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Granite - Montana's Silver Queen

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Four miles up Granite Mountain, southeast of Phillipsburg, was one of the largest silver mining camps in Montana. Nicknamed "Montana’s Silver Queen,” the town once boasted more than 3,000 residents.   


Silver was first discovered by a man named Eli Holland in 1875, and though a small shaft was dug, little work progressed at the claim. However, that changed in 1880 when Charles D. McLure, superintendent of the Hope Mill in Philipsburg, found a rich specimen of ruby silver at the site, which assayed at 2,000 ounces of silver per ton.


He soon partnered with a man named Charles Clark and the two bought the property and formed the Granite Mountain Mining Company.


Granite, Montana about 1898

Granite, Montana, about 1898.




Securing investors from St. Louis, Missouri, they capitalized the company with ten million dollars. The company spent $130,000 during the next two years to develop the mine and in 1882, hit a rich lode which assayed at 1,700 ounces of silver per ton. Calling it the Bonanza Chute, the vein returned some $274,000 worth of silver by the following year.

In 1884, the company town of Granite was developed around the mine and lots were rented to miners for $2.50 per month. With the diversity of the miners, neighborhoods quickly developed which included Finnlander Lane, Cornish Row, and Donegal Lane, which was home to Irish and Danish Miners. Magnolia Avenue was home to mine managers and superintendents of the Granite Mine, as well as doctors and other professionals,  and soon took on the nickname of "Silk Stocking Row.” The town also supported a sizable Chinese population, which lived in the gully below Main Street, along with those working in the Red Light District.

Though homes and businesses were quickly built, the camp struggled as there was no local water and initially it had to be hauled in by wagon from Fred Burr Lake. Later a flume and cistern system was built to support the camp.  

By 1889, the camp boasted four churches, the Granite Mountain Star newspaper, a public school, 18 saloons, a hospital, fire station, bathhouse, a three-story Miners' Union Hall, a thriving red-light district, a bank, and the Moore House, a three-story hotel, which was considered to be one of the best hotels in the Territory.

For entertainment, the town provided a roller-skating rink, a library, a ball park, a four-mile bob sled run, which connected Granite to Philipsburg, and three fraternal orders. The Miners’ Union Hall often hosted traveling theatre troupes and local dances.

Unfortunately, the hospital was a busy place during the mine’s heyday years as numerous accidents occurred and an average of three miners per year were killed in explosions and falls. Granite; however, never had a cemetery because the ground was just too rocky for graves, so the remains of those miners and any others who died, were hauled down the mountain and buried in the Philipsburg Cemetery.


Granite Mine, Montana

Granite Mine and tailings today, July, 2008, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photographic prints and  downloads HERE


The mine operations paid its first dividend to investors in 1885 and that same year a 20-stamp mill was built, later replaced by an 80-stamp mill. Between 1885 and 1888 the operation produced 2.5 million dollars in ore and in 1888 a new 100-stamp mill was built on Fred Burr Creek. The new Rumsey Mill, named for the president of the Granite Mountain Mining Company between 1884 and 1889, began operations in March, 1889. It was connected to the mine by an 8,900 foot tramway and to Philipsburg by a 7.7 mile extension of the railroad.


Like other mining camps in the American West, Granite suffered dramatically when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed in 1893, drastically slashing the price of silver. Within a year, the town’s population dropped from about 3,200 to just 140.


Continued Next Page


Miner's Union Hall, Granite, Montana

The Miner's Union Hall today, July, 2008, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photographic prints and

 downloads HERE!


Miner's Union Hall, Granite, Montana

Miner's Union Hall decades earlier.


Miner' s Union Hall - Built in 1890 at a cost of $23,000, the union hall was the social center of the bustling mining camp. On the second floor of the three-story building, the main hall was used for stage productions, dances, concerts, and celebrations. Also housed on this floor were union offices and a library. The third floor held the lodge hall and meeting room for the miners union (both 2nd and 3rd floors were housed in the upper brick portion of the building) and the first floor housed a lounge and recreation room for the miners.  In the 1890s, other buildings along Main Street included saloons, rooming houses and restaurants. Across the street was the newspaper office, and in the gully below was Chinatown and the red light district.


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