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
Montana, about 1898.
Securing investors from
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
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.
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 and tailings today, July, 2008, Kathy Weiser.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
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
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.
The Miner's Union Hall today, July, 2008,
This image available for
photographic prints and
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
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