Wickes, Montana

Silver City, Utah
May 9, 2016
Rochester, Nevada
May 11, 2016

WickesMontanaIn 1864, an unknown prospector identified the first mine which was called the Gregory at Wickes. It is believed the mines here are among the oldest within Montana and in 1867 Montana saw the birth of its second silver smelter, whose location was where the Gregory had been located previously.

The Alta was the other mine that was discovered here in 1869 that became one of the richest silver mines within Montana. A group of capitalists from New York led by William W. Wickes acquired the Alta in 1876. Later on, the same year, this cartel put together the Montana Company and platted Wickes in 1876 or 1877.

Though the camp of Wickes was already booming by mid-1880, it remained somewhat quiet but there were several establishments that had been put up including a stone structure erected by Vawter & Wickes and a public library was also in place. The Alta Mine grew to become the most profitable and by 1889, it was the largest producer within the Wickes-Corbin Mining district.

Alta Mine was the highlight of this town and had a total of 3 tunnels with the deepest being 250 ft (76 m). Finally, the mill owned by the Alta Company was burnt down by fire in 1882 and the company sold out after the incidence to Sam Hauser, who was one of the company’s stockholders. Afterwards, Hauser was able to offset the debt that the company owed and built the whole of the silver mill.

In addition to this, Mr. Hauser added 6 new charcoal kilns and 2 new concentrators. He was able to do all this through the Helena Mining and Reduction Company (HMRC), which went on to put up a new smelter, the largest in Montana in 1884. The smelter had 3 large masonry smokestacks and as a result of the viability of this project, Mr. Hauser convinced the Northern Pacific Railway to establish a branch line connecting Helena and Wickes.

The first telephone directory at Wickes was available in 1885 and together with 6 other communities, Wickes was listed on it. The Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company offered telephone services in the area until 1886 when the exchange finally closed. Montana Central Railroad was brought to town by Charles Broadwater and Jim Hill that same year, connecting Great Falls and Butte.

Wickes had entered the league of other bigger towns since it now had two railroad depots serving it. As mines here continued expanding, more mining camps came into existence. This mining district kept going strong until 1889 after which the smelter was dismantled and moved to East Helena by the HMRC and shipping of the ore to East Helena or Butte for processing, began.

After this, the Alta Mine continued operating for a period of 7 years and thereafter closed down. The year that followed the Northern Pacific Railway stopped operating the line to Wickes, which was almost destroyed completely in 1901 and 1902 by fires. The Boston and Alta Mining Company later acquired holdings in the district from HMRC and later the same passed through the hands of several other owners thereafter.

Today, a few structures are still standing in this ghost town as well as several foundations. There are beehive-shaped charcoal kilns here that have been preserved over time but other kilns in the area are not whole after being burnt partially.

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