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Beaverhead County, Montana Mining History

Miners Laws 1862 Oldtimer's Club 1894
Miners Laws 1863  


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.


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

Sec. 6. Claims shall be worked or represented at least  each five days, excluding Sunday, but 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 in ten.

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 pre-emption 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 pre-empt any  unpre-empted 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 commenced.



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."



Notes From Old Court Records.

Second, Judicial District, Beaverhead County, L. E. Williston, Judge; Wm. C.  Goodrich, Sheriff; S. F. Dunlap, Clerk.

Resident Attorneys practicing at Bannack: Phelps C. Mead, John M. Galloway,  G. W. Stapleton, B. R. Peabody, admitted September term, 1867.

First Crand Jury: N. E. Wood, B. S. Worth, Thomas Watson, Con Bray, S. W.  Bachelder, A.,J. Nay, W. R. Witten, Herman Clark, H. F. Wood, John S. Milligan,  J. A. Brown, E. W. Weston.

Probably first Notary Public was W. C. Rheem, appointed by Gov. Edgerton, May  17th, 1864.

The first man to declare his wish to become a citizen of the U. S. was John  Griffiths, a native of Wales, 1st of September, 1866.

Even in the Courts, they were apt to use an old account book for keeping  records, as an old account book of Leesburg, Idaho, was brought to Bannack, and  used as an account book to be used later in which to record probate matters.  This book shows that the price of sugar was 60c per pound.

1 keg of nails, coin $35.00.
1 keg 10 gals. sherry, $100.00  greenbacks.
1 lb. of apples, 50 cents.
1 box sardines, $1.00.

We also find that one of the first men to contest the election of another,  was George Bachelder, against Thos. H. Gordon, for the office of Sheriff.  Following are the returns:

Election held September 2nd, 1867.

For Bachelder

For Gordon

In Bannack



Horse Prairie



Montana (Argenta )






French Gulch






Whole matter hinged on French Gulch, which Bachelder held was not in  Beaverhead County. Case dismissed 23rd of September, 1867.

(Twine was scarce in those days, as I found these papers tied with a buckskin  string.)

Sue's Letter.

In looking over Court proceedings of early days, we find the love letter of  "Sue" to her lover, Wm. Farnsworth,
who was killed at Horse Prairie in 1877,  just in front of John C. Brenner's house, then owned by Winters
and  Montague. Montague was killed the day before. The lady was a beautiful letter  writer. Her impassioned
appeal to her lover was in the following words:

"Oh Will, my dearest one, how I long to see you this spring as never before.  I am impatient for your dear
comforting letters. I don't believe we made a  mistake three years ago. (I did not, if you did), for every day
I am more  certain that I am yours and you are mine, for life, and it seems to me for  eternity. There isn't ;, day
or an hour but I find myself thinking of you.  Every thought and every joy I want to share with you. I don't value luxuries  as I used to, and think them indispensable to happiness. I think I could be so  patient, and so saving,
and think it the greatest pleasure in the world. If  our wishes were all gratified, how soon ice would become
used to it, and  they would cease to be luxuries. Lucky for you I'm kept within bounds, lest I might set up my authority to get out of that, or come unbidden to your  humble home.

"Don't get too mercenary for nay sake. What's good enough for you is good  enough for me."

What a trust she had in this man, and no doubt he was worthy of her love and  affection. He could not take the
treasure that was his for the asking. Think  of the deep love of the woman who would willingly surrender a
magnificent  body and soul to his keeping, to make his life so much more worth living. He  must struggle for gold
till death robbed them each from the other, and left  a pale woman to moan, and ask "Why?"

I do not know where ''Sue,'' is, but if she should read this, I hope that she  will pardon the liberty I have
taken in giving this little story to the  public.

God made woman for man's chief comfort, and for his good. She (God bless her), is willing to go
with her lover, out into the by-ways, wherever his  lot will take him, and help him in his struggles. When
he gets an idea that  he must have enough wealth to make each day a day of careless freedom from want  and
responsibility, he is simply wasting the days of most supreme happiness  -- the days of youth -- for a foolish idea.


Anaconda Standard, March 24, 1894)

Everyone who was in Butte in 1864 and 1865 is invited to meet at the office of the Coroner Porter in the rooms of the Butte Undertaking company to participate in the establishment of an Oldtime club, Wednesday Mary 28 at 2: p.m. is the time set. The club will consist of men who settled in what is now Silver Bow county when the district was a holwling wilderness. There is a long list of eligibles. the list includes three women--Mrs. Talbot, Mrs. Plizabether Poarter and Mres Barnard.

Not one of the three men who discovered quartz on the Butte hill is alive today. William Allison and Ollie Humphrey came here early in the spring of 1864. they found only one quartz location, the Bullion, and the original was afterwards located over it. The location notice (on the Bullion) bore the name of Bud parker but no trace of him could be found. It is bleieved he left during the winter of 1863-1864.

Humphrey and Allison took out some copper ore, which they areeied with them back to Virginia City and ran the copper out of a blacksmith’s forge.

George Newkirk, Dennis Leary and Henry Poerter head of this. They made inquiries but Allison and Humphrey would not talk. So Leary and his part set a watch on them and followed them back to Butte.

Starting one dark night they--Newkiri, Leary and Porter--took the old Deer Lodge Road to Miles ranch where they turned off for Butte.

They found Hunphrey and allison camped near the spot where the quartz fire station now stands.

Then they all joined up. Porter is dead, Leary is in Omaha. Newkirk and Tom Porter whom came Oct. 10, 1864, were the next arrivals. They were from Alder Gulch. Shortly after their coming the placer excitement broke out and hundreds flocked in.....Enos Sheldon claims to have been the first discovered of the geysers in what is now known as Yellowstone Partk. He went out hunting from Bannack. His party, the steam rising from the glaciers and thought it was from a huge indian camp. They crawled to the top of a hill and discovered the source of the steam. When Sheldon returned to Bannack and told of his discovery, he was laughted at. Untill his story was substantieated years leter he was known as the “the d----dest liar in the west.”

(article provided by Janis Fulmer, article transcribed by Jo Ann Scott)

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