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HISTORIC CONTEXT

aka Hecla

aka Glendale

The Bryant mining district , also known as the Hecla or Glendale district, was one of the last to be established in the Pioneer Mountains but it turned out to be the richest, producing silver, lead, copper and zinc ore valued at nearly $20 million. Although the district is in a region where gold was initially the principal mineral wealth, only negligible amounts of gold were recovered from the district's mines. Lyden (1948:12) speculates that the gold in the district may have been dissolved by an unusual combination of certain manganese oxides with sulfuric acid formed by the oxidation of sulfide ores and sodium chloride (Geach 1972).

Geologically, the old town of Hecla is within a glacial amphitheater with Trapper Creek flowing out of the basin (Figure 1). Structurally, the most prominent feature of the district is the intrusive quartz monzonite that occupies the ridge to the southeast and underlies the basin itself. The quartz monozonite contains about equal amounts of orthoclase and plagioclase with quartz, biotite, horneblende, magnetite, and titanite. Near the ore deposits this rock undergoes alteration which results in the production of sericite, epidote, chlorite, and quartz (Winchell 1914).

Paleozoic and Cretaceous sedimentary rocks and quartzite monzonite and dikes of Late Cretaceous or Tertiary age underlie the district. These rocks subjected to compressive forces produced overturned folds, thrusting and tear faults and were warped into a dome. Subsequently, at the end of the Tertiary, the rocks were offset by normal faults (Karlstrom 1948). Mesozoic sandstone and shales outcrop eastward continuously to the recent alluvial deposits of the Big Hole River near Melrose. West of Melrose, slates and shales outcrop. The sandstone, slates and shales are overlain by brown limestone (Winchell 1914).

Most of the ore at Hecla occurs in dolomitic limestone of lower Paleozoic age, but a small amount was found in the intrusive quartz monozonite. The ore in the limestone occurs in shoots and pockets. On Lion Mountain the shoots trend in all directions. Six dikes are known to cross one or more of the ore shoots, faulting most of them. Faults parallel the dikes or cross and offset both ore shoots and dikes. The ore found in the shoots in the limestone is valuable primarily for silver and lead, but also contains some zinc, antimony, arsenic, sulphur, and manganese (Winchell 1914).

The ore deposits of the Cleve and Avon mines, at the base of Cleve mountain north of Hecla, contain a larger amount of gold than the mines at Lion Mountain. They are closer to the monzonite outcrop than the Lion Mountain deposits. Their greater richness in gold may be due to the greater abundance of manganese in this portion of the district (Winchell 1914).

Exploration and Early Development

The first lode discovery in the area occurred in 1872, when the Forest Queen claim was located by William Spurr. Spurr did not develop a prospect hole and the following year the claim was rediscovered by James A. Bryant and P. J. (Jerry) Grotevant. By far the richest strike made in the district and in the Pioneer Mountain range occurred early in the summer of 1873 when James Bryant, Jerry Grotevant, and other men were in the area on a trapping expedition. Bryant wanted to relocate a claim he had made the year before along Trapper Ridge. While trying to catch some loose horses, Grotevant picked up a rock to throw at one of the horses and noticed that it contained native silver ore. Word soon leaked out and throughout the summer the area was swarming with miners looking for other lodes. Many were found and a number of mines were located in the vicinity. Soon after, the town of Trapper City was built along the sides of Trapper Creek. Trapper City and the mines were to be short-lived, however, as the main development in the area shifted to the mines on Lion Mountain (Davis 1962).

The silver/lead outcrops on this bare, white rock upthrust were discovered shortly after the strikes at Trapper Ridge. The unusual mountain was named when a friend of Grotevant, Joe McCreary, mistook Grotevant's white mule for a mountain lion and ran to camp for help. When his mistake was discovered, the other miners made sure McCreary would never live it down and named the mountain where the mule was spotted as "Lion Mountain".

Shortly afterward,the Trapper lode (also found by Grotevant), and the Cleve-Avon, Keokuk and Franklin lodes were located. Even richer lodes were discovered soon after on the face of Lion Mountain, including the Alta, Atlantus, Mark Anthony, and Ariadne. Unlike some of the other districts in the Pioneers where there was a long lag between the time the lodes were discovered and when production first occurred, in the Bryant/Hecla district production followed almost immediately after the first discoveries. In 1873, 10 tons of high-grade silver-lead ore was shipped to Swansea, Wales for smelting.

Settlements also grew up soon after the first lodes were located. Trapper City, located along the banks of Sappington Creek near the Trapper mine, was the first community in the district. It was short-lived, however, and was soon abandoned when larger ore bodies were found on Lion Mountain and miners moved over the hill to Spring Creek where Lion City soon grew to a town of 500 to 600 persons.

Development of the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company

The area developed rapidly and in the spring of 1877, Noah Armstrong, who owned the Atlantis mine in the Trapper area, took over most of the workings on Lion Mountain under the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company. Armstrong bought virtually all the major productive properties, including the Cleopatra, Trapper, Franklin, Cleve-Avon, Mark Anthony, Ariadne, True Fissure, and Atlantus lodes. Although working conditions in the mines were extremely difficult due to the bitter cold and rarified air, some twenty miles of underground workings were driven into the center of Lion Mountain (Wolle 1963).

A community of mill workers sprang up in 1875 when the Dahler and Armstrong Company built a 40-ton lead smelter at Glendale to process the growing production from the district. The Glendale smelter produced one million ounces of silver and thousands of tons of lead and copper annually until it burned down in July of 1879.

In 1881, the Hecla Company reorganized and came under the direction of Henry Knippenberg. Shortly after he assumed control, Knippenberg had the town of Hecla built a mile away from Lion City. The mill and leaching works at Glendale were rebuilt and enlarged. By 1885 the plant consisted of three blast furnaces, two crushers, a large roaster and other facilities. Transportation from the mine was improved with the construction of a four mile-long, narrow-gauge tramway from Hecla to the mill.

The town of Hecla grew to some 1,500 to 1,800 persons, with a water works system, fire protection, a church, a school for 200 pupils, and other businesses typical of a small mining camp.

In 1882, the Greenwood concentrating mill was constructed a short distance below Lion Mountain. This mill had a capacity to process 100 tons of ore a day which was reduced to 35 tons of concentrates (Winchell 1914; Sassman 1941; Geach 1972).

The arrival of the Utah and Northern Railroad at Melrose in the spring of 1881, accelerated mining activities in the district. The Hecla company brought in large quantities of coke and mining supplies by the railroad and shipped out the 90-pound bars of bullion, which had been smelted at Glendale, to the American Smelting and Refining Company at Omaha for final refining. In addition to the coke, the smelters also consumed large quantities of charcoal. The company ran 38 kilns on Canyon Creek in order to supply the more than one million bushels of charcoal the smelters used each year.

Supplying charcoal to the smelting furnaces at Glendale developed as a major satellite industry since the company used up to 100,000 bushels of charcoal a month. There was an ethnic division to the enterprise with most of the logging being done by Canadian and French woodcutters while Italian laborers handled the process where the wood was burned in pits to produce the finished charcoal which sold to the furnaces for 11 cents a bushel.

The 1880s were the boom period for Montana silver mine, including the Bryant/Hecla mining district. The railroads finally reached western Montana during the first years of the decade, bringing many ore deposits within economical distance to smelters and reduction works. During the decade, the Territory was the second largest supplier of silver in the nation, except for 1887 when it was first. An off-shoot of the silver boom was a revival of gold mining and an increase in production of zinc, lead and other metals usually found with silver. During this period, the Territory's average annual silver output came to an estimated $20 million.

Like all silver producing mining areas, the Bryant district was hard hit in 1893 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed, causing a disastrous drop in the price of silver. The company's fortunes continued to decline as the main lodes began to run out of high-grade ore. Production was greatly cut back and in 1895 the company's major producing mine, the Cleopatra, shut down. In 1900, the smelters at Glendale were finally closed and torn down. In January 1903 the Atlantis mine closed down, followed a short time later by the Cleve. In 1904, all the company's operations ceased.

The Hecla company stands out as one of the more successful mining companies in Montana. During its long productive history, the company paid dividends every year for 21 years (with the single exception of 1898) (Winchell 1914; Sassman 1941; Geach 1972). During the 20-year period of operations under Knippenberg, one of Montana's most successful mining entrepreneurs, the mines produced over $22 million worth of silver and other metals; paid out $7,765,245 for labor, supplies and taxes; and paid dividends to stockholders totaling $2,057,500 (Winchell 1914; Davis 1962; Wolle 1963; Geach 1972).

District Activity After 1904

Knippenberg acquired ownership of the properties in 1904 at a sheriff's sale. The Penobscot Mining Company then mined the Atlantus, True Fissure, Trapper, Cleve, and Franklin lodes from 1913 to 1915, under an agreement with Knippenberg. A 20-stamp concentrator was constructed at Lion City and ore valued at $243,427 was mined by the company. When the mines closed in 1915, the district continued to prosper from the ore and slag piles at the old smelter at Glendale with nearly $903,000 worth of ore being shipped from 1916 to 1922 (Geach 1972).

The Hecla properties then went through a series of convoluted ownership changes starting in 1923, when the properties were sold for $230,000 to the Hecla Development Syndicate which continued development work and processed the ore, slag and mill tailings from previous mining operations. The district was then open to leasers in 1926 under the supervision of G. B. Conway. The following year the properties were acquired by the United States Smelting, Refining, and Exploration Company who did development work on the Cleve-Avon. Later, in 1928, Conway acquired ownership of the properties and sold them on option to the Foundation Company of Utah. The company spent $80,000 on development and exploration work but did not quite break even after shipping $78,376 worth of ore and slag. In 1930, the claims and mines reverted to Conway who again turned the district into a leasers' camp. During the later 1930s, the district produced small amounts of ore, which yielded $175,452 in metals. L. D. Foreman of Dillon acquired the option for the properties following Conway's death in 1945. Some years later, Leonard Lively of Melrose picked up the option and in 1965 held title to most of the old Hecla Company assets (Gilbert 1935; Sassman 1941; Trauerman 1940, 1942 & 1950; Crowley 1960 & 1962; Geach 1964, 1966 & 1972; Lawson 1976 & 1977).

During the district's long, productive period from 1873 to 1965, it produced 656,078 tons of ore which yielded 18,250 ounces of gold, 13,384,722 ounces of silver, 8,271,136 pounds of copper, 112,482,388 pounds of lead and 3,831,254 pounds of zinc, all of which have been estimated to be worth over $19,651,000 (Geach 1972; Krohn and Weist 1977).

DISTRICT BOUNDARIES

The town of Hecla and much of the mining district is located in a large glacial cirque basin in the eastern Pioneer Mountains, about 16 miles west of the town of Melrose (Figure 1). The district is drained by Trapper and Sappington Creeks and is surrounded by high mountains with Granite Mountain rising to 10,633 feet in the south; a high divide to the west; and by Lion, Sheriff, and Cleve mountains to the north and northwest. In the center of the district is the Hecla basin at an altitude of about 8,500 feet.

HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINE SITES

The following mines are some of the primary mines in the district. A history and brief description is provided for these but three other locations, although outside of the district should be mentioned. More than 20 large beehive-type charcoal kilns and foundations of others remain along Canyon Creek from the 1880s when the kiln supplied fuel for the copper smelter at Glendale and an additional group of charcoal kilns are along Trapper Creek. The latter made charcoal for use in the Hecla smelters and at their peak production produced some 100,000 bushels of charcoal a day.

Elm Orlu

The Elm Orlu claim was first located by the Trapper Company in 1873, but not thinking it was a worthwhile prospect, made it over to two miners named Sod and Hays. In 1875 the mine was developed by Dennis Driscoll, Thomas Lowe, and Thomas Ford who sank a 6 x 12 foot shaft 75 feet deep. They also drove a 4 x 6 foot tunnel 160 feet into the mountain. The tunnel encountered the lode 250 feet below the surface. Levels were cut at 50 feet and 100 feet with stopes being cut every 30 feet. On December 2, 1876, the three men patented the claim (Pat. #8064 - Mineral Survey #471) and reported improvements on the claim consisted of a dwelling and the mine workings, valued at $13,025 (Mineral Record 1873; 1875; Geach 1972; Sassman 1941; GLO Office Records).

The Elm Orlu claim was situated along a mineralized zone between the Park and Meagher formations. At depth, the contact vein is a five-foot strip between quartzite and dolomite. The ore was taken out of a two-foot wide zone. In 1875, 200 tons were shipped to Utah where it returned $300 per ton. The ore assayed 12 percent copper, 40 percent lead, 13 percent zinc and .97 percent silver. At the end of the season 50 tons were in the dump. The mine most likely sold ore directly to the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company during the 1880s but there is no official record of production. In 1942, the long abandoned mine was observed to have eight shallow inclined shafts sunk along the three foot wide mineralized zone which was traceable the entire 1,500 feet of the claim (Mineral Record 1873; 1875; Karlstrom 1948; Geach 1972).

Keokuk

The Keokuk (or Keokirk) claim, the westernmost claim on the Elm Orlu vein, was located by Wash Stapleton and James Cameron in 1873. The claim was situated along the east/west mineralized zone between the Park and Meagher formations which dips at 30 degrees south at the claim. In 1873, four assays were conducted on the two-foot wide vein in the discovery shaft. The ore tested out at $122 to $290 per ton with an average of $200 per ton. The ore had a small percentage of galena and was a good milling ore. Stapleton and Cameron planned to start operations as soon as the road was open and construction finished on the reduction works. Two years later Stapleton had become the sole owner and had sunk a 40 foot shaft into a one-foot wide vein of good ore. The Keokuk Lode was patented on January 23, 1884 (Pat. #12200 - Mineral Survey #1578) by Thomas Ford. Improvements listed were the discovery shaft and house, a connecting whim house on the northwest and a connecting ore house on the southeast. A cabin to the south completed the $2,025 in improvements. The property was extensively developed during the 1880s and ore was probably sold directly to the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company, although there are no official records of mine production. Additional work on the property may have been done by lessees in the 1930s but, again, there is no record of any production (Mineral Record 1873; 1875; Sassman 1941; Karlstrom 1948; Geach 1972, Anderson and Gray 1992; BLM Mineral Survey Records).

In 1948, when the abandoned mine was inspected, workings consisted of two inclined shafts which were sunk along the mineralized zone, and an adit located about 700 feet south of the shafts. Although there is copper-bearing ore (malachite and azurite) on the mine's dumps, there is no record of any production from the mine (Mineral Record 1873; 1875; Sassman 1941; Geach 1972).

Minnie Gaffney

The Minnie Gaffney claim is an example of one of the smaller mining operations in the district. It was located by two miners named Moffat and Maynard. In the 1870s the property was owned by the Gaffney Company and the four-foot thick vein was worked from a 60-foot shaft. It was reported that eight men were employed at the mine. Some 75 tons of ore were mined which assayed 40 ounces of silver and 60 percent lead but apparently none of the ore was ever shipped (Mineral Resources 1873; 1875).

During the 1880s, the Minnie Gaffney was owned by the Monroe Silver Mining Company which was run by superintendent N. C. Burnum. The company also owned one of the three mills at Dewey plus extensive holdings in the Vipond Park area. In addition to the Minnie Gaffney, the company owned the Pride of the West, Wall Street, Condor, Moffat, and Maynard mines in the Bryant district (Sassman 1941; Geach 1972).

The Minnie Gaffney was situated on the east end of the same mineralized zone between the Park and Meagher formations where the Keokuk, Fraction, Bonaparte, Elm Orlu, and Forest Queen mines were located. The mine was worked from a steeply inclined shaft but there is no record of any major production from the property (Geach 1972).

Trapper

The Rocky Mountain Trapper lode was the second (after the Forest Queen) major discovery in the Bryant district. The claim was recorded August 16, 1873, by P. J. (Jerry) Grotevant, James A. Bryant, D. R. Parker, Joseph McCreary, Noah Sanborn and Charles de Lovimer. However, other reports state that the Trapper lode was discovered in 1872 by William Spurr but since he failed to do any development work on the claim, it was open for re-location the following season. Grotevant and Bryant took advantage of this situation and, according to the legendary story, discovered the lode while searching for their horses. The Trapper Lode was patented on October 23, 1874 (Pat. #2231 - Mineral Survey #250) by James A. Bryant, Philip Grotevant. Daniel R. Parker, Joseph McCraery, Noah Sanburn and Charles de Laremier (Mineral Resources 1875; Sassman 1941; BLM Mineral survey Records).

The Trapper mine was quickly developed by the Trapper Company and was the first in the district to ship ore when, in 1874, 10 tons of ore were sent to San Francisco which produced 1400 ounces of silver. In 1875, 101 tons of ore were sent to Freiburg, Germany which yielded 280 ounces of silver per ton. In the following year, 300 tons were sold to Dahles and Armstrong at Glendale which assayed at 130 to 300 ounces to the ton. The small town of Trapper City grew up around the bonanza mine but it just as quickly declined when by 1877, the Trapper's ore body had been depleted and richer deposits were found on Lion Mountain. The residents of Trapper City quickly abandoned their cabins and moved to the new town of Lion City. The Trapper mine closed and the last resident left Trapper City in the summer of 1878. In the brief period the mine was operating, it produced 3,923 tons of ore which contained 286 ounces of gold, 579,680 ounces of silver, 210,000 pounds of copper and 4,543,000 pounds of lead, worth a total of a little over one million dollars (Mineral Resources 1873 & 1875; Karlstrom 1948; Sassman 1941).

The mine was re-opened during the 1890s when the ore bodies on Lion Mountain began to be mined out. During the period from 1897 to 1899, 397 tons of ore were shipped which yielded 35,033 ounces of silver, 3,003 pounds of copper, 33,789 pounds of lead and about 60 ounces of gold for a total value of $23,290. The mine remained in small-scale, intermittent production until around 1917. It was operated by the Hecla company and was reported to be a principal producer of carbonate of lead ore. The mine's 1200 feet of workings consisted of two adits; a lower one near Sappington Creek and the other higher up the slope; and two shafts, one 200 feet deep and the other 310 feet deep. A 20-stamp mill was built at the site in 1913. Although it was not one of the district's major properties, the Trapper mine produced a respectable amount of ore in the period from 1877 to 1899 (plus additional tonnage from 1900 to 1917), totaling 4,320 tons of ore which yielded 346 ounces of gold, 614,713 ounces of silver, 4,576,789 pounds of lead and 312,003 pounds of copper which was valued at over $1,025,000 dollars (Mineral Resources 1873; 1875; 1911; 1912; 1913; 1917; Hogan 1891; Shoemaker 1893; Karlstrom 1948; Geach 1972).

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