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More Ghost Towns & Mining Camps

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Montana Ghost Towns:

 

Gold Coin Mill, Cable, MontanaCable - Situated off the Pintler Scenic Route, is the old mining camp of Cable and the Gold Coin Mill. The settlement began when three prospectors made camp here in 1867. When the miners awoke the next morning their horses were gone and as they searched for them, they found a large quartz pillar loaded with gold. The mine was named the Atlantic Cable Lode as a tribute to the laying of the Trans-Atlantic cable, and the camp that grew up around it simply took on the name, Cable. With the help of Helena financers, the mine was developed but after numerous disagreements between the three miners, operations were ceased a decade later and the property sold.

 

New owners began operations again in 1883, but the mine closed again in 1891. In 1898, the Gold Coin Lode was discovered, which would produce some $200,000 in gold over the net decade.

 

In 1906, the Gold Coin Mill was built, and the mine and mill would operate sporadically until 1940, when it closed and the town became a ghost. The mill and several area buildings are on private property and is closed to visitors due to vandalism. However, it can be seen from the highway. It is located along Montana Highway 1 between Drummond and Anaconda, north of Silver Lake.

 

Charter Oak Mine, MontanaCharter Oak Mine and Mill - Never patented, the Oak Mine and Mill operated on and off from 1916 to 1955. First operated as a stamp mill by the Hopkins family until the stock market crash of 1929, it then closed for several years. However, in 1942, it was reopened by the Hopkins & Sons Mining Company, who developed a 50-ton flotation mill that can still be seen today. During World War II, the lode mine mill hummed with activity operated by the Hopkins brothers and a leaseholder by the name of James Bonner. Brining out tons of valuable lead and zinc, essential to fighting the war, the operation profited for a number of years. However, by the early 1950s, it was declining due to market conditions and lack of investment capital. The land then changed hands several times but very little hard rock mining was done. In the 1980s, plans to upgrade the mill to process older tailings and waste rock were unsuccessful. It became U.S. Forest property in 1995 and today the old site contains a couple of standing buildings and mining-milling equipment. The mine has been stabilized and interpreted, and is open for public visitation on select summer weekends.

 

The remains of the Charter Oak operation are located near the Little Blackfoot River south of the community of Elliston. To get there, travel west from Helena on US Highway 12 for 22 miles to the Little Blackfoot River turnoff (Forest Road #227). Turn south off the highway and drive 2.9 miles until the road forks. Follow the right fork for 1.3 miles. Turn left on Forest Road #227 B-1 and drive for 2 miles, passing through two open gates.

 

Contact Information:


Helena National Forest
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, Montana 59602
406-449-5201

 

 

 

 

Castle Town, MontanaCastle Town - Also known as Castle City, or just referred to simply as "Castle," this old mining camp, located just south of White Sulphur Springs, was once bustling with some 2,000 residents including the infamous Old West character of Calamity Jane. The camp got its start around 1882 when a prospector named Hanson Barnes found silver in the area. The first mine built was the North Carolina Mine in 1884, though almost 1000 claims were filed and the area was dotted with small operations. Its richest producer was the Cumberland Mine, which began mining for lead in 1884. Before long, the company was employing numerous miners and the town boomed. The camp soon boasted some 2,000 residents, a fine school, numerous merchants, several fraternal organizations, a jail, 7 brothels, and as many as 14 saloons.

 

Into this atmosphere came Martha Jane Cannary, better known as Calamity Jane. After having lived a "wild life" in the boomtown of Deadwood, South Dakota for several years, she tried for a short time to live an "honest" life running a restaurant in Castle City. But, this venture would prove to be short-lived and she soon returned to Deadwood.  

 

Castle's major problem; however, was a lack of transportation, which required that all ore and supplies be hauled in and out by the wagon load. The rich ore was first hauled to the Yellowstone Mine's Smelter, more than 100 miles to the south. The smelting problem was solved when the Cumberland Mine built its own smelter in 1891 and the operation quickly became the largest lead producer in the state. The smelter solved part of the problem, but the processed ore still had be hauled out by the wagon load and mine owners were working desperately to get a spur to the town from the Montana Railroad. However, the Silver Panic of 1893 delayed the railroad and many miners began to leave. When the price of lead also dropped, the mine closed and the camp became a ghost town. Though there were short revivals in working the tailings and some of the underground shafts over the next several decades, none of the efforts was ever enough to revive the town. The last permanent residents left in the late 1930s, leaving the buildings to Mother Nature.

 

Today, the old mining camp is a classic ghost town with several buildings still standing including cabins, a couple of businesses, the school, and stone foundations. The camp is located on private land, and close inspection of the property requires permission. However, a public road runs near the town which provides a number of nice views. The old camp is located off of Highway 294 between White Sulphur Springs and Martinsdale, Montana.

 

Garnet Range, MontanaColoma Mining District - Located in the northeastern corner of the Garnet Range at the headwaters of McGinnis Creek, Coloma and several other mining camps, including Reynolds City, Springtown, and Yreka got their starts in 1865 when prospectors found gold in Bear Gulch and Elk Creek. This started one of the last large Montana gold rushes and within weeks, 6,000 people moved into the Garnet Mountain mining districts. The settlement of Coloma, on the north side of the divide, was the largest next to Garnet, which would be developed later. Eventually, the Coloma area would support two mills which crushed the ore that was hauled out to Helena, Butte, or Anaconda to be treated.

 

After lode deposits at Coloma were discovered in 1897, the area would really begin to boom and was most active at the turn of the century.

 

The largest of the Coloma lodes was the Mammoth Mine, which was developed beginning in 1896 and would yield about $200,000 of gold in the next two decades. Other mines, including the Comet, Dixie, Clemantha, Cato, and several others were also operating in the early 20th century; however, most were not profitable as much of the gold was lost in the tailings.

Though mining efforts continued as late as the 1950s, Coloma had all but died by 1918. Other mining camps in the area, including Reynolds city, Springtown, and Yreka had very short lives, lasting only a couple of years. All in all, the district produced only about $250,000 in gold, silver, lead, and zinc. Today, there is little left but a few cabins and mining remains.  

Coloma can be reached from Montana Highway 200 by traveling southeast on Garnet Range Road about seven miles. Garnet Range Road continues on a circuitous route for about 13 miles through the old mining camp sites of Reynolds city, Springtown, and Beartown before making its way to Garnet.

 

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