• "The Old Mining Town of Kendall, Montana," ca. 1900. Kendall, located in central Montana's Judith Mountains, received a rush of gold miners in the 1890s. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    The Old Mining Town of Kendall, Montana
    • Creator
    • Unidentified photographer.
    • Description
    • Vintage negative number : (no vintage negative).; Overview of Kendall, Montana, probably from the Barnes-King Mine area, includes surrounding hills, hoist of mine and buldings in town.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Montana Historical Society Research Center

  • "Ten men and a mining car, Philipsburg," 1910. Fortune seekers came to the Flint and John Long Mountain Ranges because of their abundant silver, sapphires, and gold by the thousands. Courtesy of the University of Montana - Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Ten men and a mining car Philipsburg
    • Date
    • 1909
    • Description
    • Group of ten men posed around a mining car at the entrance of a mine. Pulleys and hewn-timber beams are seen next to the men. Cart rails end in front of the men and flooring appears to be part of an elevator. Mine shaft can be seen behind the men. Th... more
      Group of ten men posed around a mining car at the entrance of a mine. Pulleys and hewn-timber beams are seen next to the men. Cart rails end in front of the men and flooring appears to be part of an elevator. Mine shaft can be seen behind the men. The box on the ground in the fore ground appears to be a Dupont Red Cross Explosives box that contained dynamite. Philipsburg, Montana. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library

  • Landscape photograph of Bannack, Montana, 1880. Courtesy of the University of Montana - Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Bannack, Montana
    • Date
    • 1880
    • Description
    • Bannack, Montana. Plate 49a. Mahogany Fire Group. Elevation 5,800 ft (1,768 m) Northeast view of Bannack City, Montana. The open slopes above town support sagebrush/grass. Dark shrubs on near ridge are curlleaf mountain mahogany. Patchy distribution ... more
      Bannack, Montana. Plate 49a. Mahogany Fire Group. Elevation 5,800 ft (1,768 m) Northeast view of Bannack City, Montana. The open slopes above town support sagebrush/grass. Dark shrubs on near ridge are curlleaf mountain mahogany. Patchy distribution of conifer shows effects of logging and fire. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks photograph, courtesy of Roy Herseth. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library

Mining played an important role in Montana's evolution from wilderness to an organized state. The first miners were high-risk fortune hunters who rushed into profitable areas and quickly abandoned unprofitable sites. These miners had small placer operations—mining methods that used water—which required simple equipment such as a gold pan, pick, shovel, and a water source. Other placer miners added items such as a rocker, which two people operate to sift the minerals from the rock. Both methods of placer mining required manual labor and water for washing the gravel and sand away from the heavier gold. Small miners often worked long, hard days for a couple dollars worth of gold.

Montana had three major strikes that produced large amounts of gold. In July 1862, a prospector named John White and his partner discovered gold at Grasshopper Creek and founded the town of Bannack nearby. Grasshopper Creek produced five million dollars in gold dust in its first year. In May 1863, two prospectors left Bannack to search for gold, bringing them into conflict with the Crow Indians who took the miners' equipment and sent them packing. On their way back, the men camped along Alder Creek and decided to pan a little. Their panning produced gold and within a few months hordes had flocked to the area around Virginia City.

On July 14, 1864, a group known as the Four Georgians began working Last Chance Gulch. These men found the gold plentiful and easy to remove. Over the next four years, Last Chance Gulch produced nineteen million dollars in gold. Soon the city of Helena grew up around the gulch.