The Cedar Creek Mining District is located in Mineral County, Montana on the east slope of the Bitterroot Mountains, southwest of what is now the town of Superior. The district encompasses Cedar, Quartz and Trout Creeks and their tributaries, which originate near the crest of the northwestward extension of the Bitterroot Range. The creeks flow northeastward to the Clark Fork River. Mineral County is bound by Missoula and Sanders counties and shares a border with the State of Idaho.
Mineral County encompasses 1,223 square miles. Its land is 82% National Forest and is managed by the US Forest Service. 3% of the land is owned by the State of Montana and 15% is privately owned. The county’s rich mining history lends its name.
Most of the county topography is quite rugged with elevations ranging from 2500 to 8000 feet above sea level.
There are 87 miles of river, 650 miles of streams and over 50 copper mugs australia high mountain lakes to compliment the innumerable alpine meadows, magnificent waterfalls and jaw dropping vistas.
The Mineral County area started being developed following the construction of the Mullan Trail in 1859. Prior to clearing and cutting of the trail, extremely dense forests of giant cedars, ponderosa pine, hemlock, tamarack and fir made traveling through the area arduous and very dangerous. Captain Mullan forbade any of his men to search for gold for fear a “gold rush” would disrupt the trail construction.
On September 11, 1865 the first two claims were filed, on the St. Regis River. W. W. Johnson, who had worked as a surveyor on the Mullan Trail, filed a gold claim, the “Missoula Gold and Silver Quartz Ledge,” and Peter Toft filed the “Beaver Gold and Silver Quartz Ledge”. Sketchy historical records fail to indicate whether either claim was ever actually worked.
History Of The Cedar Creek Gold Rush
In the fall of 1868, a French Canadian prospector, Louis Barrette had run out of luck and dreams working the gold fields of Northern Idaho. Despondent and broke, he set out for the French Canadian encampment of Frenchtown, Montana located along the Mullen Road. Barrette hoped that the kindness of his fellow countrymen would shelter him through the harsh Montana winter.
Traveling from Idaho to Montana, Barrette followed the St. Joe River to its headwaters in the Coeur d’ Alene Mountains. As he rode along the summit trail he noticed a deep basin on the Montana side that, to his gold prospector’s eye, looked promising. However winter was moving in and he needed to proceed to Frenchtown before snow fall in the high country prevented his passage.
Barrette firmly resolved that he would put together supplies and return to prospect the area in the spring.
On his journey to Frenchtown, Barrette met Adolph Lozeau, a fellow French Canadian who operated a ranch about five miles east of the mouth of Cedar Creek. Lozeau Forty Mile House had been a stop for wayfaring travelers along the Mullen Road for two years. Lozeau would turn out to be a pivotal character in the saga of the Cedar Creek Gold Rush.
Fortune and circumstances delayed Barrette’s return to the valley of his dreams. It was not until late fall of 1869 that Barrette was able to assemble equipment and supplies and return to Cedar Creek. Barrette and his partner, Basil Lanthier, traversed the steep cedar-clad gulch on saddle horses accompanied by a string of pack horses loaded with sufficient provisions to last them for several weeks.
Barrette and Lanthier’s departure from Frenchtown was not a well-kept secret. Rumors and speculation on the success of their exploration were common gossip. All ears waited to hear of a new gold strike or another failure.
Tired, yet jubilant, the partners arrived at Cedar Creek and then continued up stream about four miles until they found a grassy meadow located at the mouth of Cayuse Creek. Lathier went about setting up their base camp and Barrette headed for the creek.
Lady Luck smiled! On October 9th, 1869, coarse nuggets were discovered where the waters of Cayuse Creek joined Cedar Creek. Overcome with “Gold Fever” Barrette and Lanthier were not content with their first prospects and were determined to keep prospecting the gulch for richer concentrates.
Aware of the inevitable stampede once news of their discovery was known, they wished to find the best site in the area and stake it out before the swarming rush of gold seekers that would race to a strike had an chance to file claims in the area.
Finally, delighted with the near ten ounces of gold he gleaned from two test holes, Barrette established his discovery claim on the “Louiseville Bar”, which is now within the boundaries of Cinker’s Mine.
It was now late November. Winter gripped the mountains and Barrette and Lathier’s supplies were running critically low. The two prospectors returned to Lozeau’s ranch to resupply. They showed Lozeau the gold and enlisted his help to travel to Frenchtown for provisions. Barrette and Lathier knew that if they went back to the camp speculators would follow them back to their discovery.