Lubrecht Experimental Forest
Historic Logging Shapes These Woods
Foresters at Lubrecht Experimental Forest study tree harvest and growth in a landscape shaped by logging. The first large-scale logging in Montana occurred on the Blackfoot River Corridor in 1885. From 1885-1900, loggers prodded oxen to skid logs off snowy hillsides to the river ice. When the ice thawed, a wall of logs roared downstream to a sawmill at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers.
By the early 1900s, a narrow gauge railroad crossed the Potomac Valley, on your left and took over the oxen’s work. By the mid-1920s a full-scale railroad ran up the valley. Men loaded logs on railroad cars for a trip to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s lumber mill in Bonner. Back then, the forest must have seemed an infinite source of big trees for the taking. Today, Lubrecht foresters study timber practices that better match natural processes.
The Anaconda Copper Company gave 19,000 acres to the School of Forestry at the University of Montana after Anaconda’s last period of logging in 1937. Lubrecht dedicates its efforts to natural resource experimentation, demonstration and education
Sand Park Cemetery
Who was Frank Hamilton?
Who was Frank Hamilton? No one really knows. Simple grave markers pay a humble tribute to the five miners buried at the Sand Park Cemetery between 1898 and 1914. Little more is known than their names and year of death. Most of the other hard-rock-era miners, who had family and means chose to be buried in "consecrated ground" in metropolitan areas like Missoula or Deer Lodge.
We can only surmise that these men died far from family in their quest for gold. They rest close to the source of their dreams of wealth, here in the heart of the Garnet Mountains.
They Hailed From Coloma
The nearby ghost town of Coloma (1895-1915) once bustled with fortune seekers, including some of the miners who rest in this cemetery. They probably bought grub at the company store and took a turn or two at one of Coloma’s many saloons.
Welcome Sight for Weary Travelers
The 1940s fire warden’s cabin ahead of you and the 1890s stage stop cabin set back in the trees pay tribute to Montana tradition of offering shelter in an unpredictable climate. A group called the Blackfoot Protective Association employed a fire warden who lived in the newer cabin to keep a sharp lookout for wildfire outbreaks. Today, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers following the Garnet Winter Recreation Trail can stop in the fire warden’s cabin for emergency shelter.
Stage Stop on Rugged Road
Consider how welcome this rest stop would feel after a bouncing ride along a rutted road in a spring wagon with two seats. The 12-mile trip from the mining town of Coloma to Garnet and on to Bearmouth took the better part of a day. the Silver State newspaper (Deer Lodge) hailed its completion in February, 1896, as the "cannon ball road from Coloma to Bearmouth."" The road proved both a requirement for hauling out ore and a constant adventure for travelers.
A Tale of Hard-Rock Toil
Dr. Peter Mussigbrod and Dr. Armistead Mitchell owned this hard-rock mine, as well as several other mines in the mountain range. The two men were influential in shaping of the nearby Garnet community.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
The risks of hard-rock mining extended beyond the shafts to the cabin that once stood at the bottom of the gulch. In 1906, "Red" McCloskey returned late from Garnet. His partner mistook Red for a bear and shot him in the back. Red recovered, but the partnership did not.
Imagine a town of up to 2,000 people at this tranquil spot. Nothing visible remains of Beartown, once located near the first big gold strike of the Garnet range. In 1866, miners hammered together a town almost overnight. By 1870, the boom ended and most prospectors headed off to the next spot. It’s tough to know how much gold filled their pouches. Few miners kept records and Bear Creek gold dust passed for currency, mingling with gold from other sources. By 1918, on estimate placed the total value of gold extracted from Bear gulch at $7 million.
Placer Mining Water Woes
Placer mining requires water to separate gold from sand and gravel, yet year-round streams are scarce in the Garnets. Here, miners dug reservoirs at the head of gulches to collect spring runoff. They released water on a strict schedule, so each miner could run water through wooden sluice boxes. The boxes featured crossbars called "riffles" that trapped the gold particles.
Rough and Tumble Living
Combine 17 saloons with a brewery. Sprinkle in a fair share of gold fever and you have the ingredients for a wild town. A group of partying miners called the "Beartown Roughs" kicked up their heels on the weekends after a hard week muscling rocks on their claims. In contrast to Garnet where family living was common in the late 1890s, this early mining community fit the classic image of the Wild West. Miner Henry Boses never saw anyone "serious hurt," but other accounts recall shootings and murder in Beartown. Jimmy Ryan, a fiery Irish saloonkeeper, shot at a miner for insulting his singing, but missed and killed the miner’s partner.
The Story of Shorty’s Arm
A miner known as "Shorty" made local history when he stumbled drunkenly into his own fireplace and badly burned his arm. Dr. Armistead Mitchell, who later would help found Garnet, often trekked from his Deer Lodge home to offer medical help to the Beartown miners. This time, Mitchell sawed off Shorty’s arm and then joined his patient in an all-night poker party. Whiskey proved a powerful anesthetic for Shorty. Apparently the liquor also clouded Mitchell’s thinking. In the morning, the doctor took off with Shorty’s arm, intending to save it for dissection. Somewhere along the way, he lost the arm.
Bearmouth Dredge Pile
Bring On The Bucket Brigade!
Visualize and endless chain of buckets dipping into Bear Creek waters, each bucket emerged with enough gravel to fill a car trunk. Next, the buckets dumped their loads through a series of devices aimed at concentrating the gold. The entire systems floated on pontoons in a pond. The Yuba Manufacturing Company built the connected bucket dredge used here - the most expensive, complicated and efficient kind of gold dredge available.
Gold Mining Leaves Its Mark
"The history of the different gold camps in Montana follows the classic pattern--discovery of placers, stampedes and frantic skimming of the richer deposits, discovery of the lodes, and finally, the more leisurely and economical working of both lode and placer, the latter usually by dredging."
—Francis A. Thomson, Director, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1948
Some mining has a way of turning the land topsy turvy, especially when a powerful dredge digs below a creek to unearth gold washed downstream from a mother lode. From 1939 to 1942, the Star Pointer Exploration Company unearthed 13,996 ounces of gold. The dredge could dig 43 feet below water and remove 6200 to 6300 cubic yards of gravel per day. That much gravel would fill up three, 2,100-square-foot-homes. Yet, at its peak, a day’s digging produced only $630 worth of gold at 10 cents per cubic yard.
Gold Mining: From Tunnels to Dredges
As the dredge workers lowered buckets as far as 43 feet below the water, they occasionally struck old mine tunnels dating from the late 1800s, when miners chiseled far into the rock to follow the high grade gold deposits that led like arteries to the heart of the Garnet Range.