Spruce Mountain, located in southern Elko County, has been the scene of mining activity from 1869 to 1961. During those years, small townsites named such as Sprucemont, Hickneytown, Black Forest, Latham (Killie), Jasper, Johnson, and Steptoe sprang up almost overnight, but were short-lived. These camps stretched for over six miles, from the west to east slope of Spruce Mountain.
Spruce Mountain's history began in 1869 with the discovery of the Latham, later Killie, Mine by W. B. Latham. By 1870, close to 100 men were working mines and claims around Spruce Mountain. Three separate mining districts were organized: Latham, Johnson and Steptoe. Two separate camps formed; Sprucemont on the west slope and a company town at the Starr King property on the east slope. By 1872, the town of Sprucemont had grown to almost 200. On the other side of the mountain, the company town at the Starr King continued to grow. About 150 people made it their home. Operations ceased early in 1872 when the smelter could not handle the districts lead-silver ores satisfactorily, although some work resumed until 1874. By 1880 the camp had only fifty miners and seven businesses.
The first real spark of new life came in April, 1880. The Milo Mine was discovered and began producing $75 per ton ore. The company constructed a small 15-ton furnace in August. This was the beginning of a strong revival. Other small mines began to attract outside interest. The Starr King Mining Company kept Jasper growing, and by early spring, Jasper had reached its peak population of 175. By June, 1887, Spruce Mountain had 200 miners and five saloons to serve the thirsty men. However, by the end of 1888, the mines began to fail as ore veins thinned and faded. The smelter in Jasper shut down in 1889 and by the end of summer, all mining had stopped. When the Starr King company folded in 1890, Spruce Mountain entered an extended period of very low activity. Mostly insignificant production occurred until 1899 when the Monarch Mining Company was organized. This signaled the beginning of Spruce Mountain's longest period of sustained activity.
Another attempt at mining early in 1907 was ended by the financial panic of 1907. In late 1913, less than ten men were operating in the district. There are no reliable figures of the early production from the various mines. One estimate of the total output from the Monarch, Latham, Kille, Banner Hill, Black Forest, Spruce, Juniper, and Fourth of July is $700,000. A number of new companies entered the district in 1929. Much exploration and organization of new companies took place in the early 1930s. While all this activity was going on, businesses were operating at Black Forest, Sprucemont, and Monarch. However, Sprucemont was dying. Most mining was taking place on the east side of Spruce Mountain at the Black Forest and Bullshead Mines. The biggest year of production ever on Spruce Mountain was in 1945, when almost $300,000 was mined. From 1944 to 1948, close to $900,000 was produced. Spruce Mountain mines had produced every year from 1899 to 1952. Since 1961, absolutely no production has occurred. Total production from mining on Spruce Mountain was $2.9 million.
Mines that have operated in the Sprucemont Mining District: Ada H, Badger, Banner Hill Claims (23 claims owned by the Johnson Brothers), Belt, Bengal, Bingle, Black Forest, Bullshead, Carrie, Contact, Copper Queen, Fourth of July, Friday, Grecian Bend, Hartley, Index, Jumbo, Juniper, Keystone, Latham (Kille), Monarch, Never Sweat Prospect, Paramount, Scorpion, Spence, Spring, Standard, and Tramp Shaft to mention a few.
To learn more about the Spruce Mountain Mining District, click on this link Spruce Mountain. This article from Shawn Hall's web site is the most extensive and best that I have read about this area.
If you visit this area, I recommend that you enter the area from the west, off US 93 (36 miles south from Wells) and follow dirt road for 5-1/2 miles to Sprucemont. The road up past the Monarch Mine and to the Latham (Kille) Mine area is fairly easy 2WD road. Going down the eastern slope (towards Black Forest Mine) is very steep with loose rock. Although an experienced driver in a 2WD vehicle could make the grade down (or up) the eastern slope, a 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Click on the links below to view photos of other Mines/Townsites that I have visited in the Sprucemont Mining District:
Ada H. Mine
Badger Lead Mine
Black Forest Mine
Latham (Kille) Mine