Mining History Association

22nd Annual Conference, June 1-5, 2011

University of Montana Western

Dillon, Montana

 

The 22nd Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Dillon, Montana, June 1-5, 2011. The city of Dillon straddles the Beaverhead River which flows north through town on its way to the Jefferson River.  The Jefferson, in turn, merges with the Madison and the Gallatin at Three Forks to form the headwaters of the Missouri River.  Lewis and Clark came this way in 1805, exploring the area for possible routes to the Pacific and naming Beaverhead Rock, a distinctive local landmark.  The Beaverhead River is a fine fishing stream, and its tributaries attract anglers from a wide area.

Dillon began in 1880 as a supply and service town on the railroad 25 miles downstream from where Montanaís first gold and silver mining rush began.  Many well-preserved and colorfully decorated historic structures, some dating to the 1880ís, reflect the communityís importance as a business center.  Today, with over 250 ranches and farms, Beaverhead County is the largest producer of cattle and hay in Montana.  Conference attendees can attest to the high quality of the locally produced steaks.

The program sessions took place at the Swysgood Technology Center on the picturesque campus of the University of Montana Western.  The Presidential Luncheon and Awards Banquet were hosted in the Lewis and Clark Room at nearby Mathews Hall. 

The Welcoming Reception was held at the Beaverhead County Historical Museum which occupies the old railroad depot on Montana Street.  The Museum houses many interesting exhibits including the old schoolhouse from the mining town of Argenta. It was an excellent starting point for a self-guided walking tour of Dillonís historic downtown attractions (see the Photo Gallery below).

Beaverhead Rock near Dillon, Montana

 

Argenta Schoolhouse, Beaverhead County Museum

Dillonís Mining History

Grasshopper Creek, one of the Beaverheadís tributaries, joins the main river a few miles south of Dillon.  Flowing southeast from the Pioneer Mountains, the creek was the location of the first placer gold discoveries in 1862.  Lode mines were also discovered and continued to operate after the placers gave out.  The mining camp became the town of Bannack which became the first Territorial Capitol.  The first gold dredging in Montana was at Bannack.  These discoveries were rapidly followed by those on Alder Creek near Virginia City.  Both of these locations were visited on Conference field trips (see the Photo Galleries).

Glendale is located about 30 miles north and west of Dillon and accessible by a dirt road from Melrose.  It was once a thriving smelter town with rail connections to Salt Lake City.  Mill ruins and other buildings still stand.  Founded in the 1870ís, for 20 years it processed silver ores from the mines of the Hecla Mining Company which were located a few miles to the west.  The remains of coke ovens that supplied the smelter are located a few miles north of Glendale. 

Silver was one of the ores first mined in the 1860ís and 70ís at Argenta, located 12 miles west of Dillon on a good country road.  Long after the early placer and shallow lode operations ceased, the Ermont lode discovery in the 1920ís stimulated a revival that over the next 30 years produced 65,000 ounces of gold.

Glendale Smelter near the Hecla Mines

The little mining ghost town of Coolidge is located about 50 miles from Dillon.  It is accessible on 4-wheel drive roads.  In the late 1870ís and 80ís, Coolidge was a lively silver camp, with its best producer, the Elkhorn Mine, enjoying a 20-year run despite the long haul to a railhead.  It shut down when silver prices collapsed in the 1890ís, but revived for a brief second run a decade later.  With new capital, district consolidation, and a narrow gauge railroad, one of Montanaís largest mills was constructed.  All operations ceased by the late 1920ís.  Due to the excessive snow in the high country, we are not sure if any MHAers were able to make the trip.

(Adapted from the spring 2011 issue of the Mining History News)

CLICK HERE FOR PROGRAM AND ABSTRACTS

SOCIAL EVENTS (SEE PHOTO GALLERIES)

Welcoming Reception, June 1, 2011, Beaverhead County Museum

From the Mountains of Mourne to the Mines of Montana, an original play by Lisa Hayes, June 3, 2011, Beaverhead County Museum Theater

Presidential Luncheon, June 4, 2011, Matthews Hall

MHA Awards Banquet, June 4, 2011, Matthews Hall

 

TOURS AND FIELD TRIPS

(CLICK ON TRIPS BELOW TO VIEW PHOTO GALLERIES)

Barretts Talc Plant, June 2, 2011

Bannack National Historic Landmark, June 3, 2011

Philipsburg and Granite, June 5, 2011

Alder Gulch, Nevada City, and Virginia City, June 5, 2011

Silver Star and National Machinery Museum, June 5, 2011

 

ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

Ronald H. Limbaugh, General Chairman

William W. Culver,

Corky Rheinhart

PHOTO GALLERY Ė 1 of 2

CLICK ON A PHOTO TO DISPLAY A LARGER IMAGE


Beaverhead County Museum, Dillon, Montana

Dillon Mayor Welcomes the MHA at the Reception at the Beaverhead County Museum

MHA Welcoming Reception at the Beaverhead County Museum

MHA Welcoming Reception at the Beaverhead County Museum

Beaverhead County Courthouse, Dillon

Historic Buildings along Montana Street, Dillon

Historic Hotel Metlen, Dillon

Back Bar from the Bannack Mining Camp, now in the Hotel Metlen

 

 

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and Mike Kaas

 

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO GALLERY Ė 2 OF 2

 


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