Black Diamond Mountain (head of Delphine and Farnham Creeks)
It could be that the naming of the mountain and the mine was a serendipitous case of separate parties deciding on the same name for separate features in a similar area.
The naming of Black Diamond Mountain, located up Toby Creek, is ambiguous. On one hand, Canadian Alpine Club member Winthrop Ellsworth Stone recounts naming the mountain in 1916 because, “this peak is distinctly different from the others in the vicinity, consisting of black friable shale, splitting freely into thin plates and crumbling to a powder. Its shape, color and location make of it a conspicuous landmark and excellent observation point. It seemed an excellent location for a coal mine and at least we thought the name of Black Diamond appropriate.”1
On the other hand, author Glen Boles adds to this origin story that Stone “[drew] his inspiration from a mining claim on its lower slopes.”2 This conclusion is possible, as such a mine did exist, but Stone himself makes no note of it, and there is no indication that he had any idea that there was a “Black Diamond Mine” nearby. It could be that Stone simply didn’t see the need to mention the Black Diamond mine, or that the naming of the mountain and the mine was a serendipitous case of separate parties deciding on the same name for separate features in a similar area.
Origins of the Black Diamond Mine
A claim for the Black Diamond Mine was filed by Ben Abel and Charles Watt, possibly in 1898,3 but certainly by 1899.4 The first record found that mentions the claim is an assessment record filed by Charles Watt in October 1900.5 Ore was later reported to be high in lead as well as zinc, silver, silica, and iron.6
As owners of the Black Diamond group, Watt and Abel were joined in September 1901 by Peter Michelsen, when he recorded the Black Diamond Fractional claim.7 Michelsen was also sold an interest, by Abel, in the Black Diamond claim itself in December 1901,8 as well as a further interest by Watt in February 1902.9 In February Abel is also reported as selling out his interest in the group entirely,10 likely to Joseph Lake.11
By the end of the summer, Watt also seems to have stepped back from the claim, leaving it to Michelsen to record that year’s activity.12 Of the two new partners, Michelsen took over the ground work of developing the group while his partner, Joseph Lake, silently provided financial backing and other assistance (the phrase “silent partner” is used to refer to Lake’s involvement: it wasn’t a secret, but his involvement was not broadly advertised).13
The workings of the Black Diamond Mine do not seem to have been quite on the slopes of Black Diamond Mountain itself, but the location is hard to determine. The mine is described as being on the shoulder of the mountain to the northeast of the juncture of Toby and Jumbo Creeks, at a slope of about 45 degrees, an elevation of 7,600 feet (2,300 meters), and giving a view both up Toby and Jumbo creeks.14 From this description, particularly the view up Toby Creek, it is likely that the mine was on the slopes of what is now Paramount Peak rather than Black Diamond Mountain (the slopes of Black Diamond Mountain at that elevation don’t seem to allow for views up the Toby. I am, of course, eager to hear from anyone who has come across mine workings in that area).
Despite there being quite a bit of activity and development on the Black Diamond, its owners never applied to have the claims crown granted, instead leasing the property on an annual basis. They certainly did enough work to have “earned” the crown grant, so it is unknown why they chose not to, but their decision certainly makes it harder to pinpoint the location.
A Wave of Development
Having acquired the property in 1902, Michelsen and Lake were “badly disappointed” that year at having to abandon their plans to work the group through the winter due to the poor condition of the Toby Creek road.15 As noted in my post on Jumbo, although a trail up Toby Creek and over into the West Kootenays had been completed in 1895, and even expanded into a cattle route in 1896, that route quickly fell into disrepair.16
Instead of transporting ore, the owners focused on ground development, and by the end of the year there was a 30 foot (9 meter) tunnel and an open cut.17 This work was expanded the following summer (1903),18 and continued through the winter with the partners “driving two feet a day with a hand-drill machine.”19
By the following spring (1904), there were “about two carloads” of ore on the dump, ready to ship20 (at the end of 1904 this was estimated at “about 40 tons”21). But, although the owners were pleased with the property, the poor condition of the wagon road once again delayed any shipments from being made.22
Work resumed again in the autumn of 1904, this time with a twist. That October Peter Michelsen married Mary Louise Letty in Athalmer and, the day after their wedding, the newlyweds started up Toby Creek to live in the Black Diamond cabins through the winter.23 Mrs Michelsen, when she came down from the hills the following June, “appeared none the worse of her experiences. She said she had enjoyed good health during her absence and was not lonesome, but liked to live in the hills.”24
Meanwhile, there were now at least three tunnels on the claim,25 all showing ore and at depths of between 70 and 148 feet (21 to 45 meters).26 By the end of 1906 there were four tunnels, totalling 400 feet (120 meters) in depth, as well as a crosscut, a 25 foot (7.6 meter) deep shaft, and various open cuts. Work on the claim had been done, “most systematically” with ore carefully blocked out and ready to be removed to ship.27
Finally: Ore is Shipped
In the spring of 1906 the owners of the mine announced their intention to ship ore that season,28 and this time they were successful. Tenders for hauling ore were called for in June,29 with Joseph Tait being given the contract to pack ore to the road-end at Delphine Creek, from where Arthur Tegart would haul it by wagon to Athalmer.30
This process carried on for the next months, with the first load of ore landed at Athalmer in August,31 and a force of men being employed at the mine to remove and sack ore through the end of September.32 A total of three shipments were made, “about two half car lots… and one full car.” From measurements given of the full car, this totalled about 40 tons.33
The profits from this ore was not nearly as great as had been forecast from the assays,34 A drop in ore prices, combined with the high costs of shipping, meant that profits were disappointing. The owners of the Black Diamond announced that they had decided to “cease further operations until the wagon road is continued … up to their property.”35
Without easier shipping, there was no point in continuing active development, but the owners still made shipments in subsequent years, possibly of ore that had already been removed. In addition to shipping ore in 1906,36 the Black Diamond is again recorded as making a shipment in the fall of 1907,37 as well as another 6 tons in 1908.38
Lake and Michelsen were thorough in their development. Upon a 1915 examination of the property, the four tunnels of the “upper workings” had “not much ore… left in sight”.39 At some point before 1915, although it is unknown when, some further development was also done further down the hill, on a large showing of quartz, including two 30 foot (9 meter) tunnels driven on either side of a small ridge. About 10 tons of ore had been taken from one of these.40 These latter workings may have also been part of other earlier claims in the vicinity of the Black Diamond, or they could have been part of work done in subsequent years.
Activity at the Black Diamond was quiet until 1913, when the property was bonded from Lake and Michelson by the Black Diamond Mining Company under Dr H Schurz of San Francisco.41 The transaction reflected the optimism felt in the valley with the imminent construction of the Kootenay Central Railway (the rail line would open 1 January 1915).
The Black Diamond Mining Company put a force of men to work developing the property in October 1913 with the intention of working through to the spring.42 By the end of 1914 they had completed 237 feet (72 meters) of tunnelling.43 This new work had been done, “some distance down the hill” from the original workings.44 It is also possible that Schurz was responsible for the smaller tunnels on the quartz outcropping mentioned above, which were themselves located about 200 feet (60 meters) above this lower tunnel (these middle workings are a mystery: I hesitate to name Schurz as responsible as the record suggests that ore was shipped from these workings, and I was unable to confirm that the Black Diamond Company shipped any ore).
It seems that the Black Diamond Company dropped its bond on the property as, in 1915, it is again reported to be owned by Pete Nicholson [sic, possibly Michelsen?], Joseph Lake and an unknown third partner.45 It did not help that the First World War had broken out in August 1914 and that Dr Schurz was German, or that Schurz was accused of having “squandered a great deal of money” at another nearby claim (the Hot Punch) that he had also bonded on behalf of San Francisco investors.46
There were short bursts of further activity on the Black Diamond in subsequent years, with a “few men” engaged on the property in 1927.47 In 1947 the property was restaked by Jack Standridge of Wilmer,48 and work was done the following year. This likely brought the Black Diamond property to the attention of Gwillim Lake Gold Mines Co, which did further investigations in 1949.49 Again, nothing came of this.
The Black Diamond mine is far less notorious than other claims up Toby Creek, but it was reasonably successful. For one, it actually shipped ore, which cannot be said for a good many claims. It was also (comparatively) extensively developed, over the course of years, with its owners methodically working the property. Often these early mining claims were the scene of speculation, with owners focused on attracting wealthy buyers while doing a bare amount of development work on the claim itself. The Black Diamond is one claim (the Lead Queen is another), where the owners spent their efforts getting ore out and getting it to market.
The Black Diamond would never be described as a large or particularly lucrative venture, but that’s alright. It sort of, maybe, kind of had a mountain possibly named after it, so that’s something.
Lead Queen Mine
Sultana (another mine worked by Michelsen, including more of a biography)
Mineral King (located across the valley, mentions Gwillim Lake Gold Mines)