The Bureau of Mines has estimated that demonstrated U.S. reserves of gold are 85 million ounces. Approximately one-half of the total resources are estimated to be by-product gold, while 40% of the remaining one-half (56 million ounces) could be mined for gold alone … Most U.S. gold resources are in the nation’s western states. About 80% of the U.S. gold resources are estimated to be in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington. (Earthsearch, Inc. 1983)
Overview of the Mines
The Hangman's Gold #18 Mine is in an area with rich gold mining history. As with all old mines and mining districts in the Western U.S., the old timers NEVER got it all!
Gold has been won both from lode and placer deposits in the District, a total of some 240,000 ounces of gold recovered to 1950 (Shenon, 1931, p. 28). Of this total, 132,000 ounces is credited to placer mining and 108,400 ounces credited to lode workings.
At Bannack, the stream gravels and adjacent terrace gravels along Grasshopper Creek produced perhaps as much as 387,000 oz from 1862 to 1905 (Shenon, 1931). The gravel on the hillside around Bannack was between 12 and 20 feet deep, with the portion nearest to the slate bedrock carrying gold. This auriferous stratum was found to be from 1 to 6 feet thick. (MBMG 466, 2004, pg. BE-18). The Hangman's Gold #17 mine is located in the southwest quarter of section 29. Hangman's Gold #17 claim is about 6200 feet in altitude.
One of the interesting parts of the history of Bannack is that a notorious man named Henry Plummer was elected Sherriff. Plummer was convicted of murder in California before being released and high tailing it up north. He met a number of other criminals in the Idaho territory and they robbed and killed many in the mining towns they were associated with. When the strike in Bannack occurred Henry and his gang who called themselves 'the innocents' moved a little further north to Bannack. At that time Henry set himself up as what appeared to be an honest businessman and gained part ownership of one of the first Lode mines in Montana, the Dakota Lode. He was the front man for the criminal operation and when the strike at Alder gulch happened many of the miners left Bannack for the gold at Alder. That increased the area that Plummer and his gang worked. Over a period of about 8 months the gang murdered and robbed enough people in both places that the smooth talking Henry Plummer convinced not only one town to elect him Sherriff but both towns elected him! The towns are separated by 70 miles and back then that distance would take a days ride to travel. It's hard to imagine how Plummer could have talked both towns into electing him Sherriff at the same time because he wasn't able to be present in both at the same time.
The criminal activity continued on to the point that anyone entering either town or leaving was most likely going to be killed and robbed. Almost none made it out alive unless they travelled in an armed group. Henry was able to keep his operation going for about 8 months and in doing so he became the man that legends are made of. He was not an honest man by any means based on the history written about him. His gang of 'innocents' did the dirty work at his direction and their setup worked well for them until one day when Plummer stepped too far and shot it out with the wrong person. That is when the town of Bannack decided enough was enough and along with the town of Virginia City in Alder gulch, the nations first vigilantes were formed. Plummer was arrested and tried. Eventually all the members of the 'innocents' were hunted down and killed or run out of the territory never to return.
What about all the gold Plummer and the 'innocents' stole? Well, at Plummers hanging he begged the vigilantes to let him go and he would return in an hour with his weight in gold. Which meant if that gold existed it would have been close by and he had commented that he could see where the gold was buried from his cell. The Vigilantes had had enough and didn't believe him. So they hung him and travelled as fast as they could after the rest of Plummers gang. The gang never had a chance to dig up the gold either and to this day no one has found it. It is possible if Plummer's gold exists, and there is good reason to believe it does, it could be buried on this claim. The outlaw trail used by the 'innocents' runs up Hangman's gulch and to Road Agent Rock and through to Alder gulch. All the ground around Hangman's Gulch including the gulch itself is claimed. It's been many years since anyone has seriously taken an interest in this ground. Besides the possibility of finding Henry Plummer's gold the ground itself is rich in gold.
We own five claims on Hangman's gulch ourselves as well as 30+ claims in the Bannack area. This claim and one other are all we plan on selling at this time. We have a couple projects started and are in the planning stages for the claims we are keeping. The first project is we have started a shaft to bedrock on a claim and are down 16 feet so far. The gold we have found so far gets better as we get deeper and is coarse and crystalline in structure which shows it hasn't moved very far. Gold on Hangman's Gulch #17 at the surface is fine and easy to find. But you would need to bring your own water to the claim. We have reason to believe there may be water below the surface of the ground if you dig down you may encounter it but there is no guarantee of this. We have not done extensive testing on this claim and do not plan on it. We do know the gold in the benches and gulch is plentiful. It is possible to dry wash for the gold on the claim or to run a recirculating sluice or system to recover the gold. Several years ago we sold one claim on this gulch to a customer and he was so happy with the amount of gold he found that last year he begged us to sell him more. We eventually did sell him 3 more claims and recently sold one claim to another good customer. We are selling two more claims on the gulch which are the last claims available here. We do not plan on selling any of our other claims. This claim is surrounded by other claims so be sure you are on this claim and not on anyone else's claim. The buyer of the claim will receive a map with GPS coordinates and a KML file which can be imported to Google Earth and Onx Hunt. It will draw out the claim boundary exactly as it is on the ground and OnX can be used to get you to the claim. Remember, when gold was $1500 and ounce, based on several geological reports we figured there is over $1 billion dollars worth of gold still in the ground in the Bannack area and that area includes this claim. The old timers did not mine the Bannack are out because there is a lack of water. The huge gold deposit at Bannack was discovered in 1862 but in 1863 another huge gold discovery was found at Alder Gulch and when this discovery occurred Bannack was almost a ghost town. The miners left for Alder Gulch because there was plenty of water.
It wasn't until after the Smith and Greater ditch was built in 1866 that the miners started coming back. This company furnished water to the miners at the rate of 75c per miner inch. This ditch proved inadequate to work the bench gravels, so the Bannack Mining and Ditch Company constructed a 30-mile ditch at a cost of $35,000; and shortly afterward, the Pioneer ditch, 10 miles long, was constructed to work the bench gravels north of Bannack.
The construction of these ditches renewed the placer mining activities for awhile, but it was only a matter of time until the increases in the cost of water that the miners were unable to make a profit and left once again.
There is a lot of history for Bannack and this area. It's too much to put on this listing. Many books have been written about the history and many geological reports about the area have been written. For instance the reason there is so much gold still at Bannack is because there wasn't enough water for the old timers. They pulled up and moved to Alder gulch when the strike there happened a year after the discovery at Bannack. Several times after that miners did attempt to produce at Bannack but the lack of water always shut them down. The lode mines also were never mined out. A mine that is mined out just doesn't exist. Mined out doesn't mean there is no gold there, it means the miners were no longer able to profitably recover the gold at the time they were there. At Bannack, several flumes were built at great expense to bring in water and the miners were paying as much as $0.75 per miner's inch and eventually more than this. Sounds funny but this is documented fact. That was a lot of money back then and they would have had to produce a huge amount of gold to pay for that. But gold was only about $18 an ounce in the late 1800's.
There is just too much information to put in the listing. If you have questions please ask. If you want the rest of the history please research the numerous books written about Henry Plummer and Bannack, MT. If you haven't visited Bannack it is well worth the trip just for that. Bannack still has original buildings standing that you can walk through. But not all the buildings at Bannack are original to the town. Still it is well worth the visit.
All the ground on Grasshopper Creek is private or State Park. Most of the surrounding ground is private land or if it is Federal land is now claimed. Please be sure to get permission of the claim owner or land owner before removing any minerals. Without that permission a person removing any mineral could be put in jail for Mineral Trespass which is what used to be called Claim Jumping. Don't take the chance. It's not worth the penalty.
While it is sometimes said old mines have been ‘worked out’ as the saying means there is no gold left, the truth is “it is better to say they are worked over; it is also true that the primitive methods used and the wasteful haste to get rich indulged in, left much of the gold in the ground, so that improved methods … will give even better results than those first obtained.” (MBMG Open Report 466)
Details about the Mine:
|Access to the Mine||You can drive a full size truck to the mine.|
|Tailing Present||None. Loose gravels in the dry creek bed of small pebbles to larger boulders. Boulders are great places for the gold to hide. Benches on both sides of the creek are virgin ground.|
|Depth / Length||Over 600 feet of creek bed gravels. 1320 feet side to side with gold bearing benches.|
|Minerals in the Mine||Historically mined for gold. Minerals of garnet, quartz, limestone, epidote, pyrite, silver, black sands with rare earth minerals would be expected.|
|Foot traffic at the mine||Some|
|Number of Mines||1 Placer|
|Nearest city with amenities||Dillon, approximately 19 miles|
|Access to the Claim||A very good dirt road breaks off from the Highway.|
|Structures on claim||None|
|Elevation||Aprox. 6200 feet|
Montana is ranked 7th by the USGS for total gold production in the US and has 31 mining districts. Gold production for the 1800’s to 1968 is 17.8 million ounces and large amounts of gold have been mined from 1968 to present. Geologists have predicted that based on the past and the geology of Montana that several large gold and silver deposits will be found and developed in the future (Bergendahl and Koshmann, 1968).
Climate / Weather
Economic information about the deposit and operations
|Development Status||Past Producer|
|Nearby Scientific Data||Mississippian, undifferentiated|
|Rock Type||Mississippian, undifferentiated|
|Deposit||1862 - 1950 4,105,659g Au recovered in Bannack Area.|
|References||USGS Database - 10400174|
Mining District Information
Bannack holds a number of firsts in Montana history. It was the site of the first major gold discovery in the Montana Territory; it was the first territorial capital; it was the first county seat of Beaverhead County; it saw the first lode mining in Montana Territory and it was the location of the first successful dredging operation in the United States. Mining began in 1862 and continues sporadically on a minor scale today. The main periods of mining in the Bannack area were the early placer, hydraulic and lode activity (1862 to 1875) and the dredging of Grasshopper Creek (1895 to 1902).
The mining district is located at the southern end of the Pioneer Mountain Range. The placer workings and adjacent lode claims run for about five miles on both sides of Grasshopper Creek in an area that includes the town of Bannack (Figure 1). Most of the lode mines were concentrated in the area just a mile below Bannack. The creek runs through a narrow canyon with hills rising steeply on both sides of the creek. The hills are, for the most part, barren of trees although the upper ridges have forested areas. The general terrain throughout the area is rugged and mountainous with numerous eroded gulches and drainages. The elevation of the area ranges from 5800 ft along the creek bottom to over 7000 ft on the mountain peaks.
The geology of the Bannack district is described by Winchell (1914) as consisting of Paleozoic limestone intruded by a small stock of granodiorite. Immediately above this limestone layer are a few remnants of the Quadrant quartzite. The principal granodiorite intrusion is nearly circular and is on the south side of Grasshopper Creek south of the town of Bannack. A minor granodiorite intrusion is found on the north side of the creek just west of Bannack. Tertiary deposits, west of Bannack, extend over the surface for a number of miles both to the north and south. The ores found in the Bannack mining district are usually found in contact deposits but some minor ore bodies are in fissures. The ores have been valuable almost solely for their gold content, but they also contain some silver, lead and copper. The ore bodies are generally found along the contact between limestone and granodiorite, or in stringers or small fissures. Large amounts of garnet, with some epidote, are also found along the contact.
Fifty-six years before the Bannack gold rush, Grasshopper Creek was traversed by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis and Clark had split up near the mouth of Lolo Creek and Lewis headed north while Clark descended the east fork of the Bitterroot River, crossed the divide at Gibbon Pass on July 6, 1806 and headed south along a route currently followed by the road from Wisdom to Jackson. The party then traveled down Grasshopper Creek (which they named "Willard's Creek"). They skirted just west of the future Bannack townsite until they reached Horse Prairie Creek. Clark and his men turned east down Horse Prairie Creek to Two Forks [now under the waters of the Clark Canyon Reservoir] where they retrieved a cache and canoes they had left there the year before. From Two Forks they floated down the Beaverhead and Jefferson rivers and out of the region leaving no tangible evidence of their passage except for the account in their journals (Coues 1965).
In the summer of 1862 a party of Colorado men, led by Judge Mortimer H. Lott, made a small strike around July 10th near the head of the Big Hole River. There was a short-lived rush to the area but the strike did not amount to much and one party of Colorado men decided to head back to Deer Lodge. While on their way they stopped to pan the small creek Lewis and Clark had named Willard Creek. On July 28, 1862, John White and William Eades found colors and within a short time they realized they had made a major strike. Since they were unaware that Lewis and Clark had already named the creek, they called it Grasshopper Creek because of the profusion of the insects along the banks. A mining camp quickly sprang up and was named Bannack after the local Indian tribe. By the time winter set in, the rough sprawling camp of Bannack had grown to some 400 persons (Cushman 1973).
Bannack's placer mining period was brief, violent, rich in gold and the source of an equally rich lode of historical legends. More than a ton of gold was taken from the Grasshopper diggings during the first season. Not only were the placer bars easily worked and incredibly rich, they produced some of the purest gold found anywhere in the world. On the average, Bannack gold assayed at 990 fine (99% pure) and in a few cases it went as high as 999 fine - essentially a chemically pure state (Cushman 1973).
By the summer of 1863 the camp had a population of from 3000 to 5000 miners, merchants, gamblers, saloon keepers, prostitutes and outlaws. When the Territory of Montana was established on May 26, 1864, Bannack became the first territorial capital [in 1869 it became the first county seat of Beaverhead County]. During most of 1863, however, there was little in the way of government authority or law enforcement. The sheriff was the notorious Henry Plummer who used his office to cover his leadership of an outlaw gang that systematically robbed and murdered miners and travelers for their gold. His career as an outlaw was cut short by vigilantes on Sunday morning, January 10, 1864, when he was hung from the same gallows he had ordered built to hang a horse thief. Soon after, the remainder of the gang met a similar fate or else were banished and at least a semblance of law and order settled on Bannack (Wolle 1963; Cushman 1973).
By this point Bannack was already starting to decline. New strikes at Alder Gulch in 1863 and Last Chance Gulch in 1864 drained off a large part of Bannack's population. Miners were having problems getting enough water to work the placer deposits while others felt the main placer bars had been worked out -- although it has been estimated that by this point only about seven percent of the area's gold had been taken (Cushman 1973). Bannack's period as a territorial capital was also brief. By the time the first legislature convened in December of 1864, the population center had shifted to the Alder Gulch area and the lawmakers voted to move the capital to Virginia City. However, Bannack continued to produce gold through a variety of mining technologies.
The chronic water shortage for the Grasshopper Creek diggings was partially met by a series of water ditches which were constructed by various companies formed for that purpose. Henry Morley and Jule Pitcher completed the first ditch in May of 1863 while, later that year, the Bannack Mining and Ditch Company built a 15-mile long ditch on the south side of Grasshopper Creek at a cost of $15,000. The north side diggings were supplied with water two years later by a ditch built by M. J. Mandeville, M. J. McDonald and James Doty. The water problem, however, was never adequately solved. Although the ditches did bring a sufficient supply of water to the diggings, the cost of 75 cents a day per miner's inch was too expensive for many of the miners to afford (Wolle 1963).
When hydraulic mining methods were introduced in the late 1860s, even more water was needed. The Bannack Mining and Ditch Company built a 30-mile long ditch in 1867 from Coyote and Painter creeks which carried 1000 inches of water to the bars south and west of Bannack. Later this water would be used to operate six "Little Giants" in hydraulic operations in Buffalo and Humbug gulches. By 1870 three other ditches were constructed which enabled miners to profitably rework much of the abandoned placer ground. By the mid-1870s most of the placer mining operations along the Grasshopper had ended and the population of Bannack had dwindled to just a few hundred persons. Sporadic mining continued around Bannack through either lode or hydraulic operations. One of the more successful efforts during this period was undertaken by the Bon Accord Placer Mining Company in the summer of 1885 with a hydraulic operation a couple of miles down stream from Bannack (Wolle 1963).
Gold was the key to success or failure of many of Montana's mining camps in the 19th century. Roads were almost as important because they made possible the movement of supplies, people, and precious metals between the remote territory and the States. In Montana, many of the old roads are as fabled as the gold camps they served, including the notorious Road Agent Trail. The trail, like many other roads in Montana, grew out of paths established generations ago by the Indians that were later adapted and used by miners and freighters. It was not engineered in the sense of modern roads, but developed over time to best serve the traffic that used it. Private capitalists established stage stations and ranches along the route to provide food and resting places for passengers and animals - and were hangouts for desperadoes.
Established in 1863,the Road Agent Trail connected Bannack and Virginia City and was an extension of the Montana Road that provided a link between the mining camps and the settlements in Utah. The road wound its way through a region "destitute of vegetation" with "frequent streams, canyons, mountain passes, rocky ledges, willow thickets, and deep embosomed valleys." The lush grasses of the Beaverhead and Ruby River valleys provided food for the oxen, horses and mules that pulled the wagons. The 70 mile trip between Bannack and Virginia City could "ordinarily [be] completed between the rising and setting of the sun."
The Trail is indelibly associated with Sheriff Henry Plummer and his infamous outlaw gang. For eight months beginning in the spring of 1863, the gang systematically terrorized travelers on the trail through intimidation, robbery, and murder. The area through which the trail passed was "admirably adapted to their purposes" with "ample means of concealment and advantages for attack upon passing trains with very few chances for defense or escape." Montana legend states that spies placed at the ranches covertly placed marks on horses, wagons and stagecoaches where gold was ripe for the picking. Through that system the Road Agents routinely plundered passengers of their hard-earned gold and other valuables. In December 1863 and January 1864 the reign of terror ended violently as vigilantes from Bannack and Alder Gulch apprehended and hanged over two dozen road agents including the gangs leader, Henry Plummer.
Today, Montana highways 41 and 287 closely parallel the old Road Agent Trail. Indeed when Madison county looked for ways to promote tourism in the area in the 1920's, it designated Montana 287 The Vigilante Trail and blazed it with the old vigilante sign 3-7-77 as a tribute to the early pioneers' attempt to bring order to Montana.
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Basin, MT 59631
- Lot Size20 Acres
- Type Placer
Hangman's Gold #18
Bannack, MT 59725
- Lot Size20 Acres
- Type Placer
Hangman's Gold #17
Bannack, Dillion, Montana 59725 United States
- Parking Parking
- Lot Size20 Acres
- Type Placer