Rough-sawn lumber and the use of recycled materials testify to the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and industry of the Gildersleeve family, whose members mined gold and barite here beginning in 1924. The Gildersleeves built these board-and-batten (vertical board) structures—including a cookhouse/main house, bunkhouse, small house/office, blacksmith shop, and “dry” (where the family cleaned up and changed clothes after work)—in 1930-31 with lumber they cut on site using a portable steam-powered sawmill. They constructed a unique, gravity-feed system to bring running water from Snowshoe Creek to the cabins and steam engine. A large compressor (since removed from the site), powered by a 1929 car motor, supplied air pressure for pneumatic tools used in the tunnel. Small miners like the Gildersleeves, who arrived after an area’s initial rush was over, patiently reworked diggings hastily mined by earlier gold seekers. The Gildersleeves built their house on a nineteenth-century tailings pile and seasonally mined this property using the same methods employed in the 1800s. Although the area once produced 2 to 3 million dollars in gold, the Gildersleeves rarely found more than seven or eight ounces a season. Remains of their operation include a horizontal tunnel that runs over 300 feet into the mountain, an ore car, a washing plant, and other equipment. Supplementing their mining income by taking jobs during the winter, Gildersleeve descendants continue to work the claim, preserving through use this remarkable operation. It is one of the best remaining examples of Depression-era subsistence mining in western Montana.

Images

Map

Snowshoe Gulch, Lolo National Forest, Superior, Montana ~ private