Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 20th Silver and Sapphire field trips

The morning began at 8 am sharp at the James Stuart/ Hope Mill Site with 40 cheery faces assembled around the Stamp Mill (Some Assembly Required). Ted Antonioli talked about the discovery of the Philipsburg District 150 years ago, and the history of milling at the site, with comments added by Loraine Bentz Domine.  Horton's Cordova mine can be seen from the millsite. Here's Ted pointing to the Cordova (Steve Neal pic).

Charlie Connell, a stamp mill expert from Arizona, was given the floor and expressed his great enthusiasm for our project and it's progress. He presented Dave Harris with a stamp mill "key" which is necessary during mill startup. In Steve Neals pic below Dave holds the key while Charlie explains its uses.

Then the group proceeded to the Horton and Cliff Veins along the "road to N.W. Co. Mill." These two veins were Horton's best discoveries, cornerstones of Philipsburg's economy in the 20th century. We took the Scratch All Road and stopped at the Trout Mill area. Below is Loraine's picture of some of the attendees at the morning tour near the Trout Mill Site overlooking the Flint Creek Valley.

Then we turned around and stopped at the Cliff Mine where Horton's discovery is a shaft below the road. Next we stopped at the Scratch All road turnoff and walked up to the Scratch All mine yard. At each of these stops Ted gave a history of the mine and answered questions from the group. The entire area is covered by maps and details in the "Silver and Sapphires Booklet" provided to the group for $10.00 a booklet.

The group then returned to Philipsburg for lunch and some departed for other obligations. After lunch 37 people car pooled to the Sapphire Mines on the West Fork of Rock Creek where we were met by Robin McCulloch and his wife Julie. The group of many pickups, SUV's, jeeps  and my Jetta proceeded through the Gem Mountain tourist panning site and passed the Sapphire Ranch to Maley Gulch where Robin began a thorough discussion of the geological makeup and history of the Sapphire claims. the tour continued on over fairly good logging roads to Sapphire Gulch, the head of Maley Gulch, the ridge between Rock Creek and West Fork, a view of Anaconda Gulch and returned to Skalkaho Highway 38 via Coal Creek road. At each of these sites Robin described what is being found during this current geological exploration and what has been mined in the years prior. Participants were thrilled to find small sapphires and garnets in the road bed and on piles of dirt/clay being prepared to screen during the field trip.  Here's a Steve Neal pic of Robin (right) explaining the sapphire mines to some of the attendees.
The book "Sapphires in the southwestern part of the Rock Creek District, Granite County, Montana" written by Richard Berg in 2014 is a wonderful resource for all interested in the geology and history of this area. It can be purchased for $30.00 at the School of Mines in Butte, Montana.

A hot and tired group returned to Philipsburg about 5pm and at 6:30 pm 16 people plus the Jim, Jill and Jean Waldbillig family enjoyed a back yard BBQ.

Stay tuned for the plans for the summer of 2016 field trip and seminar.