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The Mines & Town Of Zortman Montana

Prospectors had been through this area of Montana around 1870 and noticed some alluvial gold, but there never seemed to be enough to garner any kind of attention. This area sat pretty much dormant until around 1890 when two other propsectors, Pike Landusky and Bob Ormond struck a rich gold vein that the area came into play. This gold vein soon became known as the famous Alabama Mine.

After that vein was discovered,it didn't take long before other hopeful miners arrived into the area and soon there were several small mines working in the area. One of the the most prosperous mines was the Ruby Gulch. It is said that in 1904 this mine produced as much as $14,000 per day in gold. That was a ton of money back then considering gold was only around 19 bucks an ounce.

In 1904, a man by the name of Pete Zortman came to this area and constructed a mill that allowed processing of the ores in the area. The Ruby Gulch eventually became the second largest cyanide mill in the world during its time of operation. Having this mill in the area offered some economic stabilty and soon a small town was built. The town became known as Zortman being named after Pete Zortman himself and by the 1920's the town of Zortman had almost 2000 residents. Zortman was home to 9 saloons, a couple of general stores, a couple of hotels, a hospital, a butcher shop, a school, a newspaper and even a few girly houses.

Like so many old mine camps, a fire in 1912 ran through the district and caused a shut down of some of the mines. The mine then shut down until the early 1930s at which time the Little Ben Mining Company was formed and the Ruby Gulch mines were reopened.

Then again in 1936 a another fire swept through the aea destroying the majority of the mining operations in Zortman and closing the Ruby Gulch mine. That fire reached the edges of Zortman, and killed four people. The mine opened again and ran sporadically until 1942 when the second world war when all mining was shut down in the United States. Mining did start again after the war but ended again in 1951. Actual records of gold production vary but it is estimated that over 300,000 ounces of gold were recovered from the Ruby Gulch district alone. It is estimated that the mines at Zortman and Landusky produced over 125 million dollars worth of gold before they were shut down because of the second world war.

Later in the 1980s another mining company took over a large section of the Zortman and Landusky mines. These mines were known as the Pegasus and Landusky mines and mined over 2.5 million ounces of gold.

Now just west of the town of Zortman is the small mine camp of Landusky. This is a town that was named after Powell Landusky or Pike as locals called him. Remember he was the prospector along with Bob Ormand that found that rich gold vein that became the Alabama mine. Anyways Landusky was well known to be as tough as nails had a reputation as being one of the toughest fighters in the West. Landusky not only owned a bunch of gold claims but he also owned the Landusky Saloon. In December of 1894, Landusky stopped into his saloon for a drink. While seated at the bar another man named Harvey Logan walked in. Harvey Logan threatened him, and the two got in a fistfight. Landusky ended up pulling a gun on Harvey. When Landusky’s gun jammed, Logan fatally shot back. Some say the argument was over a women and others say it was over a small horse drawn plow that Logan had borrowed. Either way that was the end of Powell Landusky.

So now you might be wondering who this Harvey Logan was? Well it turns out that a few years later, Harvey Logan went by the alias Kid Curry, and was riding with Robert Parker better known as Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh the Sundance Kid. These outlaw men became known as part of the Wild Bunch. These guys traveled many routes across the West in their quest for riches and for sanctuary on what became known as the Outlaw Trail, stretching from the Canadian border all the way down to the Mexican border. This trail went from Landusky, Montana, to Alma, New Mexico, took the Wild Bunch through Hole-in-the-Wall Country, across the Red Desert, through Browns Park and on to Robbers Roost.

You can still go to the town of Zortman today. There is around 60 people who call this little place home. There is the Zortman Motel and the Buckhorn Store and there are places to camp out. I was reading that if you stay at the Zortman Motel, you can get access to some of their mining claims and do a little prospecting yourself.