The Monte Cristo Preservation Association does not recommend entering any mine and will not be liable for the actions of anyone who does. This information is provided for historical information only and was compiled from published sources which may be out of date. Several of the sites currently are being affected or otherwise altered by U.S. Forest Service contractors
operating under the CERCLA (“Superfund”) cleanup and will be monitored by state and federal agencies. All mining areas and the townsite of at Monte Cristo are protected by federal and state law regarding removal of artifacts or otherwise causing any damage.
Monte Cristo became Washington state’s most famous gold and silver mining town of the 1890s. Located in the rugged Cascade Mountains of Washington State in eastern Snohomish County, its mineral resources first were located in 1889. With investment in the mines by a New York syndicate backed by John D. Rockefeller, a railroad was constructed to bring down ore for smelting at the new city of Everett, also a Rockefeller development. Hit by financial disasters during the panics of 1893 and 1907, active mining ended shortly before World War I. In the years since, the site has become a popular destination for thousands of hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, and families fascinated both by the history of the town and its spectacular setting, surrounded by peaks up to 7000′ high in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area.
The ’89 mine was claimed during the second exploration of Monte Cristo in the fall of 1889 by Fred Wilmans, Joseph Pearsall and Frank Peabody. After the initial claims of the Independence of 1776 and Glacier, they discovered further mineralization in Glacier Basin and staked a claim at the Pride of the Mountains, Pride of the Woods and the ’89 mine. The ore assayed so high that a tramway was built to it in 1894, spanning 1,100 feet across Glacier Basin to Mystery Hill. It was one of the longest aerial tram spans in the world in its time. By 1896, most of the ore had been mined, and activity shifted to the New Discovery Tunnel farther down the vein.
Boston American Mine
The company was founded in 1913 and was a consolidation of several mining firms in the area. The name derives from the American Mining Company and its treasurer, F. W. Boston. The O&B Mine already existed much higher on the side of Toad Mountain, and the newly formed company planned to run a crosscut tunnel to contact the ore at a great depth below the O&B tunnels. This was a standard mining strategy, to encounter the ore as low as possible and then work upward, using gravity to bring the ore down as the miners bored upward through the vein. Alas, the operators never found a rich vein, and the eventually abandoned the tunnel. The final day for mining at the Boston American came just before Christmas in 1919.
The highest mine in the Monte Cristo district was the Comet, located 2,700 feet above the town site at 5,400 feet above sea level. It was one of the properties established by the Wilmans brothers, the first financiers in the district. The mine was recorded with the county auditor on July 20, 1891, and was active in the halcyon years of the late 1890s. Ore was shipped down a 10,000-foot aerial tramway to a receiving station near the concentrator above Glacier Creek. A 500-foot tunnel pierced Wilmans Peak from ’76 Creek to Glacier Basin. The initial span of the tramway leapt over a yawning chasm on the mountainside while dropping 700 feet to the facilities below. One of the cabins remained in place until 1977, when winter snows brought it down. The last structure of the bunker that held ore for delivery to the tram collapsed in 1958; while it was still standing, it could be seen from the town site in the valley below. It was said that on a clear day you could see a bend in the Columbia River from the mine’s lofty perch. Located on the only level piece of rock on the side of Wilmans Peak, the buildings consisted of a bunkhouse, cookhouse, ore bunker, and outhouse. The ledge resembles the prow of a great ship about to set sail from the cliffside.
It was difficult to maintain supplies of fresh food and drink at the cookhouse. Without refrigeration or the ability to obtain a steady supply of ice, the miners had to transport perishables to the cookhouse daily. This was not a huge problem, because the tram could transport food and other supplies up as well as carry ore down. One exception was the supply of milk, because the bulky milk containers, which arrived on the train, did not fit in the tiny Hallidie tram buckets and would fall out and smash on the rocks below. This problem was solved for a time by the cook, who rode the tram down and then rode it back up to the mine while clinging for dear life to the tram bucket and the milk jug. However, one day a whipping tram cable sheared off one of the cook’s ears. After that, the practice was stopped and the miners had to do without their daily milk.
The Comet Mine is collapsed with little possibility of entry except by new mining operations. Ruins can be seen along the ledge of the Comet Mine, but little else remains upon the lofty mountain side.
Justice and Golden Cord Mines
This mine was one of the Wilmans brothers’ ventures. It proved to be a productive property until they tried to dog too deeply into the mountain: Like other mines at Monte Cristo, the ore tended to run out about 500 feet from the surface. The mine changed owners several times, and production resumed in 1907 and again in the 1920s, but without success. The Boston-American Mining Company was the last attempt mining operations here. The company built a new concentrator at Monte Cristo and a tramway from the mine to the concentrator. No ore was ever shipped down that tram. One of the mine’s tunnels was bored under a large rock slide to a point 400 feet below the Mystery #3 Mine. The ore in this tunnel was considered too low in quality for mining.
Adjacent to the ledge [of the main adit] are the ruins of some of the buildings that stood at this mine. The cookhouse, bunker, bunkhouse, and headhouse were all located here. It was the in this cookhouse that a tragedy occurred in 1905. The cook was talking with several of the local boys, who had brought their rifles along. During the friendly tussle, one of the rifles discharged, and the cook was struck in the abdomen. He was rushed to Monte Cristo and placed on a locomotive, which began the long trip to a hospital in Everett. But before reaching Everett the cook died. His last words were “Don’t blame the boy, it wasn’t his fault.” Another incident at this mine had a happier ending. During the night shift, one of the ore chutes became jammed with mineral and had to be broken loose. Two miners were seeing to this task then the ore suddenly broke loose, through one of the men off balance and sending him down the chute with tons of ore. Miners and ordinary citizens from town dug frantically at the base of the chute to remove the ore, fearing what they would find. Instead of a lifeless body, however, they soon came upon two feet, frantically kicking. Further digging freed the miner, who was bruised but otherwise unhurt.
The Justice Mine tunnel is open and accessable. One of the two tunnels on the ledge is collapsed. Ruins of the cookhouse can be seen to the east on the ledge (burned). One of the two main tunnels on the ledge are collapsed. The main tunnel fairly stable and enters into the mountain for a considerable distance.
When Pearsall, Peabody, and Fred Wilmans crossed the col from ’76 Basin to Glacier Basin, these were some of the first properties they claimed. They were only the second group of white explorers in this region, and the first to enter Glacier Basin. The Mystery Mines were staked on August 30, 1889, and recorded with the Snohomish County auditor on September 25, 1889.
Since the ore was spectacularly evident on the cliff surfaces, these were also some of the first to be opened. Aerial trams from the Mystery Mines were first built by the Monte Cristo Mining Company in 1892 and proved to be dismal failures. By November 1894, the Trenton Iron Company had constructed a stout Bleichert Patent aerial tramway from the Mystery #3 adit to a collector station near the concentrator. This tram used long spans to cross the many avalanche paths along the mountainside.
The mines were bored using hand drilling and blasting until 1896, when an electric air compressor was installed at the Mystery #3 adit. The power lines were strung along the tram towers from a dynamo at the concentrator. The air-powered drills accelerated the pace of mining considerably. These mines produced most of the ore that was shipped from Monte Cristo. They shut down following the railroad washout in 1897, reopened in 1900, and then closed for good in 1903. They still contain a sizable amount of ore, but present-day costs of environmental laws make it unprofitable to pursue the ore.
The Mystery Tunnels are open and accessable. There are three main tunnels to the Mystery Mine. Access can be obtained by traveling up Glacier Creek and hiking south onto the talus before the trail heads up Mystery Hill.
“O&B” stands for Oliver and Ben, the names of the original locators of the property. It was recorded with the county auditor on August 11, 1891. The ownership of this area was once hotly contested and even resulted in gunplay at one point. No one was killed, but the sheriff had to be called in to quell the disturbance. The mine had varying success at producing ore over the years as it changed owners numerous times. Several carloads of hand-sorted ore were shipped to the smelter in 1895, but regular production never took place at the mine. A small aerial tramway was constructed from the mine down to the base of Toad Mountain in anticipation of a big ore strike, but it was seldom used.
The Philo mine was staked on June 21, 1890. An aerial tramway existed at the mine at one point, stretching from the mine to Mystery Hill. Further history to follow
The Philo tunnel is open and accessable.
Pride of the Mountains Mine
This is one of the many properties that were staked by Fred Wilmans, Frank Peabody, and Joe Pearsall on their second visit to the area in the fall of 1889. So rich was this load that a high tramway was build in 1894. The span across Glacier Basin from Mystery Hill stretched 1,100 feet and was one of the longest aerial tram spans in the world in its time. By 1896, most of the ore has been mined, and activity shifted to the New Discovery Tunnel farther down the vein.
Pride of the Woods Mine
First staked on August 29, 1889, and recorded with the county auditor on September 25, 1889, this mine tapped the same vein as the Mystery Mines. While the Mystery tunnels were driven into Mystery Hill from Monte Cristo side, the Pride of the Woods tunnels met inside Mystery Hill and were operated as a single mine. So complex were the ore bodies along this vein that one miner described them as resembling “a squashed spider”.
Discovered and staked on June 9, 1890, this mine seems to have been fraught with problems from the beginning. The underground workings were extensive, but most of the tunnels were entered via a shaft, which had to be constantly pumped, but it didn’t expose any paydirt either. The shaft accessed ore in a vein that ran beneath glacier Creek.
The Rainy Mine was established early in Monte Cristo’s history, but in the 1900s it changed ownership several times, and each owner had problems with it. In one case, the pumps used to dewater the mine kept breaking down, so the owner gave up and sold the mine. The new owner installed a compressed air bailer, only to have the compressor house burn to the ground. No ore was produced after that.
The most notable incident at this facility happened on June 6, 1905. Fred Peterson, one of the workers at the Rainy, was being hoisted from the bottom of the 210-foot shaft when the cable on the bucket broke, sending him plummeting into the blackness. Miraculously, he survived the fall, although both his legs were terribly smashed. Two men waiting their turn to be raised were struck but unhurt. A month later, Peterson was reported to be “getting around with the help of two good canes.”
Condition unknown due to the CERCLA cleanup
Excerpt(s) from Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines; Volume 1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Northwest Underground Explorations. Oso Publishing Company 1997