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Prospecting in the Little Rockies began sometime in the late 1860s. Local Native Americans likely already knew about the gold but were trying to protect their land from a rush to the area. Time passed and as more explorers searched the area, the secret was out. As soon as gold was discovered in 1884, miners arrived in mass. But when placer gold was exhausted, the boom was over as quickly as it had started.
The next rush began when Pike Landusky and soon after, Pete Zortman would strike their rich claims. Zortman and his partner constructed a mill on Ruby Gulch in 1904 that used cyanide leach tanks to extract the gold. Zortman’s population reached 200. The ruby produced as much as $14,000 per day in gold. This mill would be destroyed by a fire in 1912 followed by another in 1923. A third mill was built in the 1930s. Landusky and Zortman continued to grow with the rise of gold prices. Zortman was home to 9 bars, general stores, hotels, a hospital, a meat market, 2 schools, a newspaper and houses of ill repute.
One more fire would rage through Zortman closing the Ruby Gulch mine. It would open again and run sporadically until 1942 when World War Two shut down production. Production picked up after the war but ended again in 1951. Over the years, 308,000 ounces of gold were recovered from the district.