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The History of NWMGP

 

By Clarence and Jill Taber

 

As near as we can figure, the Northwest Montana Gold Prospector Club was started on December 3, 1994. Clarence Taber and wife, Jill developed an interest in mining and prospecting from Clarence's father, Roy Taber, who had been a miner in Butte many years ago. He sparked our interest and encouraged us to file on a claim. Clarence attended the Flathead Chapter of the Montana Mining Association meetings. Most of the members were up there in age but they enjoyed a cup of coffee and telling mining stories every month. There was Bob LaStofska, Don Manning, George Hanson, Austin Monk, Charlie Taborsky, Guy Maycumber, Vern Strodbeck, Wayne Lindbaum, Orville Fuller, Lyle Holler, Bernie Onsager and Harry Bear. It was difficult finding anyone who was willing to teach us how and where to prospect. It seemed as if there was a "secret not to be revealed." On one of our expeditions we found Butch McGee in a little rock shop in Norris, MT. Butch was most helpful in showing us how to pan and where to go for some real gold. Once we got that first speck of gold in our pan, gold fever struck and there was no stopping. We took many prospecting adventures and on one trip to Virginia City learned panning in the public troughs with Dick Scharff. It took Clarence 45 minutes to pan his first pan. There were many more scouting trips but we had to travel to Helena every time another piece of equipment was needed. Jill had the shoe shop in Columbia Falls and decided to put in a line of prospecting gear. So she became a Keene dealer and so it began. Many people came in and browsed and asked MANY questions as they had in the past. Jill told Clarence, that he ought to get all these people together because they all had the same questions. Bob LaStofska helped Clarence with the first meeting. Clarence got on the radio stations, KGEZ, KOFI and KCFW TV, then put it in all the newspapers to see if there was anyone interested in joining a mining/prospecting club. He rented the Eagles Hall, in downtown Kalispell and sure enough, over 100 people showed up with great enthusiasm. They decided on the name and elected officers; a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. Eventually we added a sergeant of arms and a cookie monster (the person in charge of coffee and goodies at our meetings.) Our first meetings were held at the Kalispell Fairgrounds; we now meet every second Saturday of the month - during the winter at North Valley Community Center in Columbia Falls, and during the summer every second weekend at the Libby Creek Claim. The Montana Mining Association members were chartered into the club and offered their wisdom and knowledge, plus they donated the $50 that was in their treasury. The NWMGP used the $50 to purchase a large coffee pot and had the chartered members names inscribed on it so we would not forget our roots. Chuck Rorvik designed our logo and Jill made a banner.

It was from there that our club progressed. We had meetings once a month and in the summer we started having outings. The Forest Service has a public panning area at Libby Creek so we met up there for digging and panning. At times there was as many as 40 people sitting along the creek learning to pan and almost all of them getting some color. In March, 1996 the club leased the Ace Placer and several other claims adjacent to the public panning area from Ed Atchley, Harvey Frederickson and their partners. We submitted a Plan of Operation to the Forest Service and paid our bonds. We do reclamation in the fall and comply with the rules of the Mining Laws of 1872. Later on, we staked a claim for 160 acres on Cherry Creek.

The club own’s several high bankers, several mini trommels that member, Estile Hunt, first invented and built, and numerous pumps; we also use some of our members equipment. The club also has available an excavator, caterpillar, grizzly, and a front end loader to provide material for our outings. There are about a dozen members that have been successful with their metal detectors at the claim. And NWMGP also has a dredge permit that members can reserve and use.

Our outings consist of a common dig. All members and guests that participate get an equal share of the gold. Or you may choose to work on your own. During our summer weekend outings we enjoy a “Potluck Dinner” on Saturday night about 6 PM, just before our gold split for that day’s work. We also have a “Club Sponsored Breakfast” on Sunday morning at 8 AM with pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon, ham, or sausage.

The third Saturday in May has become our "Spring Kick Off" each year, a time to get our summer season started. It is an all day event hosted by Clarence and Jill at their place in Columbia Heights. It consists of a very large potluck dinner, demonstrations of current equipment and contests in metal detecting, panning and kids games. Local pawn shops donate gold items, plus the club donates $75 worth of change to bury for the metal detecting contest and everyone keeps what they find. We have a great raffle and lots of fun and visiting. The weather is never very certain, but it is held rain or shine, snow or wind...you name it, we've had it. It is usually very well attended with usually more the 100 people (depending on the weather, of course) and is open to the public.

Throughout the years we have had some interesting speakers, including Robin McCulloch from Butte Bureau of Mines. We have had presentations from Mining companies and have received some beautiful rock samples from various mines. We have had a special outing at the Top O'Deep Mine down by Missoula. One summer we had an exploration dig on Felix Creek up the South Fork. Since we were not allowed to drive beyond the Forest Service’s gate, Rick Lance used his team of horses to haul our gear in. At least a dozen of us enjoyed this trip immensely. It was very hot and very little gold was found, but we had the best huckleberries ever. One group of guys got to go out with charter member, Austin Monk out past Island Lake one summer to see where a huge piece of float gold had been found back when he was a boy. It had been hauled out with a stone boat and team of horses down to the train at Wolf Creek.

Our club has been featured in the New York Times and we have had members from all over the United States and Canada. Many friendships have formed throughout the club and even a marriage or two. We have had a booth in the North West Montana Fair several times and have a booth in the Rock and Gem Show. There are several members now that have related mining businesses including metal detectors, gold wheels, dry washers and all equipment.

Our club puts out a monthly newsletter; which has had a few different news editors, Gary Hall, Allen Corneliusen, Rebecca Lageschulte, and Milah Gano. We now have our own web site, thanks to Kathie Roe; prior to this it was found on the Montanans for Multiple Use’s web site.

Over the years we have had some fine officers, as president: Clarence Taber, Bob LaStofska, Allen Corneliusen, Earl Brown, and Harm Toren; and as vice president Bob LaStofska, J.B. Stone, Norman Bouchey, Marshall York, and Braxton Walborn. Our treasurer's have been Eric Alexander, Gary Hall, and Don Roe. And as secretary we have had Wanda Tumlin, Jill Taber, Maurice Johnson, and Sandy Randall. Serving as cookie monster we have had Jill Taber, John West, Marion Ax, and Ida Middleton. And as our sergeant of arms we have had Fred Mehring, Gary Wilmes, and Billy Mohler. We sure hope we haven't forgotten anyone!

If you are looking for an adventure and family fun; where you can experience techniques in getting real gold out of the ground just like the old time miner or prospector you may want to join the Northwest Montana Gold Prospectors Club. You will learn how to read the ground and streams, how to pan or metal detect and run a sluice, trommel, or a high banker. You can learn how to stake your own claim or how to test rocks to see if you have real gold. You can even sell your own gold or have jewelry made from it. Give us a call, e-mail, or write; we can guarantee GOLD in your pan and more gold in the friendships you make!

 
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