In the summer of 2006 a team of adventurers from GhostTownsUSA consisting of Jim O’Brien, Cody J. Smith, and Jerry L. Smith located the allusive Crescent Mine after several months of extensive research and dead-end trails. (Nowadays, the old mining camp of Gilbert lies in the Twisp River Valley between two high mountain ranges, directly above and to the west is where Crescent Mountain and its elusive Crescent Mine sit at an elevation of 4,700 feet.)
Several research trips into the fields around the dangerous vertical mountain cliffs of Gilbert led the team to paydirt. This was their staring point. Forging the raging Twisp River and its fallen logs, as well as traversing through second growth forest, the team stumbled onto what appeared to be the old narrow gage-mining road used to haul equipment uphill to the Crescent Mine nearly a century ago. The road, which was more like a trail with wash outs, fallen trees, and huge boulders, blocked the way and could be very dangerous. Sheer cliffs with vertical drop-offs to the valley far below were as dangerous as the loose footing of its trail.
The team continued their ascent from a starting elevation of 3,600 feet towards their final goal, the Crescent Mine at 4,700 feet, an elevated gain of 1,100 feet (approximately a mile). This made the going seriously tough.
After an hour of strenuous climbing Cody Smith spotted a large tailing pile across the valley in the distance and below a jagged mountain rock ledge. Could this be the site of the Crescent Mine?
Further up the trail the team spotted what appeared to be the remains of the Crescent out house built on a very steep embankment and near the mine. As we continued our quest and neared the tailings, indeed this was the site of the Crescent Copper Mine waiting to be explored by our team of experts.
As we stood in awe peering into the dark main portal of the Crescent Mine with its distinct copper ore veins bleeding through the rock walls our imaginations took over. What was it like to work in this mine nearly 100 years ago? How did those miners endure this harsh and unwelcome environment, especially in the winter months? Did anyone really get rich from this mine? If only those miners from yesteryear were still around to share their adventurous stories with us, possibly, we would have the answers.
Jim O’Brien prepared his safety equipment in order to explore the inner mysteries surrounding the Crescent Mine. While doing so he noticed etchings on the inside walls of the mine. The markings were documentation from miners who had etched their names and dates into the walls during what would have been the time they had worked in the Crescent Mine, a rare historical relic. Please note: At the bottom of the names etched in stone it reads, McFee 8/28 1911. D.C. McFee was president and managing director of the Crescent Mine at that time. You can read more about D.C. McFee in the article below. Jim entered the dark inner bowels of the mine. Traversing deeper and deeper, he began to witness artifacts left from the past; ore car tracks, mining relics from the past, and electrical power poles that had supplied the miners with light deep within this hard rock mine.
The day’s end was nearing as we completed our research, documentation, and photographing. It was at this point that a thought entered our minds:
“Does a cliff of copper overlook Old Gilbert?” Yes!
Despite the bitter late afternoon chill of a Winnipeg February, it was warm enough in the second floor office of The Crescent Mining Company, Ltd. The stockholder, well-to-do Winnipeg business men and a few from the new prairie country in Saskatchewan to the west, puffed on their pipes as the president and managing director, D. C. McFee, neared the end of his report of the year 1917. The year had been a difficult one, he told them.
But for the action of a shrewd and enterprising stockholder, who had taken 15,000 more shares the previous summer, the firm might not have had funds for assessment work on its claims at Twisp Pass, Washington.
McFee continued, “Ours is one of the largest and best mineral properties on the continent…. assured of this I allowed my salary account to run for months without drawing on it.
“Our main tunnel is now in 911 ½ feet, the last 50 in ore carrying gold and silver…. Mr. C. H. Ballard of Twisp, gave us (an assay of) $1.50 a ton in gold and 60 cents in silver and selected a piece which assayed $18.40 in gold and 18.90 ounces of silver…. a total of $35 per ton. We could install a concentrator plant at less than $5000, which would reduce 8 to 15 tons of ore to one. Concentrates could be hauled by auto truck 60 miles to Pateros and loaded on cars for the smelter.
This formidable haul would be necessary for only a short time, McFee indicated. Regarding the railway from Pateros to Twisp…. a large crew worked from early last summer until late in November completing the survey…. a high official advised me they have the cash and had relay rails practically engaged.
If the railway is not completed this year it will be on account of shortage of labor. The president mentioned that one of the “very largest mining corporations in the United States has (in) view taking over our properties…. at $600,000 but terms and conditions have not met with the approval of the board.”
McFee concluded with the statement that 95 percent of the stockholders had not aided the venture financially for the past three years. He noted that it was the duty of all to but Liberty Bonds and thus help end the war and the threat of autocracy and militarism but went on to quote Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States, in support of his belief that “in making our mine a producer we are doing a great patriotic work.”
Secretary J.H. Sutherland urged support of McFee’s proposal to put in a concentrator and to make diamond drill explorations at a total cost of $10,000 that season. The secretary submitted a balance sheet of December 31 showing $3,000,000 authorized capital stock of which $1,192,501 had been issued. The mine property was assigned a value of $1,145,951.
Exploration work the previous year had cost $6,610.37 and brought the total spent for this purpose in seven years to $70,800, the secretary said. Cash assets totaled $7.94 in a Winnipeg bank and $249.61 in one at Twisp, Washington. The meeting closed with a vote of sympathy to the relatives and friends of those of the 550 stockholders who had been killed in France and of hope for safety of those overseas or about to go overseas.
The object of concern at this meeting was a block of 46 mining claims just south of Camp Gilbert near the head of the Twisp River. The camp and a mountain to the north took their name from P. Gilbert or “Fin” Gilbert, as he was known, a Spokane man whose Mountain Goat claim probably was the first located on Gilbert Mountain.
Copper and gold showings had been found in the district as early as 1884, according to Steel’s “History of North Washington.” In 1892 John Gilliham, James Gaston and F.S. Samford located the Oregonian group of claims north of the camp. Within the next few seasons a total of more than 200 claims had been staked in the district.
A dozen or so cabins were built near the junction of the Twisp River and North Creek and the surrounding delta blossomed each summer with the tents of prospectors. The Crescent claims were consolidated and the Canadian development firm founded in 1907, largely through the efforts of Frank R. Creighton, now of Oakland, California. Telling of his coming to the district Creighton says: “In 1895 Harry Lougnane and I left Rockford (near Spokane) with seven pack horses. We got to Gilbert camp about September 15 and built a cabin on Cascade Creek southwest of the camp. Then the snow came and it got eight feet deep. We saw snow in the air on 23 days in the month of December. We shot only one blast that winter.”
Apparently this was just too much winter. The two went down the river about 18 miles, two days by snowshoes, and made camp at the John Newby ranch. Creighton mentions that there was a store at the mouth of the Twisp River and that this settlement got its name the following year.
The nearest post office was in a one-story house and store called Silver five miles farther down the Methow. Creighton and Loughnane would go by wagon to the Newby farm, and then pack in to Gilbert. In 1896, Creighton recalls, the state built a four-foot trail from Gilbert to the west side of the Cascade Range. About this time the miners agreed to pay one man $5 per day to improve the Twisp River road and within three years wagons were able to reach Gilbert over what Creighton terms “a very bad road.”
State equipment came in and helped improve the early road. The first flush of mining enthusiasm had passed, prospectors were leaving and Creighton began acquiring claims in what he still regards as a potentially great copper producing property on Crescent Mountain. During the five years Creighton was manager he put in a sawmill and an electric power plant, both water powered, on the riverbank about one-fourth mile west of Gilbert. Ruins if the cribbing penstock may be seen there yet. The sawmill turned out rough lumber for mine timber and for buildings replacing the laborious had whipsawing of Creighton’s earlier years.
A power line led from the generator to the Crescent Mine, about one mile southwest of Gilbert and 1,200 feet higher. In 1912 Creighton surveyed a wagon road from the sawmill to the mine. This road was hand graded in one summer.
Frank Heath, Twisp, was construction foreman on this job. Although steep, the road is in fair condition for the greater part of the way excepting for down timber and a few boulders. A cookhouse and other cabins were built on the mountainside as near the mine as could be without getting into snow slide area.
McFee became manager about three years later and it was under his supervision and that C.H. McNaughton, another Manitoba man, that the diamond drill exploration was pushed to the 1,500-foot mark. Active exploration and development ceased about 1921. Although not then connected with the mine, Creighton kept track of work there and feels that the core drilling was not in the proper direction or long enough to reach the main ore body. Copper will be mined there someday, he still believes. For many years the late Joe Sweeney lived at Gilbert as Crescent caretaker. He built a rough board cabin on the hill above the remains of the sawmill, did assessment work and dismantled the mine cookhouse.
The carefully stickered pile of lumber from the building still may be seen beside the road just north on the mine. Noting that he had not been at Gilbert for more than 40 years, Creighton recalls that on his first visit mountain goats could be seen there in bands of from 18 to 25. The goat banks are gone and Gilbert’s cabins are decaying beneath the second growth firs.
But the mineral coloration still may be seen on Gilbert and Crescent mountainsides and above the dark mouth of the Crescent tunnel the bright blue green of copper salts still paints the cliff.