JEFFERSON COUNTY MINING HISTORY
|JEFFERSON COUNTY, MONTANA has a rich past of miners, ranchers and railroad executives. Mining provided Jefferson County with a colorful history of hard working young families. Today, the mining industry is still an important part of the county economy providing good paying jobs, high tax base and support to our local schools with metal mine taxes|
Elkhorn circa late 1800's
Jefferson County's most famous mining establishment is ELKHORN. While not officially a ghost town, as there are a few local residents, most of what remains of the town are old miner cabins, stables and the meeting place where the whole town came together, Fraternity Hall. Today, picnic tables are located at the beginning of the main street for families to enjoy a picnic lunch. A large sign guides you through the town and into the one publicly owned building. Since most of the town of Elkhorn is privately owned, you may not enter any of the buildings except Fraternity Hall. Standing in front of the Hall, you can imagine piano tunes floating out the doorway. Fraternity Hall was a place for fun and dance. The Sourdough Project is a small underground gold mine that has been through the permitting process and is currently seeking funding to get into operation. This mine has the potential to add 20-30 good paying jobs to the community and bring back some of the mining culture to the area. However, for a very clear picture of the hard times and disease that miners struggled with every day, take a trip up the mountain slope to the graveyard. Many of the tombs are of small children who died when the diphtheria epidemic raged through the town.
Privately owned Iron Mine located above the town of Elkhorn
After viewing the town of Elkhorn, you may want to take a short hike up to an old mining claim that is still being worked today. Located some 2.5 miles above the town of Elkhorn, the Iron Mine is a privately owned mine. The National Forest has an easement through the lands, so if you feel like hiking, the trail winds through the majestic Elkhorn Mountains. If you decide to hike past Iron Mine, please stay on the designated trail as the property around you is all privately owned.
|Back in 1863
Montana was a different place. Thos. G. Merrill left his hometown of Saint
Paul, Minnesota to head west to the Montana Territory. He settled in
the Lump Gulch area of what is today Northern Jefferson County. After years of struggling, traveling between Saint Paul and Montana when
times got lean, he finally struck it rich thirty-one years later. The mine he discovered
was named the great Liverpool mine and by 1895, a quarter of a million
dollars worth of high grade silver had been mined by Mr. Merrill.
His success story is just one of many who helped shape Montana's mining history.
Photo taken of Thos. Merrill after he discovered the Liverpool Mine
Today, a few mines are still in operation in Jefferson County. Income generated from the present day mines has given the county opportunities to expand other businesses for the day when mining will be a whisper of the past. The Golden Sunlight Mine, located just outside the town of Whitehall, is one of the top three county taxpayers and has been mining for gold since December 1982 and the first gold was poured in February 1983. Golden Sunlight Mine has a payroll of over $13,000,000.00 per year and is projected to operate until at least 2015. Another mine and top county taxpayer is Montana Tunnels Mine located above the town of Jefferson City which mines zinc, lead, silver and gold. They are currently in a care and maintenance status and working on getting investment capital to expand operations. Their peak employment was over 200 at one time and the M-Pit expansion would bring many of these good paying jobs back to the county. A large limestone mining and processing plant located near Montana City, Ashgrove Cement Plant, employs over 80 people and is one of the top taxpayers of Jefferson County. Ashgrove devoted a large sum of money to restoring the area of land across from their site. Today, beautiful vegetation, hiking trails and clear water welcome deer to the area. The Pipestone Quarry operation located near Whitehall is a gravel mining operation that provides railroad ballast material throughout the country. They are a subsidiary of URS Corporation and provide several good paying jobs.
|As you explore Jefferson County, Montana,
we hope you will remember the glorious past as you enjoy today's
pristine mountain views and bustling towns. Stop in at the
county seat of Boulder to visit the old COURTHOUSE completed in
1888. While visiting the courthouse, take a peek at the glass
display cases filled with interesting artifacts celebrating mining, ranching
and family life for the past 150 years in Jefferson
Another opportunity to view the yesteryears of Jefferson County is at the Jefferson Valley Museum in Whitehall. Located just off the main street in two historic buildings, the museum is full of interesting artifacts of life in Jefferson County. The museum is not-for-profit, so it relies upon the donation box.
Jefferson County Courthouse in Boulder constructed in 1888