Montana's Silver Queen
During our many years of travelling and treasure hunting I’ve gained an affinity for the state of Montana. Truly God’s country, one could spend a lifetime in the Big Sky and never tire of the beauty to behold. There’s plenty of fascinating history, too, and one of those snippets I was able to see firsthand was that of the ghost mining town of Granite, MT located atop Granite mountain near Philipsburg. Nicknamed “Montana’s Silver Queen”, this mine was a top producer of silver in the 1880s to early 1890s and Montana’s top producer at 2.2 million troy ounces (68 metric tons) in the year 1887.
Dusty, myself and another good friend in the business were on a 20-day trip working 5 towns in Montana during the summer of 2015 and stopped at this mine along the way. I’ll have to say, the “Minimum Maintenance Road” sign hardly did it justice. The attempt to climb this gravel goat trail is harrowing; spanning, at times, just 8 feet wide between a rock wall and nothing, with 9” rainwater grooves and literal boulders protruding as much as 18” from the ground. Other than that it’s a lovely Sunday drive. Atop the mountain you’ll find the sparse remains of a booming mining town that, at a time, boasted 4 churches, a newspaper, public school, 18 saloons, a hospital, fire station, three-story Miner’s hall… the list goes on. Unfortunately, not many structures are left standing. The Superintendent’s House, Miner’s hall, bank vault and house of Mae Werning (the town’s last occupant, passed 1969 at the age of 75) are among the last remnants of a 3,000-population operation. The view is absolutely spectacular and the terrain is quite humbling.
As all things come to an end, the repealing of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 dramatically affected the Silver Queen like many other American mines at the time. Within 1 year, the town’s population dissipated from almost 3,200 to just 140. Attempts were made periodically through the 1950s to rejuvenate the mine but through lack of yield and set back the mine has remained largely retired.
If this treasure hunter finds himself out West again you can be sure he’ll make that climb to the top of the Silver Queen.