William W. Wickes 70 years in 1889.jpg

When gold was found on Prickly Pear Creek it was only a number of months before prospectors made their way up “Salt” Creek, now Spring Creek, to stake their claims. The Colorado Mining district was formed Aug. 20, 1864, when Montana was still Idaho Territory. By 1876, about 300 Quartz Lode claims had been staked in the area. Miners soon realized that the ore in this district was rich in silver and lead but that it was extremely difficult to extract because it was mixed with sulfur. Many abandoned their claims, looking for easier prospects. Those that stayed found the richest leads or veins and were determined to make them pay. This ore had to be shipped by wagon, then by train to New Jersey, Chicago or all the way to Freyberg, Germany, costing between $55 to $63 per ton in freight for reduction and refinement. Of course, the miner had to remove the low-grade ore to get to the high-grade ore, which added to the cost of production and then break it up, put it in sacks and bring it by wagon to the point where it could be freighted, costing about $15 per ton.  Once at the Smelter in Newark, New Jersey there was an additional charge of $30 per ton for refinement.  This brought the total to over $100 per ton and then they had to wait four months before seeing any actual money. This was extremely costly and more often than not yielded a very poor profit being that high grade ore of 100 ounces of silver per ton was needed to make the endeavor worthwhile. Even though “pay ore” was common in the area, miners found it nearly impossible to turn a profit being that most of the ore bulk could be between 20 and 40 ounces per ton.

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