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Mining History of Beaverhead County
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Reports of gold in Montana go back as far as 1852, but only small quantities were found. John White was leading
a group of prospectors from Colorado to Montana and once there they wandered up Grasshopper Creek. John White
discovered gold on Grasshopper Creek (originally named Willard Creek by the Lewis and Clark Expedition and
renamed because the large amount of grasshoppers on the banks of the creek) on July 28, 1862. He recorded his
deed for his discovery on 30 August 1862 (see mining deeds on this site). Grasshopper Creek's gold was 99 to 99.5%
pure. This started Montana's first gold rush. Montana's first boomtown was Bannack, known as the New Eldorado
of the North. By October 1862 the camp was home to over 400 prospectors. It is estimated that $700,000
worth of gold had been collected by winter. At that time gold was worth only $18 an ounce.
By 1863 there were 3,000 residents and the settlement applied to the US Government for the name of Bannock.
The name was changed to Bannack during processing of that paperwork by Washington. During this time Bannack
became known for lawlessness with alot of road agents watching the roads in and out of town. In Jan 1863
Henry Plummer arrived in Bannack and was soon elected Sheriff.
There was a large group of bandits which grew to over 100 men, believed to have been headed by Henry Plummer.
John White was murdered in early 1864, while still prospecting for his fortune. Montana went to a great effort to
find the murderer, but was not successful.
President Abraham Lincoln appointed Sidney Edgerton as Chief Justice of the Idaho Territory and he moved to
Bannack in Sept 1863. By 1864 Bannack had Montana's first jail, first hotel and first chartered Masonic lodge.
At a miners' meeting of the miners of Bannack District, held on the 19th day of October A. D., 1862, for the purpose of
forming and passing laws for the government of the District, the following laws and regulations were reported by the
Committee, and adopted and ratified by the people. Claims.
Sec. 1. Claims on Grasshopper Creek shall be fifty feet on the creek, and extending across the stream from base to base, of the mountains, including all old beds of the creek or stream.
Sec. 2. Gulch claims shall be 100 feet in length, on the gulch, and extending on over one foot on each side.
Sec. 3. Lode claims shall only be had on well defined Quartz Iodes, and shall be 100 feet on the lode, and 25 feet on each side, including all spurs and branches.
Sec. 4. Each miner may hold, by pre−emption, one claim on the creek, one Gulch claim, one lode claim, and one patch or hill
claim, and working one shall be considered as working all.
Sec. 5. All claims shall be staked with the name of the owner with the length and breadth of the same, and the date of staking,
and when in company with others, shall have also the names of the company with whom he is working.
Sec. 6. Claims shall be worked or represented at least each five days, excluding Sunday, hut working claims held in company
shall be considered as representing all claims of the individual members of the company, if property is staked and worked.
Sec. 7. All claims shall be recorded by the individual holders of the same, with their own names, provided not heretofore recorded
by individual members, within the next six days, from and after the passage of this section, and all taken hereafter, within six
days after staking, or shall be forfeited, and no claim shall be recorded or held by a company name.
Sec. 8. When no claims exist on the Creek, any person or persons wishing to turn the stream, or flume it to work the bed of the
same, may claim one hundred and fifty feet, each, of said unclaimed ground, and hold the same, provided work be commenced within ten days, from staking, and prosecuted faithfully to completion, but said work shall be continuous, but not one day
Sec. 9. All persons residing and working their home, within the limits of this District, which shall extend from the line of the
lower district, to the head of the Grasshopper Creek, and its branches, and three miles on each side of said creek, and be known
as Bannack District, shall hold their claims without working the same, from the 15th day of November, next, to the first day of
May, following, and all laws for forfeiting claims held as above shall be suspended for and during that time.
Sec. 10. Purchased claims shall be held in the same way, as pre−emption claims, but no individual shall be allowed to bold more
than one claim by purchase, besides his pre−emption, except in Lode Claims, and any person having heretofore purchased more
than that number, shall be allowed ten days from this date to sell and dispose of the same.
Sec. 11. Any person making a new discovery of diggings of any kind, or lode claims, shall be entitled to hold one extra claim,
as a discovery claim, without working the same.
Sec. 12. Building lots may be taken 50 feet in front, and 150 feet deep,
and by recording the same, each individual may hold one lot and no more, as real estate, and may sell, trade or barter, the same,
or build upon it at his option.
Sec. 13. The fees of the recorder shall be fifty cents, for each preemption recorded, and for all deeds, bills of sale, or mortgages recorded, one dollar for each one hundred words to be recorded, and no deed, bill of sale, or mortgage, shall be held good
against third party, unless recorded.
Sec. 14. Any person owning a dry claim, may preempt any unpreempted ground on the creek, for a water claim, for the
purpose of washing his dirt, whether by cradle or sluice, and may hold same as a water claim, by recording and improving
the same, within the ordinary time for other claims.
Sec. 15. When any person has gone for provisions, intending to return, two months from this date, shall be allowed to return,
before forfeiture of their claims.
Sec. 16. In all trials before the miners, which may be presided over by the President of the District, the losing party shall pay
the President the sum of Five Dollars for his services.
Sec. 17. The President may, at any time he may think proper, appoint a Sheriff to act in any case pending, or being
At a meeting of the miners of Bannack District, held on the 26th day of April, 1863, passed the following Laws:
Sec. 1. The President of the District shall have power to hold a trial, whenever it may be necessary to settle disputes, either
about claims or any other disputed business matters, and may summon a jury to try such dispute. The decision of such jury
to be final, and may appoint a Sheriff to carry out the decision of such trial, who shall have power to take any property to pay the judgment of the President.
Sec. 2. Each miner shall have the right to hold one claim, and no more, on each Quartz Lode, and they shall be held for one
year, as real estate, to give time for machinery to arrive here.
Sec. 3. All trials shall be, as, near as possible, in accordance with the common law of the land.
At a meeting of the miners of Bannack District, held May 23rd, 1863, the following Laws were reported by the Committee and adopted by the people.
Art. 1. The officers of the District shall be President, Miners' Judge, Sheriff and Coroner.
Art. 2. It shall be the duty of the President to preside at all business meetings of the District, and to act as Judge, with power to call a jury, in cases regarding mining claims, the parties litigant mutually agreeing thereto.
Art. 3. It shall be the duty of the Judge to preside over all trials of cases in the District, except in mining cases, where parties
litigant agree to refer to the President, and when called upon, to issue such process to bring parties into Court, as is common
and right in such cases, also to keep a docket and make an entry therein of all suits brought, with the judgment or verdict
rendered, also to have a jury of not less than four nor more than eight impaneled, when requested so to do, by either plaintiff
or defendant, and receive for his services the sum of $5.00 for presiding at each and every suit, together with 25 cents for all
oaths administered, and the issuing of each and every writ in the case.
Art. 4. It shall be the duty of the Sheriff to serve all writs and executions, and carry out the awards of the Court, and do all other
acts appertaining to his office, and shall receive for his services, for attendance in Court, during trial, $2.50; serving warrants,
$1.00; serving summons, 50 cents, and 25 cents each for summoning witness and jurors, and 25 cents mileage.
Art. 5. It shall be the duty of the Coroner, in all cases of violent or accidental death, to summon a jury of six persons over which
he shall preside, in examining into the causes and circumstances attending the death of the person over whom the inquest is held,
and when called on, the Sheriff shall act as the officer of the inquest to summon jurors, and witnesses, and shall receive for the service the usual fee — while the coroner shall receive for his services on each and every inquest, the sum of $8.00.
Art. 6. In each and every suit, witnesses shall receive Two Dollars, and jurors Three Dollars, except in cases where the trial shall
last for more than one day, when additional fees will be allowed.
Art. 7. In all criminal cases, the punishment to be inflicted shall explicitly set forth in writing the verdict of the jury.
Art. 8. All civil suits shall be commenced by complaint set ting forth in plain, simple language, the cause of action and remedy sought. Art. 9. All attachments may issue when the complainant shall make oath before the Judge, that he has reasons to believe that the defendant intends to leave the district, or turn over his property with intent to defraud, and may be served on any property in defendant's hands, or to garnishee debts in hands of others, and shall hold good till five days after final judgment.
Art. 10. In all suits and cases, not herein provided for, the
Common Law shall be adopted.
The idea of an eight hour law came to the people in Montana, early in its history. At a miner's meeting, White District, April 28th, 1864, ''Non−residents of District shall represent each and every claim, every seventh day — said day's work shall be eight hours' labor.”
History of Southern Montana
This page was last updated on -08/10/2019
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