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South Pass City & The Carissa Mine

Pretty much all the well known gold camps and mines we read about are located somewhere in the american south west. However there was a gold rush of sorts in Wyoming that not many know about. It wasn't a big rush but it was a rush that did garner attention back in the day.

It was during the time when everyone was stampeding towards the big California gold rush that prospectors noticed some gold in this area, but because the rush in California offered a bigger prize, no one really stuck around these parts. Then later in 1865 Tom Ryan, a soldier in the Nevada Volunteers, passed through the vicinity and made a discovery of what would become known as the Carissa Mine. However before he could actually stake and register his claim, a man by the name of Henry Reedall and several others had registered the claim and became the owners. This small gold rush is what started the camps of South Pass City, Atlantic City and Miners Delight which is sometimes refered to as Hamilton City.

Of course once word got out it didn't take long for other miners to move into the area and start up small operations of alluvial mining. These mines in this district became known as the Sweetwater Mines. This area was like the real wild west and very remote at the time. Native indian raids were common and Because of this situation, Fort Bridger had military personnel were assigned to this area to guard telegraph lines and Pony Express stations.

The original outpost was located about 10 miles away but once miners moved into the area close to where the mining activity was, this outpost moved closer to where the mining was taking place and became known as South Pass City. By 1868, South Pass City boasted around 250 buildings with close to 1500 people, and had hundreds of mining claims staked in the vicinity. The towns main street was said to have a half mile long. The had numerous hotels, restaurants, general stores, a couple of newspapers, 2 or 3 doctors and dozens of saloons.

There were several small lode mines in this camp There was the Duncan Mine and also the B&H Mine. However the largest mine in the area was the Carissa Mine. This was one of the first lode claims in the area to be mines. Because there was little infastructure all mining and milling was was done by hand. It is said that Henry Reedall crushed all his ore by hand over the first winter and recovered about 15 thousand dollars worth of gold for his efforts by the spring of 1868. Then in July of 1868 a six stamp mill was brought into the area by November that year they had crushed a little over 1000 tons of gold ore and by July of 1869 there was a total of three mills with a total of twenty-six stamps were operating in the district.

But it didn't last long and by the early 1870s the mines had all but shut down. The so called bonanaza grades were not what miners had hoped for. For the next decade or so the area saw little mining as most people left for greener pastures and the population is said to have dropped to less than 200. Then in 1885 a man by the name of Bolivar Roberts, aquired the Carissa mine and the adjoining claims and formed the Carissa Gold Mining Company. Robert is said to have extracted about one million dollars from the mine and then leased the mine out.

Then in 1897 miner, Barney Tibbals and businessman John Spry took over the mine and forned the Federal Gold Mining Company. This new ownership saw the largest underground development in the history of the Carissa. Original diggings were expanded to a depth of over four hundred feet with five drift levels. In March 1899, the mine began sending goldingots to the Denver Mint, shipments that continued through September 1906 to a grand total of 4,092 ounces with a gold price of approximately $20.67 an ounce. Even though the mine was able to pay it's expenses during this time, businessman Spry was not happy with the profits and so he close the mine down. From 1899 until his death in 1927, Spry searched for a buyer for the mine.

However during this time of trying to sell the mine different companies came and went working on leases and options. From 1901 to 1905 the Dexter Mining and Milling Company worked the claims. From 1905 until 1929 the mine sat idle until Midwest Mines purchased the Dexter mill building and leased the Carissa mine however the mine closed the following year because of the great depression. Then in 1946 the mine was taken over by Mica Mountain Mines who bought the mine from the estate of Spry. However they only lasted a few years and then in 1949 the mine sold once again and the Pioneer Carissa Gold Mines company was formed. But like so many mining companies, this one couldn't make a go of it and the mine shut down.

Now while all of this changin of hands was going on, there was a real mess going on behind the scenes. Remember Barney Tibbles? He was the partner that was with Spry however he was more of an employee than a partner. Spry had the money but Tibbles had the mining know how and was promised an option on the claims on top of his wages he recived over the years of working at the mine. At 70 years of age, Tibbles began a legal battle with the estate of his former employer due to a contract Spry and Tibbals had entered into in 1904 with an option taken on the property. The contract stated that Tibbals would be paid $17,500 upon the sale of the mine. Tibbals had been instrumental in getting another man involved in an option, but Spry held to the opinion that Tibbals fee applied only to the sale of the mine, and since Spry never actually sold the mine Tibbles shouldn't get paid. Tibbles hires a lawyer to go after the estate for his money Before this este is settled, Tibbles dies and the lawyer himself gets gold fever and goes after Tibbles widow to continue the fight and continue giving him money. Long story short here, a resolution ofsorts came in November 1969, when Janet andJames Tibbals, Anna and Barney’s children, deeded whatever “rights” they had in the Carissa to the lawyer, who died a short time later.

You can still go out to this minesite today. The State has taken over the mine and townsite and preserved it as a historical place. Visitors can come nd tour the old mine and mill and walk the street where miners walked 150 years ago.