From the deck of the Addie S Cabin, the
Silver Ledge mine is located behind and below the base of the trees
indicated by the point
of the red arrow.
Immediately around the
first bend of the road below (south of) the Addie S Cabin and Mineral Claim, are the remaining Silver Ledge mine buildings. They
a combined ore and tram house (that had a trestle and carway to the east),
bunkhouses, a kitchen/dining room/storage building, a coal house (that had a carway
to the northwest) that was connected to a power house, and several other out-buildings.
Patented Mining Claims Plat Map 1972 Topo Map
"The Silver Ledge
was located on 1 January 1883 and was patented on December 31, 1887. Its first
shaft was a tunnel 200 feet
long running north from the junction of Mineral
and Porphyry Creeks. Free gold had been found but its main
output was a low-grade
galena. The Silver Ledge was the first mine in
the US to recover zinc as a marketable product.
By the 1910s, it was one of two mines
still operating in the Red Mountain
Mining District. By the 50s, the Black Mining Co. had
produced 786 tons of ore from the working
the surface, yielding $14,007.
1904 Topo Map
March 24, 1883. "The Pilot
reports that the richest strike yet made in the new camp was on the 2d, in
the Silver Ledge, located in
February by Bates, Emery, Odenkirk
and O'Brien. An open cut 15 feet and drift 15 feet are reported all in
solid material - no walls
in any direction - the largest ore
body the editor ever saw. He claims that it carries a two foot streak
of fine ore, which is pronounced
brittle silver - a pretty big story,
big enough without the last addition [Lake City Silver World].
Yes, Mr. World, we admit that the above
is a pretty big story, but not as big
as the Silver Ledge. There is really twenty-five feet of solid
mineral, and a two foot streak of fine
steel galena, which carries over 150
ounces in silver, instead of the brittle silver, as it was at first
pronouncement. Come over Bro.
Olney and we will take you down to
the Silver Ledge and there you will see the largest body of mineral in the
In a spring 1883 edition of The Red Mountain Review: "the Silver
Ledge [in San Juan County] is still on the front as a mine of
undoubted value. Through the center
of an immense vein of galena there runs an almost pure streak of grey copper
averaging 6 inches
Although greater total amounts of silver were deposited in the Silver Ledge
pipes, it was not nearly as concentrated as in the
chimneys that were later discovered.
With either high silver prices or extremely cheap transportation, the
low-grade ore was
economical to produce. But, even
though the mine was relatively close to Silverton, there was only a pack
trail to connect it.
Transportation was not cheap, and
silver prices were not especially high. The Silver Ledge mine was,
therefore, only a marginal
producer at the time
By July 1888, the Silver Ledge was was being served by the Silverton
Railroad which had been built to Red Mountain Pass (known
as Summit or Sheridan Junction then)
by the 22nd of that month. In 1891, the Silver Ledge caught fire and
burned with considerable
loss, and in November 1889, it closed
down for an unknown period. In the early Fall of 1900, the Silver
Ledge was the only mine
working on the Silverton Railroad.
In 1919, the Silver Ledge mine permanently shut down when its mill burned.
"The Silver Ledge Mine (in the lower right of the photograph)
was located just on the southern side of Red Mountain Pass. The little
settlement of Chattanooga could be seen in the valley below. It was a steep
climb from the valley to the top of the pass, just
passable by the Silverton Railroad when the famous Chattanooga loop
was built in 1888. Bear Mountain was visible in the
left-hand corner of the photograph. It was named for the image (formed
by the trees) of a bear holding a honeycomb in its paws.
Silver Ledge Mine was discovered in 1878. It took a while before
its owners realized that it carried a very rich silver ore. In
when the Red Mountain District was just coming into prominence, the
Silver Ledge took the lead over all other local mines.
Unfortunately, its ore contained a lot of zinc which was hard to
process at the smelters. So the Silver Ledge was almost forgotten
decade. It did well during the 1880s but the other Red Mountain mines did
much better. It was about 1890, at the end of the
Mountain Mining District's heyday, that the Silver Ledge came back into
prominence. Then, in 1892, the shaft house caught fire,
forty pounds of dynamite in the nearby powder house and blowing most of the
mine's surface buildings into small pieces.
The Silver Ledge again rebounded, this time building a mill in the
Chattanooga Valley that could, for the first time anywhere, process
zinc ore economically. The mine continued to operate until its mill was
totally destroyed by fire in 1919."
Date unknown. Note the mine adit near the center
just above Mineral Creek, on the side
opposite the mine ore/tram building.
Silver Ledge Mine, 1997
Looking south from the highway.
Tram cables carried ore from the mine down to the mill
(concentrator) located at Chattanooga
(immediately below where the road bends and
disappears in the upper-middle of the photographs).
Looking north east from the highway
Combined ore/tram way house
Looking east from the highway
Silver Ledge Mill
(Concentrator) at Chattanooga
December 1, 1899.
This 1910 photo of the Silver Ledge
Mill (Concentrator) at Chattanooga. The
main line of the Silverton Railroad passed in front of
mill. It circled around the Chattanooga Loop (to the left) and then climbed
the mountainside above the mill. The
mine is around the bend on that route to the north. The townsite of Chattanooga is behind the photographer. In July
two-track siding and a kite track had been installed by the
Silverton Railroad for the Silver Ledge. In 1904, the Silver
successfully separated zinc from the Red Mountain ore. It
was a solution to an age-old problem, but it came too late for
of the Red Mountain mines. The Silver Ledge continued to operate
off and on and even had a post office from September 6,
1904, to March 30, 1905. In 1919, the mill burned down, eliminating
the only local milling facility designed to process the
Mountain District ore.
"At the extreme southern end of the Red Mountain Mining Dstrict, in the
thriving settlement of Chattanooga, work was started
August 7, 1883, on the
foundation of the Mineral Creek Concentrating and Sampling Company's
thirty-ton concentrator. The mill
building was a large structure-forty-two
feet by fifty-four and a half feet that used a thirty-two-inch turbine
waterwheel for power.
The mill contained a Blake crusher, two sets of
Cornish rolls, and four jig and slime tables. The owners announced that ore
contained as little as ten ounces of silver and ten percent lead could
be milled by them at a profit. By November, the
concentrating mill was
complete but, unfortunately, could not begin to operate. Its machinery was
driven by water power and
couldn't be activated because the cold winter
temperatures had frozen the nearby stream.
"The purpose of the
Chattanooga mill wasn't to extract precious metals from
the ore. Refining the Red Mountain silver from the
local ore wasn't a simple
matter because many of the ores were complex and could not be treated with
ordinary refining methods.
A partial and relatively inexpensive solution to
the problem was the concentrating mill like that at
Chattanooga. The mill
rid the ore of most of the waste rock, thereby concentrating the
minerals for shipment. A smelter, on the other hand, used heat
to try to
refine the rich minerals from the ore. At the time of the Red Mountain
discoveries, the early smelters in nearby Silverton
or Ouray were small
lead-based operations. Since most of the Red Mountain ore was copper-based,
shipments quite often had
to be sent over long distances to get to the
"Whether lead - or copper- oriented, none of the small 1880s smelters or
concentrating mills were particularly efficient. Most
were just beginning to be perfected at the time, and a lot of trial and
error went into any operation. A
process that could capture seventy or
eighty percent of the rich minerals was considered to be extremely
better results could usually be obtained only at the big
smelters at Pueblo or Denver. This meant that twenty to thirty percent
the gold and silver was being lost in the milling process. This loss, and
the high transportation costs to Denver and Pueblo,
were the greatest
expenses of the Red Mountain mine owner. The cost of getting the ore out of
the ground was actually one of
the lesser expenses."1.