Sitting on the eastern slope of the
Continental Divide between the towns of Basin and Boulder, Comet,
Montana, is one
of the state’s most intact
Not restored nor preserved, the site is located on private land, but, at
this time, remains open to the public.
Mining began in what would become known as the
High Ore Mining District as early as 1869 when a man named John W. Russell
began to prospect in the area. However, after working his claim for five
years, Russell sold it to the Alta-Montana
Company in 1874. The new company began to invest in mining operations and
soon built a 40-ton-per-day concentrator, a mill process which separates
the ore from the dirt and rocks.
Two years later, in 1876, the town of Comet was surveyed and platted as
more and more people began to move into the area. The following year, the
post office opened in Comet, but, growth came slowly to the town.
In 1879 the Alta-Montana Company invested over
$500,000 in developing the Comet and nearby Alta Mine. However, their
efforts were unsuccessful in turning a profit due to the high costs of
transportation. But, director and
major stockholder of the Alta-Montana Company, Samuel T. Hauser, was
determined to make a go of the Comet Mine and in 1883 formed the
Helena Mining and Reduction Company, which bought the assets of the
struggling Alta-Montana Company and again began to invest in the Comet Mine. The following
year, the Helena Mining and Reduction Company constructed a new
smelter, one of the largest of its kind in
territory, at Wickes, some six miles northeast of Comet. He then built
a 100-ton concentrator and a tramway to carry the concentrate to the
smelter. But, it was when Hauser induced the Northern Pacific Railway
to construct a branch line between Helena and Wickes that Comet really
began to grow.
operations were expanded again, adding yet more mining equipment and
hiring more men. Comet’s heyday years were during the 1890s, when the
mine became profitable enough to even weather the silver panic and
depression of 1893. At this time, the town boasted some 300 people, a
school, which taught more than 20 children, numerous businesses and
homes, and more than 20 saloons.
However, by the turn
of the century, the ore was beginning to play out and the mine sold
several times over the next several years. By 1913, the town had
become a ghost.
Things changed again in 1927 when the Comet and the Gray
Eagle Mines were purchased by the Basin Montana
Tunnel Company, who again made improvements, building a 200-ton
concentrator, which was described at the time as "the most modern in
With better technology, the mines were buzzing once again, employing
about 300 men and weathering the depression years. In the 1930s, the
operation was the second largest mining venture in
after Butte. Mining operations continued until 1941 at which time,
most of the equipment was sold, the people moved away, and Comet
ghost town for good.
Over the years, the
Comet mine produced
some $20 million in lead, zinc, iron, copper, silver, and gold ore and was
the richest mine in the district. The nearby Gray Eagle Mine produced over
$2 million in ore.
Today, the town sits
silent, crumbling amongst the sagebrush and weeds. Though Mother Nature
and years of vandalism have taken a toll on the old town, more than two
dozen buildings continue to stand, testifying to more prosperous times.
Only one family remains in residence.
Comet is located about
37 miles southwest of Helena,
Travel south of Helena on I-15 to Exit 160. Travel north on High Ore Road
for about five miles.
of America, updated June, 2014.