 176,292 ounces of silver (Western Mining World 1899; Mining World 1908; Walsh 1910; 1912; Roby et al 1960).
Other mines mentioned in the district include the Memphis (Roby et al 1960), Mabel, North Boulder, Mammoth and Black Bear (Winchell 1914).
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)
1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compied and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena
Beck, Barb S.
1984 "Cultural Resource Inventory, Mathison Cabin Investigation", Deer Lodge National Forest Report No. 84-DL-1-3, Deer Lodge Ranger District.
1987 "Cultural Resource Inventory of the Road 5173 Closure", Deer Lodge National Forest Report No. 87-DL-1-4, Deer Lodge Ranger District.
Byrne, John and Frank Hunter
Ninth Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana
. State Publishing Company, Helena.
1899 Tenth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana for the Year ending November 30th, 1898. Independent Publishing Company, Helena.
Calderhead, J. H.
1898 "Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry, 6th Annual Report."
1913 "Ore Deposits of the Helena Mining Region, Montana",
U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 527
, Vol. 1, p. 92.
Lyden, Charles J.
1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir 26
. Montana School of Mines, Butte.
Mierendorf, Robert, Craig Holstine, Ruth A. Masten, Glen W. Lindeman and Terry K. Eller
1982 "A Cultural Resources Survey and Site Testing of the Bonneville Power Administration's Townsend-Garrison Transmission Line, Powell, Jefferson and Broadwater Counties, Montana." by Archaeological and Historical Services,
Eastern Washington University Reports in Archaeology and History
, Cheney, Washington.
Mining World (MW)
1908 "Montana", Vol. 29, No. 19, November 7, 1908, p. 725.
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
, Vol. 14, No. 10.
Roby, R. N., W. C. Ackerman, F. B. Fulkerson and F. A. Crowley
Mines and Mineral Deposits (Except Fuels), Jefferson County
, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 16, Montana School of Mines, Butte, Montana.
Steere, Peter L.
1981 "Cultural Resource Inventory and Evaluation Project Elk Park - Bernice Realignment I-13-3(11)143", prepared for Montana Highway Department by the Montana Tech Alumni Foundation, Mineral Research Center, Butte.
Taylor, Dee C.
1979 "Cultural Resources Inventories Montana Department of Highways, Federal Aid Projects Numbers I 15-3(12)150, Bernice-Basin and I-IG 15-3(29)157, Basin-Boulder", Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, Missoula.
Trueworthy, Charles R.
1935 "Age Relationships of Ore Deposits of Southwestern Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines.
Walsh, William and William Orem
Biennial Report of Inspector of Mines for 1909-1910
1912 Biennial Report of Inspector of Mines for 1911-1912.
Weed, Walter Harvey
1900 "Enrichment of Mineral Veins by Later Metallic Sulphides",
Geol. Soc. America Bull.
, Vol. II, pp. 179-206.
1900 "The Enrichment of Gold and Silver Veins", American Institute of Mining and Engineering Transactions, Vol. 30, pp. 434-448.
Western Mining World (WMW)
1899 "The Lowlands", Vol. II, No. 276, December 30, 1899, p. 266.
Winchell, Alexander Newton
1914 "Mining Districts of the Dillon Quadrangle, Montana and Adjacent Areas".
U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 574
Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey
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.