Saturday, November 16, 2013

John Silverthorn's Secret Gold Mine

The mystery of John Silverthorn and his secret gold mine - one that bears directly on assigning proper credit for the first discovery of gold in Montana - was ably recounted by Dan Meschter in Flint chips No. 78.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trout manganese mill

The Trout Manganese mill, built under the supervision of Roy Hamilton in the early 1950's, was burned down by vandals, or else carelessly, by partiers, last week. Here's a Lee Silliman picture taken just a few weeks ago. The mill processed manganese dioxide ore into several products, using both gravity concentration (jigging) and dry magnetic separation. High grade concentrates were shipped to battery companies because the manganese dioxide was battery active. Philipsburg was the only US district to produce this high grade material. Lower grade material was shipped to the Bunker Hill smelter to use in zinc refining. The mill produced into the 1960s.

Where was American Fork?

Like much of the early history and geography of the Gold Creek area, the exact location of the town of American Fork is not easy to ascertain, because it was mostly abandoned in 1863 when the Stuarts and other miners moved to the boomtown at Montana's greatest gold discovery, Virginia City. Granville Stuart stated that they located their settlement where the Mullan Road crosses Benetsee or Gold Creek. American Fork - misspelled "American Fort" - appears on Pardee's geologic map about a mile upstream from the railroad tracks (below), where he shows the Mullan Road crossing the creek. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Setting up a stamp mill

The Granite Co. Historical Society is part way through a project to set up a working stamp battery at the site of the James Stuart/Hope mill. When the stamps are running it will be the first sound of a stamp mill heard in Philipsburg in more than 100 years.

The battery, jaw crusher and feeders were part of a 10 stamp mill at the Royal mine, owned by Paul Antonioli and Dave Harris. Larry Hoffman, Jim Waldbillig, Phil McDonald and Dave Harris moved the components in late summer to the millsite.

The next task was to create a proper concrete foundation on which to re-erect the battery. Larry Hoffman created drawings for a foundation and this past week the concrete was formed and poured by contractors CNC (more than a carpenter) and Woodland Creations, with the assistance of Dave Harris and Jim Waldbillig.  Pix by Jim right and below.







Saturday, October 12, 2013

Traders,Trappers, Mountain Men and Miners

".....nothing worthy of record occurred until the evening of the 11th, when four of our trappers, who had been absent from camp for some time, returned in a state of perfect nudity and most unparalleled misery. Their bodies were broiled by the heat of the sun to that degree, that the pain produced by coming in contact with our clothes was almost unsupportable." (Warren Angus Ferris, "Life in the Rocky Mountains", 1843)

These trappers had come upon a raging river and in an attempt to cross it, swam their horses across then built a raft and packed all their supplies, including their clothes on the raft before setting off in the roiling water. The raft capsized throwing them all off and then became entangled deep in a log jam. Finding it impossible to salvage anything they were able to save themselves and swim to the opposite shore. Riding naked in the broiling sun, rain, hail and nights of freezing temperatures it took them four days to find their comrades. By the time they arrived at camp their bodies were absent flesh from rubbing on the horse hide. They had no choice but to ride the horses because the rocks and prickly pear would have torn their feet to the bone in a matter of a few miles. "Add to the complications of the woes above enumerated, the knawing (sic) pangs of hunger  ...that they must have experienced in no slight degree, from the fact that they did not taste a morsel of food during these four days of agony, and we have an aggregate of suffering hardly equaled in the history of human woe." Yet this account is only one of many documented that describes more than one can imagine the human body surviving, as the trapper and mountain man plied his trade.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Algonquin mill

In 1879, the former superintendent of the Northwest Company, James K. Pardee, organized a new venture to develop the Algonquin lode, Dan Brown's  best discovery. Like the Northwest Company, the Algonquin would be financed out of Philadelphia, and, also like the Northwest, the most expensive component would be a dry roasting-pan amalgamation mill, which was depicted in a drawing in Northwest Magazine in 1887 (left).  It started up in February of 1880 and ran for several years on rich ore from the upper part of the Algonquin vein. It also processed the first ore from the Granite mine, and the mill served as the "pattern" for the huge stamp mills used to process the Granite ores. 
The mill had 20 stamps and was supplied by the same firm, Griffith and Wedge, that had built the Alice and Moulton silver mills in Butte. In 1880, Hector Horton, the district's discoverer, lived in Hasmark, the town next to the mill, and was no doubt engaged in the construction as a brick mason. 


The Algonquin mill burned on December 31, 1898  and little sign remains of it other than a stone retaining wall (below left, Ted A. photo) and the remnants of a flue and stack (below right, Jim Waldbillig photo).

Jo Antonioli at the Algonquin millsite
Dave Harris at the site of the Algonquin mill smokestack


Sunday, September 8, 2013

More Horse Thieves, Jail Break and Pseudo Hanging

Around Christmas of 1908, Sheriff Fleming of Deer Lodge County was in Butte and recognized a black horse, that belonged to Sheriff J.D. Kennedy of Granite County, tied up at the livery stable. Seems there were three men in the Butte Jail that had horses stabled at the livery. When Fleming telephoned Kennedy he found out that the horse had been stolen. The jailed men had a forged "Bill of Sale" on their person and were turned over to Sheriff Kennedy to be prosecuted in Granite County.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stolen Horses, Water Rights and Property Lines

Patrick Dooley and Michael Dooley were pioneering ranchers in the lower Flint Creek Valley. Though they started out as friends, bitterness and hatred created by disagreements over stolen horses, water rights and property lines led to violent encounters that left three men dead, including both Dooleys and two others serving prison sentences over an eight year period. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Horse Thieves and Deputies

Cyrus King Wyman lived on the Wyman ranch in Rock Creek and served frequently as a Special Deputy. He also served one term as Constable of Philipsburg after winning the election in November 1900. Various reports state Wyman was sheriff of Deer Lodge County when horse thieves and cattle rustlers flourished, but this cannot be substantiated. But we do know he lived and died chasing rustlers as a lawman in both Granite and Beaverhead counties.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Elected sheriffs


Elected sheriffs of Missoula/Deer Lodge/Granite County

1. 1862 James Stuart (Missoula County, Washington Territory, including present Granite Co.)
2. 1865-1867 Fred H. Burr (Deer Lodge County, Montana Territory, including present Granite Co.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Granite County Historical Society First Annual Seminar

July 13, 2013 GCHS held our first seminar at the Granite County Museum conference room. Twenty six people were in attendance at the morning seminar from 9am to noon.

The rest of "Miss Kate"

As stated in "Flint Chips 177" by Dan Meschter, "Miss Kate" was a fond memory to her students and the citizens of Granite county. Obviously she gave "muchly" while sharing very little of her personal life to the people around her.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The other James Stuart

A frequent comment heard around Granite county is: "James Stuart is buried in the Philipsburg cemetery."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Number 177 "Flint Chips: Tales of the Flint Creek Valley" by Dan Meschter

Several readers have asked me: "Are you going to tell about Miss Kate? How old really was she?" Yes, of course I am going to tell the story of Kate Smith and her age - a secret that kept Philipsburg gossips busy for years.

To make a long story out of it, the tale of Kate Smith is rooted in the exciting events surrounding the San Francisco mine just above Tower.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Edwardsville's namesake John Edwards

In 1866, John Edwards was with the Brown brothers, Ben Franklin, Dan Chisholm and others when they located the Comanche mining claim in the Flint Creek District. The rest of John's life story plays out on the north shore of the Hells Gate River across from the mouth of Flint Creek at the mouth of Packer's Gulch, a site first named Edwardsville and now called Drummond.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Flint Creek Mining District in 1866.

Many of the important lode claims of the Philipsburg area were staked in 1866. First to arrive was a prospecting party, apparently sent or financed by James Stuart, in June. They named the single claim they staked in the far northern part of the district (June 20) the "Jim Stuart lode". From the description it seems this claim was located on the copper showings in what became known as "Stewart Gulch". This part of the district is practically devoid of silver and perhaps this party was clueless or lost.

Up to this point, it seems likely that prospecting had been guided by reports from mountain men such as William Graham and James Stuart, who had visited the area in the 1850's. Now the element of pure good luck enters the picture. According to Rossiter Raymond, a party of prospectors on their way from Idaho to the Blackfoot gold diggings (actually in the Little Blackfoot drainage near Elliston) staked many of the best silver showings beginning with the Comanche lode (July 4). As best we can reconstruct the record, this group consisted of Dan Brown, Dan's brother Sandy (Emanuel), Charles Frost, Ben Franklin, John Edwards, Dan Chisholm, Wm. Mathias, C.A. Bell, and perhaps several others. Rossiter Raymond, who at times relies verbatim on reports by Charles Frost, a skilled promoter and self-promoter, reports that this party of prospectors was under the leadership of none other than Frost himself! But in fact Dan Brown was regarded to be the leading prospector of early Philipsburg, since an assembly of miners gathered to organize the district elected him President. He was buried in Philipsburg and the GCHS has placed a marker on his grave.


It is likely that the Brown-Frost party came into the Bitterroot Valley from Idaho, and heard of the shortcut through the mountains taken years before by John Owen, William Graham, and Fred Burr. As they checked out prospects near their route, they likely spotted Hector Horton's stakes at the Cordova lode. The seasoned prospectors in this group would have immediately recognized the potential signaled by the showings at the Cordova and started to search the hills for silver outcrops. Their arrival in the district was serendipitous, with several of the party making good money staking and selling claims, including some that would become major producing mines, like the Speckled Trout and Algonquin. Based on their discoveries, several of this party should be considered to be first-rate prospectors, in Horton's league.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Equipment of the James Stuart Mill

The James Stuart mill at Phillipsburg, built in 1867 for silver ores, is a stone building ; engine, 50 horse-power ; boilers, 40-inch diameter and 20 feet long; runs ten stamps, 650 pounds each ; six Wheeler pans, 4 feet in diameter, and three concentrators, 8 feet in diameter ; stamps and pans are geared to make from 60 to 75 drops and revolutions per minute. Capacity from 12 to 15 tons per twenty-four hours, according to quality of ore. It has crushed about 1,000 tons of quartz in all, which yielded about $100,000. The rock worked was principally croppings and ore taken from near the surface. The mill is now idle, awaiting re- pairs of crank and cylinder. It cost, all told, about $75,000, currency, and is considered the best mill in the Territory. It is situated in Flint Creek district, which first became generally known in the winter of 1866.
Report of Rossiter Raymond to Congress for 1869.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Mettle of Granite County" index

The "Mettle of Granite County" is a comprehensive three volume history of Granite County by Loraine Domine, one of the authors of this blog. Here are the indexes of each volume, with Volume 1 in black type, Volume 2 in blue, and Volume 3 in red.  You can search the indexes for a topic using the "find" function in your browser toolbar. Errors from OCR will be gradually fixed!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flint Chips


Flint Chips was a history column by the late Dan Meschter, a geologist and historian, that ran in the late 1980's in the Philipsburg Mail.
The coverage of early Granite County History was thorough and excellent. Here's a list of the Flint Chips columns by topic. We have obtained permission from Catherine Meschter to use these columns on our blog. She retains the copyright.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Medicine Tree Hill

Along Interstate 90,  west of the Bearmouth exit, there is a hill on the south side of the river called "Medicine Tree Hill". The name is an old one, appearing on the original map of the Mullan Road (below).


Friday, April 19, 2013

Lucy Davis Maggard Coberly




Pioneers who traveled the wagon trails to the West braved many dangers and to survive the trip one had to be fearless. Their adventures inevitably became mixed with fiction in “tall tales” of the wagon trains. Consider this tale of screaming, disembodied teeth in "Bravos of the West" by John M. Meyers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Flint of Flint Creek

In Flint Chips No. 3, Dan Meschter related a story of a Hudson Bay Company prospecting expedition to Henderson Creek in 1849, long before the settlement of the Flint Creek Valley. Meschter's source was a letter to the "New Northwest" newspaper in 1875 by William Graham, a pioneering prospector who heard the tale from the H.B. Co. manager, Angus McDonald. Angus' geographic reference is "Arrow Point". That must have been the huge flint quarry at the "The Eyebrow", which seems to have been a major flint source for millennia. The Eyebrow first appears as a geographic name in this spot on the 1958 topo map of the area. We continue that usage (for now) while recognizing that earlier geologic work by Pardee uses "Eyebrow Hill" to denote a different topographic feature, a hill near the mouth of Douglas Creek on the east side of the highway. 

The Eyebrow is one of the archaeological sites covered by Patricia Flint in her excellent UM master's thesis on local archaeologyThis quarry is no doubt the reason the creek just to the east is called Flint Creek, and that the Hellgate River was called the Arrowstone by early geographers.
The term "flint" is a slight misnomer, as "flint" is a variety of chert, a sedimentary form of silica, while the silica at the Eyebrow is hydrothermal in origin, and would better be described as chalcedony. Nonetheless, since "Chalcedony Creek" doesn't have the same ring as "Flint Creek", we will refer to the stone at the site as "flint" for historical reasons. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Garnet Mining District

In the usual version told of the discovery of the great placer mines of the Garnet Range, gold was discovered in the area then known as Bear.  The mouth of Bear Gulch is located about eleven miles west of Drummond and the first discovery is credited to the Jack Reynolds party, in October of 1865 in Elk Creek Gulch.  Reynolds' discoveries led to a rush of miners into Bear Gulch  (the upper part of which is called First Chance gulch), Elk Creek Gulch, Deep Creek Gulch and Bilk Gulch. It is known because of Leeson (1885) and the Morse Family descendants that Colonel George W. Morse and partners took about $250,000 worth of Gold out of Bilk Gulch. But perhaps the role of John Lannan in these events has been overlooked.

Where are Kirkville, Clark, and Stuart Gulch?

Copied below is part of the topographic map from USGS Professional Paper 78, focusing on Philipsburg and vicinity. The surveying for this map was done in 1905, on horseback and using plane table methods, and is a classic example of the fine work of the early US Geological Survey. But perfect it is not. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Henderson Gulch (Emmetsburg)

Henderson Gulch, located on the west side of Highway One between Maxville and Hall, was named after the miners who discovered gold there in 1865. An uncle, nephew and unrelated Henderson were called "Big Joe", "Little Joe" and "Young Joe."

Granville Stuart's Sketch of Philipsburg, 1867

There are no known photos of Philipsburg that date from the 1860's. There is, however, a remarkable and detailed sketch made by Granville Stuart on September 6, 1867, which first came to our attention via Terrence Delaney's dissertation on James Stuart.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

First Discovery of Gold in Montana


The credit for the "first discovery of gold in Montana" has long been a source of controversy, partly deriving from a campaign by Granville Stuart to get the legislature to declare him to be the discoverer and to grant him a pension for this signal service to the State. (See Delaney, P. 296, fn 74).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fred H. Burr

Residents of  Southwest Montana are likely quite familiar with Fred Burr as a place name. Googling "Fred Burr" and "Montana" gives over ten thousand hits for the numerous locales in Granite, Powell, and Ravalli counties named for Burr - indeed, there are three "Fred Burr" creeks, one in each county. Our object in this post is to tell the story of the man who is honored whenever we drink tap water in Philipsburg from Fred Burr Lake, cross the pass from Red Lion to Racetrack Lake over Fred Burr Pass, or take a dip in the swimming hole in Fred Burr Creek.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Major William Y. Graham

Among Hector Horton's partners on the first claim in Philipsburg, was William Graham, a famed explorer and prospector in territorial Montana and a founder of the Montana Historical Society. He was also one of Philipsburg's first school teachers. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kate Perry: First woman in camp

On August 11, 1905 the Philipsburg Mail published the following letter: 
Lewiston, Illinois, July 31, 1905; I have been contemplating to write you for some time. You of course will not know me but I hope some of the old settlers will, if any are left after years of toil. I made quite a little money there.  When I went up to Philipsburg, it was not much of a town, nothing but a mining camp. There were no women there. I had some cows and a horse.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

James Stuart - A Founder of Philipsburg

James Stuart, detail of mural in Deer Lodge P.O.
Due to various circumstances, history does not always credit individuals with their accomplishments. James Stuart was among the greatest of southwest Montana's pioneers - a founder of Philipsburg and an original incorporator of Deer Lodge. He was also a key player in the establishment of mining and ranching in the region.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hector Horton


History accords the honor of the discovery of the silver mines of the upper Flint Creek Basin to one Hector Horton. Let us permit his contemporary, pioneering journalist Frank D. "Sandbar" Brown, to set the scene.