Column No. 4

The Location of the Montana Silver and Gold Mine

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

James M. Kirkpatrick located the Montana Silver and Gold Mine on April 10, 1877. (The mining camp of Ruby developed around this mine.) But Kirkpatrick did not officially record the location (claim of mineral rights) until December 18, 1878.

Interestingly, at that time, James Kirkpatrick was the County Recorder for Pima County, responsible for keeping the records of all mining claims in the county. In retrospect, it seems like quite a delay in completing the paperwork for someone “in the business,” especially considering that there was quite a mining boom going on in the area. And the Montana mine was in Pima County at the time. Santa Cruz County wasn’t partitioned out of southeastern Pima County until 1899.

According to Mary Noon Kasulaitis, local historian and columnist in Arivaca’s The Connection, the Montana mine and nearby Montana Peak may have been named for the Spanish word for mountain (montańa). But they could have been named for the state of Montana, because in close proximity to the Montana mine, were several other mines named for states of the U.S., the California, Idaho, Wyoming, Vermont, Utah, Virginia, and New York mines.

James Kirkpatrick turned out to be one of the important figures in developing the early mines in the Oro Blanco Mining District (OBMD). He was born in Ohio in 1827 and his early career was cabinet making in Portland, Oregon.

Kirkpatrick spent years working Mexican mines before he started mining development in the OBMD in 1877. Based on his experience in Mexico, Kirkpatrick considered the mineral deposits of Oro Blanco to be the “largest and most valuable in the whole American mining regions.”

At the Montana, miners found both silver and gold near the surface of the ground in a heavy lead vein. (That lead vein was a clue to the Montana’s future.)

Besides the Montana mine, Kirkpatrick and his partners located and started development of the Alaska, Idaho, Mary Ann, Warsaw, and Wyoming mines. This group of mines was called the Warsaw group.

The Warsaw gold mine was about three miles southwest of the Montana mine (Ruby), on today’s Forest Service Road 217. The Warsaw became one of the more important and successful of the early Oro Blanco mines.

In late 1878, becoming one of the first (of a very small group of people) to make money in Oro Blanco mining, Kirkpatrick sold his interests in the Warsaw group, including the Montana mine, to “eastern capitalists” for $75,000.

Kirkpatrick lived in the small village of Oro Blanco, which emerged in the mid 1870’s to support mining in the entire district. The village was about four miles north of the Montana mine, along today’s Ruby road.

There has been some confusion over the name of the village (perhaps only in the minds of column writers) because just six miles to the south, were the old Oro Blanco mine and mining camp. (See our October 15th column.)

Kirkpatrick served in the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1879. He gave an impassioned speech before the Territorial Legislature, arguing for the rights of settlers in disputes over Spanish and Mexican land grants. He also introduced a bill setting up District Recorder duties and enabling mining districts to make their own rules for the location and registry of mines.

But Kirkpatrick didn’t stay out of the active mining business for long. By 1880, the Montana and Warsaw mines belonged to the Orion Mining Company of Philadelphia, with James Kirkpatrick as superintendent.

The Montana mine now had a tunnel running 120 feet into the ore vein, and produced large quantities of “very handsome looking ore.”

The Ostrich mill, also owned by the Orion Company, processed ore from the Montana and Warsaw mines. The mill operated between the Yellow Jacket mine and the village of Oro Blanco.

By 1882, the Warsaw had its own mill working. This was a custom 10-stamp mill, with two amalgamators, where mercury was added to the pulverized ore to help extract gold and silver. By now, the Warsaw mine was the best developed in the district. There were three shafts, one reaching 212 feet depth. Warsaw Camp infused great energy and enthusiasm into the district.

James Kirkpatrick, affectionately known as “Uncle Kirk,” continued to live and work in the OBMD. In times of slow activity in the mining business, Kirkpatrick worked at his old trade of carpentry. His skill could be seen in several houses he built.

One of his last jobs before retirement was building his own redwood coffin. After his death in 1907, mourners buried Kirkpatrick in his redwood box in the Oro Blanco cemetery.

So, the Montana mine had been located and some production of silver and gold achieved. But, the first significant development of the mine didn’t occur until a few years later.

(Sources: State of Arizona, Department of Libraries, Archives, and Public Records; Pima County Recorders Office; Arizona Daily Star; Arizona Citizen; Arizona Miner; Fred Noon, Mary Noon Kasulaitis in The Connection; Arizona Bureau of Mines Bulletin 158)

Photo of Ruby in 1917

At left-center, this circa 1917 photo shows the Montana mine’s new mill and mining buildings. The Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company is just starting to produce lead and zinc in significant amounts. The Ruby mining camp, in the foreground and to the right, is beginning it’s own growth period. (Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon private collection.)

NEXT TIME: ALONG THE RUBY ROAD The Austerlitz Mine and the Father of Oro Blanco

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