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Clay Canyon & the Little Green Monster Variscite Mine

Last Updated: 13th Feb 2015

By Dave Crosby

Clay Canyon variscite and associated minerals are so spectacular (see above!) they are highly prized for collections. Note the values placed on the above photos used with the kind permission of SIBER+SIBER AG in Switzerland.
Most of this material, several tons, was mined by Ed Over in the brief three years between 1937 and 1940.

The two specimens (each shown twice) below are from the Smithsonian.

Rock Currier's posting of most of the historic photos on Mindat.org made this article possible.

In 1893 Frank Butt and his brother thought they had discovered GOLD in Clay Canyon.
They hadn't. They came, they saw, they left.
Apparently somewhere along the way they gave one of the odd nodules to F, T. Millis of Lehi, Utah, who shipped the specimen to George P. Merrill, then curator for the U. S. National Museum (the Smithsonian Institution) where variscite was identified as being a constituent.

The property changed hands several times, then Don Maguire took over the property around 1904 and tried to sell the green stone as a gemstone similar to turquoise. Only 200 carats were produced in four years, most of it going to China.

1936 brought new energy into the canyon with the entry of Arthur Montgomery and Edwin Over who had just been collecting epidote at the Green Monster Mountain on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
They liked the Green Monster name and applied it to their new digs.

Ed did the digging, Art the marketing.
They were successful in locating two new zones of nodules, giving many to the Smithsonian Institution, but by 1940 after removing several tons by hand, new material became harder to find, and they went on to other activities.

It is hard to imagine two more different personalities as is revealed in their obituaries, but their different skills made for an outstanding partnership:

Edwin J. Over (1905-1963)

Edwin Jenkins Over, Jr. was born in Spokane, Washington in August 1905, the son of Edwin Jenkins Over, Sr. and Julia Ione Harner. Ed was the grandson of Madison Over and Mary Jane Jenkins on his father's side and Josephus and Theresa Harner on his mother's side. Ed's mother Julia had died in 1907, and he was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm in Geary, Kansas. By 1920 his grandfather had moved to a new farm in Muskogee, Oklahoma. His father, meanwhile, had moved to Kansas City where he worked as a clerk to the circuit court and eventually remarried. Ed's early school years, following the death of his grandfather, were spent living with an aunt, Eva Malsbury, in San Francisco, and it was there that his interest in minerals began.

Ed moved to Colorado Springs to complete his schooling in 1921, and lived with his uncle, Loyalle Harner. He finished high school there, then worked part-time at the Golden Cycle Mill where his uncle was superintendant. He attended the Colorado School of Mines for two years but never attained a degree; nevertheless, he gained a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding geology and mineralogy, and appears to have had a photographic memory. He made the acquaintance of the Colorado Springs mineral dealer Lazard Cahn (q.v.) and thereafter spent an increasing amount of his time prospecting for mineral specimens. He preferred working alone, on his own, and made many spectacular discoveries. In his early years he teamed up with Arthur Montgomery (q.v.) as his backer, sometime collecting partner, and sales agent, and recovered superb epidote from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska; topaz crystals from Devil's Head, Colorado; variscite nodules from Fairfield, Utah (which proved to contain a new species later named "overite" in his honor); yellow wulfenite from the Hilltop mine in Arizona; and red wulfenite from the Red Cloud mine in Arizona. One of his ventures that proved unsuccessful was an attempt to locate new tourmaline deposits in the Mesa Grande district, California.

In his later years Ed operated primarily as a lone wolf, and preferred it that way. One exception was a venture with John Alexander of Colorado Springs which resulted in the discovery of many exceptional blue topaz crystals on the north slope of Pikes Peak. On his own, Ed found many fine specimens of topaz, garnet, bixbyite and pink beryl in the Topaz Mountains, Utah; quartz from the Quartzsite area, Arizona; and aquamarine and phenakite at Mt. Antero, Colorado. During World War II Ed was commissioned to locate deposits of optical calcite for militaty use; he found excellent material in Park County, Montana and in Mexico. He later worked periodically as a consultant to mining companies in the U.S. and Mexico.

Ed married (and later divorced) Louise Tapley, and had a daughter (Mrs. Jean Holmes, Helena, Montana) who ultimately gave him three grandchildren. Ed was found dead of a heart attack in his car, parked near the Lot mine in the remote Nine Mile Hill area of Colorado, where he had been collecting mineral specimens. He had been dead a week or more when deer hunters came across him accidentally, so his precise death date is unknown, but it was between October 5 and 11, 1963.

Ed was a close-mouth individual with an implacable hatred of sham and hypocrisy. He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, but was uninterested in sharing it with anyone. The frivolous did not interest him but he was deeply philosophical, and an avowed atheist. Despite his reserved nature, he was faithful and conversant to his friends. He had a passion for collecting and exploring, combined with great strength and stamina, a high degree of knowledge, an acute mind and an uncanny knack for finding great minerals.

Ed Over's personal mineral collection was sold in 1964 to Walter H. Wright of The Prospector's Shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It consisted of about 3 tons of specimens, including many choice examples of epidote from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska; azurite from Bisbee, Arizona; linarite from the Hansonberg District, New Mexico; opal from Virgin Valley, Nevada; smoky quartz from Pikes Peak, Colorado; and many others--the sales list ran to 5 pages.

CHADBOURNE, R.L. (1963) Memorial to Edwin J. Over. Rocks & Minerals, 39 (1-2), 50-51.
MITCHELL, R.S. (1984) Edwin Jenkins Over, Jr. (1905-1963). Rocks & Minerals, 59 (1), 38-43.
MONTGOMERY, A. (1963) Edwin Over, 1905-1963. Rocks & Minerals, 39 (1-2), 122-125.
Federal Census Records
World War I Draft Registrations

Arthur Montgomery (1909-1999)
Arthur Montgomery, American mineralogist, mineral collector and dealer, educator and philanthropist, was born December 2, 1909 in New York City, the son of Elizabeth Shaw and Robert H. Montgomery, a wealthy Pennsylvania-born lawyer. He was first introduced to minerals by his mother in 1928; she had traveled as a writer to Russia, and brought back for him a box containing a selection of Russian minerals. The direction of his life was thereby decided; he attended Princeton University and was awarded his A.B. degree in Geology in 1931. After graduation he spent a year in Europe, then worked for a while at Ward's learning the mineral business from George L. English.

Montgomery was introduced to Edwin Over, another field collector, by Harvard mineralogist Charles Palache, and they became fast friends and collecting partners. By 1934 they were in business together collecting and selling mineral specimens; sometimes they worked in the field together, but much of the time Over worked alone, shipping specimens back to Montgomery in New York to be marketed. Montgomery's first ad, offering pyrite from Bingham Canyon, Utah appeared in January 1934, giving his address as 385 Madison Avenue. In November 1934 Montgomery announced the opening of their new quarters on Lexington Avenue where "many interesting and unusual mineral specimens collected during last summer's western trip with Edwin Over Jr." would be on display. Together Montgomery and Over were responsible for many spectacular mineral specimens reaching the mineral market, including red wulfenite from the Red Cloud mine in Arizona, epidote from Prince of Wales Island in Alaska, and variscite from Fairfield, Utah. Their partnership was concluded in 1941, at which time Montgomery sold his remaining stock of minerals to Massachusetts dealers Ray and Alvin Schortmann and retired permanently from the mineral business.

Based on his published ads, the addresses on Montgomery's mineral labels may be dated as follows:

385 Madison Ave. -- 1934
369 Lexington Ave, -- 1934-1935
277 Park Ave. -- 1936
1 East 44th Street -- 1937-1941

During World War II Art operated the Harding mine in New Mexico, supplying the government with tantalum, beryllium and lithium for the war effort. He was later instrumental in preserving the Harding mine permanently as a teaching resource. Following the war he returned to college life, entering graduate school at Harvard under his mentor, Charles Palache in 1945 and receiving his PhD degree in Geology in 1951. He then joined the faculty at Lafayette College as an Associate Professor, and spent the rest of his professional career there, teaching and conducting research, publishing numerous bulletins, field guides, and memoirs, and building the college's mineral collection. He received the Faculty Lecture Award for Superior Teaching at Lafayette in 1959, and six years later, he received the Ralph Digman Award of the National Association of Geology Teachers for "the improvement of earth-science teaching."

From 1970 to 1972 Art supplied the financing necessary to establish a new magazine for serious mineral collectors, The Mineralogical Record, and was also instrumental in the establishment of a non-profit organization to promote the preservation and dissemination of mineralogical knowledge, the Friends of Mineralogy.

Art retired as a full Professor in 1975, and in 1976 became associated with the Worldwide Fellowship of Christians in Pennsylvania. He eventually gave away his fabulous mineral collection (Richard Bideaux received ten superb pieces) and other personal property to lead a simple, austere life of service. From 1978 to 1993, he volunteered on a full-time basis at the Trinidad State Nursing Home. After 1993, he lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was an active participant in a Christian fellowship organization there. He died December 31, 1999 in Albuquerque.

EWING, R.C. (2000) Memorial to Arthur Montgomery, 1909-1999. American Mineralogist, 89, 1848-1850.
WILSON, W.E. (2000) Died, Arthur Montgomery. Mineralogical Record, 31, 290-299.

Site photos:
Smithsonian Collection

Without Ed's efforts these spectacular specimens would probably still be underground.

Article has been viewed at least 16063 times.


very interesting and close to home

Guy Gordon Young
7th Dec 2017 6:04pm

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