THE BLACKFOOT COUNTRY. – The Mines of Montana [From the Oregonian].
Many of the mining districts of Oregon, Idaho and Montana are so great, both in extent and in richness, that it might seem invidious to attack more value to one than to another. The richest spot yet discovered is, without doubt, the Owyhee district. Compared, however, with the mines of Montana, the Owyhee is of small extent. In Montana both quartz and placer mines abound. The former are just beginning to be developed; the latter are somewhat better known, but as the country is not yet half explored, it is impossible to form any correct judgement of the vastness of the wealth which is yet concealed from view – the first appearances only of which, if we may so speak, have yet been discovered.
The gold and silver region of Montana is larger than any other now known to exist. From north to south, for a distance of two hundred miles, the country has been partially examined, and at very many points with the most successful results. The region of auriferous quartz is known to extend toward the east, as far as the Yellowstone river, and toward the west as far as the hither side of the Rocky Mountains. Placer mines are found in an irregular line along the mountains, both on the eastern and western slopes of this great range. A gentleman of much experience and of large observation gives it as his well-settled conviction that the mines of California in the best days of that golden State, were not superior to those which the next year will disclose in Montana. This gentleman places us in possession of some information relative to recent discoveries which we are glad to be able to give.
The value of the recent wonderful discovery of a lode of gold (which was announced in the Montana Post,) is much exaggerated. The ledge is very rich, but it is nothing like a vein of solid gold as heretofore stated. Near the point where it was discovered a “chimney” or “pocket” was found three feet in width, containing a vast amount of gold. We have seen a specimen from this spot. Seventy per cent of the ore is gold. Five or six sacks of this mineral was obtained, the value of which cannot be less than fifty thousand dollars. The average rock of the ledge has not been tested, so that its value is not known; but gold in considerable quantities may readily be seen in it. This ledge, which the discoverers call the “Uncle Sam,” has been traced for about three miles. It has not yet been fully opened, and its owners are unable to form any accurate estimate of its value. The width of the ledge is about three feet. It lies three miles south of Helena.
We have also seen specimens of ore from the “Ocean Wave,” a silver ledge lying northwest of Helena seven miles. This ore is of unusual richness and closely resembles that of the celebrated “Poorman” of Owyhee. On a comparison of specimens from the two ledges, they could hardly be distinguished from each other. The Montana lode was but recently discovered, and, of course, has not been worked extensively. It is one of a system of ten or twelve ledges, all of great richness.
South of Helena, at a distance of ten miles lie many other ledges, lately discovered. These are all rich in silver. Some of them are equal to the best. North of Helena, as far as the country has been closely examined, ledges containing both gold and silver have been found. The region, extending from Bannock and Virginia City to Helena and even much further to the north, embracing an area of many thousands of square miles, bids fair to be richer, because more extensive than any other.
People continue to flock into the mines of Montana, notwithstanding the lateness of the season. Next year there will be a very large population in that Territory. To secure its trade is a matter of special importance to Oregon. We shall have to contend against a vigorous opposition on the further side, but there is no reason why we should not supply all places lying west of the Rocky Mountains, and even enter into competition for the trade of the eastern extremities of these mines.