Silver Mining in Montana
Silver has been mined in Montana just as long as coal and gold. There are many areas that mined silver. One of the most famous is Phillipsburg. Another major area is Castle Mountain near white Sulfur Springs. Silver was first discovered in Phillipsburg by Eli Holland in 1875. He dug a small shaft and mined there for only five years when Charles McLure, superintendent of Hope Mill took over.
soon after that Charles McLure partnered with Charles Clark to form the Granite Mountain Mining Company. Investors from St. Louis, Missouri invested ten million dollars in the company. over the next two years they spend 130,000 dollars developing the mine. In 1882 the mining company hit a big silver deposit where the found 1,700 ounces of silver per ton.
the miners called this the Bonanza Chute that produced over 250,000 dollars worth of silver in about a year. In 1885 the mine paid its first dividend to the investors from St. Louis. They also bought a 20-stamp mill that was soon replaced by an 80-stamp mill. Over the next three years the Granite Mountain Mining Company got 2.
5 million dollars worth of ore out of the mine. They also bought a 100-stamp mill that they built in Fred Burr Creek. A new mill was put in place called the Rumsey Mill after the president of the Granite Mountain Mining Company. The Rumsey Mill began operation in March 1889. The Rumsey Mill was connected to the mine by a 9,000 foot tramway.
The mill was also connected to Phillipsburg by a 7.7 mile railway. In 1893 the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was put into place. after the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was in place the price of silver went down drastically. Granites population after the silver act went from 3,200 to only about 150.
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was an act that passed in 1890 that gave Congress more from the silver that was being mined. It gave the Treasury many things that included 4.5 million ounces of silver a month at market rates. The Treasury would also issue notes that were redeemable in silver or gold. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act also drove the price of silver down drastically. Because of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act mine operators cut the miners wages to reduce Spending after the act.
This led to labor unrest and fights to break out places. Silver was still mined but it was on a much smaller scale. Silver mining began to come back in 1898 when mines began to open back up. The mines produced one million dollars of bullion until 1901. The miners continued to mine until the 1930’s.
In 1958 new investors came and looked at the Granite mines. When a fire broke out in Granite it destroyed most of the buildings. Today the old town of Granite is preserved as a Montana State Park. On the road to the old town you can see parts of the old tramway. You can also see tailings and mine buildings on the hillside in Granite. Another area of silver mining is in the Little Belt Mountains.
Silver was first found here in 1879. Two different men found silver, their names were EA Barker and Patrick Hughes. Word that silver had been discovered had spread quickly. Within a year many other mines opened. The town continued to boom and many more mines opened up.
Over the year that the mines were open they also hit some lead. They produced lots of silver and lead. At first the silver and lead got hauled to Fort Benton and then later got shipped off down the Missouri River. Later the Clendenin Mining and Smelting Company was established in 1881. They also developed a smelter near Barker.
This mill could go through about 4 tons of ore in a day. Also this mill brought more profit to the company. But the Mill only lasted about a year and a half. The mill produced over 350,000 dollars worth of bullion during its operation. Their was another smelter that was in place for about two years and got shut down.
In 1883 mining in Barker started to decline because ore on top was becoming harder to find. But in 1890 mining started to pick back up when several mines reported big silver and lead strikes. Another reason for the mining getting revived is that the Montana Central Railroad built a railway to Barker to make it easier to take the ore places. The railway took the ore to places like Great Falls, Helena and Neihart. Again the silver mining took a hit during the Silver Panic in 1893 where all but the most wealth mines were shut down. Over the next decade mining was sporadic.
They primarily recovered lead and bullion from the slag dumps and tailings and in 1903 the railroad from Barker made its last run. Mining at these small towns continued into the 20th century. A man named T.C. Power from Helena had a few claims that he operated. He operated them by the name of Block P Mines.
He soon built a mill in Barker in 1910. The mine operated well until about the 1920’s. But in 1927 T. C. Power sold his operation to the St Joseph Lead Company. The St Joseph Lead Company turned the operation strictly to lead and not silver.
The mining company also expanded the operations. It became to biggest lead producer in the state over the next two years. Once the Great Depression hit the mine shut down. After the Great Depression the mine opened back up in the 1940s. That was short lived though because the mine closed down for good in 1943.
All the mining equipment and railroad were sold for salvage after the mine changed hands. Over the years of the mining camps had a high population of 500 people. There is little to be seen from the old mining camps. There is only a few people still living in the area and their are a few vacation homes also. You can see some old mining remnants like old cabins and and the remains of the old Clendenin Mill. Some of the old buildings that the St.
Joseph Mining Company used are still standing but are on private property. You can also see an old cemetery in Hughesville. Over all silver mining in Montana help shape Montana. it may not have been as big as gold or copper but it was still a big part of early mining in Montana. There are many more areas that are not included but these are two major areas of silver mining in Montana. Bibliography “Ghost Towns and Historic Mines.
” N.p., n.d. Web.
29 Jan. 2014. Par.42819.File.dat/Ghost%20Towns.pd “Granite, Montana – Montana’s Silver Queen – Page 2. ” Granite, Montana – Montana’s Silver Queen – Page 2. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2014. html>. “Montana Mining Tours.” Montana Mining Tours. N.p. , n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. “Barker/Hughesville- Ghost Towns in the Little Belt Mountains.” N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.
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” Granite, Montana – Montana’s Silver Queen – Page 2. N.p., n.d.
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