Tuesday, June 30, 2015

People involved in the Sapphire MInes on the West Fork of Rock Creek

The original discovery of sapphires is credited to Emil Meyer in 1892. According to the 1910 Census, Emil was born in Germany in about 1848 and emigrated to the United States in 1866. Emil and Lou Moffat with the assistance of David Jankower, a gemologist from London and New York, were able to market the stones they placer mined to Switzerland and other foreign markets. In 1900 the March 8th Philipsburg Mail, stated their yield of sapphires was 200,000 carats with 1,200 carats fit to cut. These numbers helped Meyer and Moffat sell the original claims in 1901 to the newly incorporated American Gem Mining Syndicate.
The American Gem Mining Syndicate composed of people already active in the Philipsburg Mining District was incorporated as follows:
Capital Stock as $300,000 and distributed in the following manner: D. Jankower of Philipsburg, Montana had 299,996 shares; Paul Fusz of Granite, Montana had one share; Moses Rumsey of St. Louis had one share; Auguste B. Ewing of St. Louis had one share; Charles McLure of St. Louis had one share. The corporation directors were: Jankower, Fusz, Rumsey, Ewing and McLure.
The document was signed, notarized and recorded on August 9, 1901. (Montana Historical Society Research Library, Antonioli Papers)

Other persons known to be involved in staking sapphire claims were the Jamieson brothers from at least 1899 to 1905; J.T. Pardee, Doctor Power, Richard Stingle, J.D. Kennedy and Sam Schively. Schively was documented as a gold placer miner in Basin Gulch as early as 1884.

Emil Meyer died of stomach cancer at Mrs. Bennett's hospital in Philipsburg on April 5, 1917. After selling the sapphire claims Emil worked a claim near Princeton during the summer and resided in Philipsburg in the winter. He had no known relatives and it appears he was buried as a pauper in the Philipsburg cemetery.

Conrad Wipf is listed on some of the original AGMS patents. Papers at the MHS Archives state he staked claims in Anaconda and Sapphire Gulch in 1905 and the deeded them over to the corporation. He was paid $4.00 a day to supervise the workers in 1904 and 1905 and continued as foreman until 1910. Bill Queener and Charles Porter stayed at the Sapphire Ranch during the winter of 1904. For the winter of 1905 Axel Sandin and young Conrad Wipf stayed on the ranch for $35 a month. Al Maley, a local trapper and miner, frequently stayed on the ranch and one of the gulches is named after him. Axel was in charge of the teams and claim representation in the summer of 1910. Joseph Sorenson was foreman in 1911 (and maybe through 1913). He died May 1916 in California of Miner's Consumption. Sebastian Seelos filled the position from 1914-1917; Charles Carpp was foreman of Basin Gulch from 1916; Henry Bohrnsen had been a laborer for 15 years before becoming foreman of the Sapphire Gulch Camp in 1917 through 1937. He married the Basin Gulch cook, Ruth Erickson Rau in 1925. They lived in the upper camp on Sapphire Gulch until the next fall when the cabins were moved down to the Sapphire Ranch. The Bohrnsen family then began living year round at the ranch. Hans Luthje was assistant foreman under Bohrnsen. When Charlie Carrp became foreman of all the placers in 1937 (approximately 4,000 acres), he was able to convince J. Walter Kaiser that the claims were financially solvent.

Carrp and Kaiser bought (some say leased in the beginning) the Sapphire Mines from AGMS after the mining season of 1937 for $6,000 and operated them until 1943. They then leased the property to George Carter. In September of 1961, Sally and Bill  Eaton of Seattle bought the mines for $10,000, renamed them The American Bar Sapphire Mines and George continued running the claims as a "Rock Hounding" experience. Marc Beilenberg acquired several of the claims in 1964 and called his property "Skalkaho Sapphires". Willfred Chausee paid $90,000 for the remaining claims in 1966-67.  He allowed Rock Hounds to work the property through 1979. In 1980 Ted and Marie Smith bought the Chausee claims for $1,000,000 with Dick and Joan Tapplin as managers. Bus and Grace Hess later took over the management of the tourist operation. The Smith's sold to American Gem, a Canadian Group, in 1994 and after many manipulations of large amounts of money, they went bankrupt. About 1950 the Sapphire Ranch was broken out of the original claims and was owned and leased by several people, including Nellie Sutherland and my parents: Harry and Nina Bentz. Skalkaho Grazing acquired the ranch meadows sometime in the early 1970's. In the 1980's the Gem Mountain Sapphire Corporation began a fee digging and screening operation in the area north of the Sapphire bridge that Chausee had originally built. American Gem bought Anaconda Bench and Dann Placer from Gem Mountain for $4,000,000 in 1994 and mined more than 4 million carats of gem quality stones during the years of 1994 to 1996. (Berg, 2014; Kane, 2003)  From 2001 to the present (2015) Gem Mountain uses dirt mined from their claims along Anaconda Gulch and Coal Gulch for the tourists to pan and search for sapphires.  R-Y Timber acquired many claims and clear cut the timber before selling to the current owners (Barron and Lutz).
The Ewing family built a log bungalow on a five acre island between the Ranch and Skalkaho Highway 38 (which contained part of the Yellow Dog, Anaconda and Kruger Mining Claims). The exact date the bungalow was built is uncertain but the MHS Archives discuss the Ewing family visiting as early as the summer of 1915. The Walt Kaiser family used the bungalow as a summer home when they owned the Mines. In 1947-48 Bill and Jewel Ball lived there while Jewel taught school for 7 of us children in the "Berry House" located in the Sapphire Ranch field. Harry and Nina Bentz bought the bungalow and 5 acres in 1950-51. The Bungalow burned down in 1959 and Harry sold the property (Yellow Dog 10A and part of the Kruger Claim) to Alvin E. Lutz, Max T. McKee, William Jellison, Clark Blaine Hughes and Lyndahl Hughes on April 12, 1963.
From the beginning, water was a scarce resource, once the mountain snow melted. As early as 1901 articles were published discussing the building of a flume. By 1905 the Cralle Ditch was under construction to supply a decent water source to both Sapphire and Basin Gulch. Also, a V shaped flume was discussed from Stony Creek to the The Cralle Ditch. Whether there was only one flume or Stony Flume, Ewing Flume and West Fork of Rock Creek Flume are all different and built at different times has not been revealed in extensive document research. The DEQ website credits "expert miner McElroy" as stating that a sixteen mile flume was being constructed in 1911, to serve McLure Placer, Aurora and twenty other mining claims. The cost was stated at $75,000. No one at the Deer Lodge National Forest has been able to produce the article cited for this information. The original application filed with the Forest Service in 1906 for one million board feet of timber was to build a flume 18 miles in length  and the timber was to be cut along the ditch with a portable sawmill to clear a strip 100 feet wide. A sawmill was finally set up at the mouth of Coal Creek in 1912 under the supervision of O. J. Berry. Documents at MHSRL indicate a request to P.C. Miller in Stevensville, Montana to submit a bid to build a flume on April 1, 1912. By July 30th the Cheatham brothers (J.N. and C.W.) as engineer and surveyor had 2 camps set up with Foreman E.E. Rhudy and G. E. Rasmussen busy hiring crews and advertising for lumber bids. Camp #1 started a flume from Gem Creek with intake from Gem and Little Gem Creek. Camp #2 was the main flume on the West Fork of Rock Creek with intake from Spruce Creek and Dunshee Creek. Parts of this flume are still visible on the north slide rock along Highway 38 west of Coal Creek.
Paul A. Fusz, born in 1847, left Montana in the fall of 1909 and died February 16, 1910 in St. Louis of Pernicious Anemia.
Charles D. McLure, born in 1844, died in Missoula May 21, 1918 and is buried in the Philipsburg Cemetery.

The men standing in the Stony Flume are probably the Cheatham brothers.  The cabins were at the upper Sapphire camp and later resided at the Sapphire Ranch (picture from Edward Bohrnsen). The Portraits are of Paul A. Fusz and Charles D. McLure and copied from "Prominent Citizens of St. Louis Missouri".

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