| ||The Mining History of Philipsburg and Granite, Montana|
The historic mining town of Philipsburg, Montana was founded in 1867. Prospectors and placer miners were in the area from the mid 1860’s. The first claims were staked in 1865. Early in the summer of 1866, one of the locators, Hector Horton, interested James Stuart and the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company who were operating mines at Argenta, in a prospecting trip to the area. A silver “rush” followed, with numerous prospectors staking claims on the Hope, Algonquin, Speckled Trout, and other lodes in the district. Philipp Deidesheimer, who had become famous in the Comstock, arrived in 1866. He also evaluated the district for the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company and, in the next year, supervised the construction of the Hope Mill. The town of Philipsburg is named for him. In the years that followed, a number of mines were developed in the area. The remains of many of the mines and mining camps can be easily visited.(Written by Mike Kaas with photos courtesy of Ted Antonioli)
Located 2 ˝ miles southeast of Philipsburg, Granite became the greatest silver bonanza in the world in its time. Two mines, the Granite Mountain and the Bi-Metallic, worked the same orebody which was first located in 1872. Charles McLure, Superintendent of the Hope Mill, obtained a lease and option on the Granite Mountain property in 1880. He formed a syndicate of St. Louis investors and proceeded to develop the upper levels of the mine. At about 200 feet of depth they encountered bonanza silver ore formed by secondary enrichment. The first ore mined was shipped to the nearby Algonquin mill. With the processing experience gained from that test, the Granite Mountain Company erected two mills totaling 70 stamps above the town of Granite. A third mill with 100 stamps was built at Rumsey and connected to the mine by a 1 ˝ mile tramway. From 1885 to 1893, the mine produced $20 million in silver and paid $11 million in dividends to its investors.
McLure and two partners organized the Bi-Metallic Mining Company in 1882. The physical plant was similar to that at the Granite Mountain. The mine was connected by tramway to a 100 stamp mill in Kirkville, just south of Philipsburg. An 8,850-foot long drainage tunnel was driven to intersect the 1000 level of the Bi-Metallic and the 1450 foot level of the Granite Mountain. From 1883 to 1893, the Bi-Metallic produced $6 million in silver and paid dividends of $2 million. Several years after the silver panic of 1893 the ownership of the Granite and Bimetallic was consolidated and decades of intermittent company and leasing operations followed.
While most of the frame structures at Granite have long vanished, the ruins of many of the more substantial stone and brick buildings remain. The stone Superintendent’s house has been restored. The shell of the Miners Union Hall is still standing. A visitors’ kiosk and interpretive signs help independent visitors get the lay of the land. The views from Granite Mountain are spectacular!
No visit to Philipsburg would be complete without a stop at the Granite County Museum and Cultural Center, which contains excellent exhibits on mining history. A walking tour of the historic town with its well-preserved buildings is also worthwhile. To honor its mining heritage, Philipsburg holds an annual celebration of Miners’ Union Day.
View of Granite, Montana in its heyday. The two-storied building (center) is the Miners’ Union Hall.
Company executives in Philipsburg with a shipment of silver bars.Granite Miners Coronet Band in front of the Superintendent’s house.
Sketch of the Bi-Metallic Mill, ca 1891. (After Chas. Weitfle)