Column No. 37

Hugo Miller Buys the Montana Mine and Ruby

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

By 1944, the Eagle-Picher Lead Company’s mining operations at the Montana mine had been suspended for four years and what little remained of the Ruby mining camp had been virtually abandoned. But mining at the Montana was not quite dead yet. A man named Hugo Miller was about to make a move on the Montana.

Hugo W. Miller had been associated with mining all his life, continually being tempted away from his regular job, assaying ore for others, to develop and manage mining operations himself. Miller was born on July 10, 1889, in Ballinger, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1910 with the degree of Engineer of Mines. Miller spent several years in the western United States and Sonora, Mexico working engineering, geology, chemist, and assaying jobs. He came to Nogales in 1912 and set up his own assay office.

Over the years, Miller’s “reputation for assay work was known throughout northern Mexico and southern Arizona, and in two World Wars, he was instrumental in the tungsten and manganese ore fields.”

While a Nogales resident in 1922, Miller was an outspoken juror on the trial of Placido Silvas, convicted of the murder of Ruby store proprietor, Frank Pearson.

Miller was also active in politics, as a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Nogales Chamber of Commerce in 1914, and Santa Cruz County Supervisor in 1924 and 1926.

From World War I on, Miller was frequently involved in mining himself, including tungsten, manganese, molybdenite, copper, and lead. He leased mines, managed mines, and promoted mines.

Miller’s mining interests brought him to the Ruby area in the summer of 1939. On August 11, 1939, Miller secured part ownership of seven unpatented mining claims (Brick, Ruth, Irish Mag, Davis, La Paz, Santa Clara, and Rough and Ready No. 1) just to the west of Eagle-Picher’s Montana Group of 19-patented mines. Miller’s partner was Emma K. Hanson, the widow of Charles Hanson, a long-time local mining engineer and mine developer.

During the next three months, Hugo Miller sank a 50-foot shaft at the Brick mine and dug out and shipped four carloads of low-grade gold-silver ores.

In November 1939, Eagle-Picher took a 90-day working option on the “Miller-Hanson” group of claims to explore for lead or zinc ore. Eagle-Picher built a head frame over Miller’s shaft at the Brick mine, but after a few months of purposeful work at greater depths, concluded that there was not sufficient payoff to warrant taking over the property.

So Hugo Miller went back to working the Miller-Hanson group of mines himself, but he had established a good relationship with Eagle-Picher that would soon be of benefit. In January 1943 Miller obtained sole ownership of the Miller-Hanson group of claims.

From 1939 to 1944, he shipped 72 carloads of ore from the Miller-Hanson mines.

Miller then turned his attention from the Miller-Hanson group to the Montana Group. On November 29,1944, Miller leased the Montana mines with an option to buy from the Eagle-Picher Company. The property included all 19-patented mining claims of the Montana Group of mines. The lease extended for 10 years with a total purchase price of $5,000.

On that same date, Miller bought outright for $1,000 the mining camp of Ruby, including “all buildings, structures, materials, lumber, scrap, and other miscellaneous personal property situated on the surface of those certain patented mining claims.”

Miller began actively mining the lead carbonate ores near the surface of the Montana. He mined enough lead at the Montana over the next two years to enable him to complete his deal early with Eagle-Picher for the Montana Group of mines. Having paid Eagle-Picher $5,000, on December 18, 1946 Miller received the deed for the Montana Group of 19-patented mines.

Besides mining, Hugo Miller and his family spent a lot of time in the Ruby area enjoying boating, fishing, hunting, and in general, the unique natural environment. Miller and his wife frequently entertained visitors, some spending a week in the “old mining camp.” Miller also enjoyed relating the history of Ruby to visitors from the Pimeria Alta Historical Society from Nogales.

(Sources: Private papers of Mr. and Mrs. Hugo S. Miller; University of Arizona Library Special Collections, AZ175; Tucson Citizen; Nogales International; The Connection; “Hugo Miller Leases Montana Mine from Eagle-Picher,” Mining Journal, December 15, 1945; Mining Deeds, Santa Cruz County Recorders Office)

Hugo Miller in Assay Office

Twenty-three year old Hugo Miller set up his own assay office in Nogales, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Wynell Kisner, 1912)

Hugo Miller Showing Off Ruby

Hugo Miller (on right) shows Ruby and his Montana mining venture to a representative of the Arizona Bureau of Mineral Resources. (Photo courtesy of Hugo S. Miller, 1945)

Next time: Hugo Miller’s Operations at the Montana Mine

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