Mountains

Silver Bow County, Montana 1921

Within the borders of Silver Bow County has been developed one of the greatest mining districts of the world, and its claims to major importance are further reinforced by its possession of the City of Butte, the metropolis of Montana. It is a county of topographical and geological abruptness. Situated in what may be termed the south-central-western portion of Montana, Silver Bow County has, along its eastern Boundary, the main range of the Rocky Mountains ; the Highland Mountains and the Big Hole River are at the southern boundary, and on the west its irregular boundary is marked by hills and mountains that separate it from Deer Lodge County. It was named for the principal creek in the county, a few miles west of Butte, which takes its course in the general conformation of a bow and is geographically notable as the ultimate eastern source of the north fork of the Columbia River. The county is of triangular shape, has an area of 698 square miles, and its altitude varies from a minimum of 5,000 feet to approximately 10,000 feet above sea level, as represented in Red Mountain and Table Mountain. The high altitude of the county places limitations upon plant growth within its confines, and while farming and truck gardening are conducted in a restricted way and the cultivation of certain varieties of flowers has been successful, the prominence of the county rests almost exclusively upon its great mining enterprises.

County and City Almost Coextensive

Though Silver Bow County is the smallest and most compact of the Montana counties and its population is almost confined to Butte, it has the distinction of being the wealthiest and most populous in the state. Walkerville, Meaderville and Centerville are attractive suburbs of Butte and nearly the entire population of the county is found within a radius of five miles from the business center of the city itself.

The census of 1920 gives to Silver Bow County a population of 60,313, and to Butte, the county seat, a population of 41,611. The county, with its present boundaries, was created on the 16th of February, 1881. The history of the county, as may be inferred, practically coincides with and is largely confined to that of the City of Butte.

While the gold mining activities of the pioneer days were centered at other points in Montana, Silver Bow County and Butte were destined to eclipse all the sections of the state in this line of industrial enterprise. Other chapters of this publication give adequate data concerning the general development of mining enterprise in this county, but it may consistently be said that the history of mines and mining in Silver Bow differs materially from that of any other mining district in the world. The hills of Silver Bow County have given gigantic tribute from their caverned depths, and the world has known of and profited by the industrialism that has been effectively staged in the passing years.

Butte, a World Famed Mining Center

In the pioneer days gold alone had lure for the venturesome prospectors and miners of Montana, and thus Butte first gained industrial recognition when a placer gold-mining camp was there established. Later the production of silver from the mines of the district held first rank, and finally Butte gained foremost prestige in the production of copper. In later years it has been found that commercial quantities of zinc and manganese add to the noble mineral wealth of the county, in connection with silver and copper. Fully justified are the following statements:

''Butte is in many ways the greatest single metal-producing city of the world, and, according to the records of the United States Geological Survey, the mines of Butte produce more silver, copper and zinc than the mines of any other single mining district in the world. The approximate production of silver in 1919 was $13,290,000; of copper, $33,687,000; and of zinc, $11,000,000. But 1919 was a sub-normal year, because of labor difficulties and the low price of copper. Normally the mines of Butte produce far over the hundred million mark in these three metals, and in addition a great deal of gold, manganese and lead is extracted from the Butte ores. The normal underground forces and surface forces of workmen in the Butte mines average between 15,000 and 20,000 men. Almost the entire copper, zinc and silver production of Montana comes from the mines of Butte, as well as a great percentage of the manganese and gold mined in the state. For years Butte has been known as one of the most unique cities in the world from the sightseer's standpoint, but its wonderful mines have also been the lodestone that has drawn thousands of scientists to Montana. Some of the mines are now approximately 4,000 feet deep, the mechanical equipment is the best money can buy, and the scientific investigations and experiments that have been successfully carried on by the mine operators have been copied the world over."

Co-ordinated in every particular are the records of development and progress in Silver Bow County and the City of Butte, and there can be no possible way, nor is there need for, differentiating these records. The county and city are one in an historical and industrial sense.

Early History of Mining

Into the early history of mining in Silver Bow County it is not necessary to enter details in this connection, for earlier chapters than this have amply covered the field and the province of the present work is rather to reveal the present than the past. A brief resume of initial activities, however, may be offered. In the year 1856 Caleb E. Irvine, accompanied by other prospectors, discovered signs of gold in Dublin Gulch, near the present Montana metropolis. In the locality they found also a prospect hole and other evidences of previous visitation, probably by hunters or trappers, who mistook copper for gold. In 1864 gold placer camps were to be found in the vicinity of Butte, but not a single house marked the site of the future metropolis. The decline of placer mining began in 1869. In these years none had conception of the value and importance of the silver, copper and other deposits that lay hidden in the hills of this district. Joe Ramsdell sunk the first shaft, shipped the first copper ore, and demonstrated the existence of copper in paying quantities, Henry Porter having located the Parrot mine on the 1st of October of that year. Ramsdell named his shaft Parrot No. 2, and in 1866 he erected a little smelter which was the first in the Butte district. Expediency largely ruled in the early operations, gold, silver and copper each playing a part in the progressive drama staged among the sullen hills of Silver Bow County.


Anaconda Hill and Vicinity, Butte

W. L. Farlin was among the first miners to work Butte quartz for the gold and silver it contained; this was in the year 1865 and the ore was shipped down the Missouri River.

The Late Edward Hickey

Of a later period, but still early, was Edward Hickey, who, with a brother, located a claim that developed into the great Anaconda properties. Mr. Hickey, who died at Butte, on April 25, 1921, was one of the first of the old miners to believe in copper and the great future of his home city. A New Yorker by birth, in 1867 he left the lumber camps of Wisconsin for Butte, whither his brothers had preceded him. He staked an unusual number of claims, such as the St. Lawrence (he was born in St. Lawrence County, New York), the Anaconda, the Diamond, the Rock Island and the Tuolumne. With one of his brothers, he sold the Anaconda to Marcus Daly for a small amount, and it was some years before he made material progress in his mining ventures. From the sale of the Lizzie, he made $150,000. Not only did he spend several fortunes in furthering mining development, but he also invested in the banking business. At the time of his death, he was president of the Tuolumne Mining Company and had been president of the old State Savings Bank of Butte. Mr. Hickey was one of the most prominent of the old-time prospectors, was honest and popular, and during most of the half century of his residence in Butte was considered a successful business man. He was not in the class with Marcus Daly and William A. Clark, but was among the few working citizens of tough fiber and strong character, who, through the "ups and downs" of Butte, never lost faith in her ultimate progress.

Progress of Butte as a City

The period between 1869 and 1875 was one of depressing influences in and about Butte. In 1870 the population of Butte was estimated at 350, the original town site having comprised 180 acres. In 1880 the population had increased to nearly 5,000, but at that time the future metropolis had not even one graded street.

The town site of Butte was laid out in 1867 and patented in 1876. Following in the wake of placer mining, lode silver mining operations began to assume importance and to attract foreign capital. Then came the discovery of the great wealth of the copper deposits of this district, and upon copper was based the permanent growth of the Montana metropolis. Progress was stimulated by the building of the Utah & Northern Railroad, over the line of which the first passenger train arrived in South Butte late in December, 1881, and in 1883 the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed and began to function to the definite benefit of Butte. Transitions and changes, every increasing industrial activity, development and progress on every side-the elements of permanency continued to manifest themselves more and more as Butte pursued the course of her industrial destiny.

The city is established on the western slope of the main range of the Rocky Mountains and extends from the top of the celebrated Butte hill, which gives the city its name, to the wide plain that stretches at the base of this hill. The site is one of most picturesque aspects, with far views of hills and mountain peaks and mighty distances. Silver Bow Creek wends its way through the middle of the adjacent valley, beautiful homes, business buildings of the most modern metropolitan type, and normally the hum of productive industry, mines and mills, mark Butte as the leading center of a great commonwealth.

The facilities afforded by four transcontinental railways have naturally given Butte precedence as the leading jobbing and distributing center of Montana, and the wholesale trade of the city is of most diversified and important character. The main railway lines of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and the Northern Pacific, the Oregon Short Line division of the Union Pacific Railway and the Havre division of the Great Northern give Butte direct shipping connections with every part of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, besides which the short line of the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway, connecting Butte and Anaconda, has a volume of freight tonnage that makes its service one of much importance. Many leading Eastern concerns maintain offices and distributing headquarters in Butte, and a promise of the near future is the construction here of the largest live-stock yards between St. Paul and Spokane.

The educational system of Butte and Silver Bow County has been maintained at the highest modern standard. The city has twenty public schools, with fine buildings, with a corps of more than 300 teachers and an enrollment of fully 10,000 pupils. Excellent parochial schools contribute also to the educational precedence of Butte, and in the city also are maintained well-ordered business colleges, as well as several private musical schools.

The State School of Mines

The crown of the educational system at Butte is represented in the State School of Mines, which is a department of the University of Montana. This admirable institution, the service and work of which are of the highest technical standard, was founded in 1895, and in the following year was initiated the erection of the main building. The lands appropriated for the founding and maintaining of the school were used as a basis for the issuing of bonds amounting to $120,000, and in 1899 an additional appropriation of $26,300 was made for equipment and maintenance. In connection with the State School of Mines is maintained the Montana State Bureau of Mines & Metallurgy, which was established in conformity with a legislative enactment in 1919, the director of this department being appointed by the State Board of Education, under whose direction the various reports of the bureau are distributed. A fund of $20,000 for the maintenance of the bureau was appropriated for the biennium ending February 28, 1921.

The State School of Mines functions exclusively in the preparation of young men for the mining profession, and prior to the World war 90 per cent of its graduates were engaged in engineering work-many in positions of major responsibility. An official bulletin gives the following statement : ''Although the distinction between a purely vocational school and an engineering college has always been kept clearly in mind, the school has given its students a practical knowledge of mining subjects, as well as a thorough education in theoretical principles. The fundamental subjects for all forms of engineering are given, and special emphasis is laid upon the three main branches of mining-geology, mining and milling, and metallurgy. The buildings and equipment of the school are modern in every respect, and the institution is one of maximum practical value in connection with educational work in the state. The equipment at the present time represents an appropriated outlay of $75,000. The departments of the school are as here designated: Mathematics, mechanics, chemistry, metallurgy, geology and mineralogy."

Butte has its due complement of churches of all denominations. It has a well-organized Young Men's Christian Association and its full quota of substantial fraternal and civic organizations. Its several hospitals are metropolitan in equipment and service, and its seven banking institutions have capital and surplus in excess of $2,000,000, with assets, in 1920, aggregating nearly $30,000,000.

Butte is on the main Park-to-Park highway, the Yellowstone trail, and the proposed international highway to connect Utah and Canada. Butte has four hotels of the first rank, and theatrical, musical and other entertainments are offered in buildings that were erected for the purpose and represent the best standards of architecture and equipment.

In the vicinity of Butte are found thirty or more model dairy farms, and the city is the distributing center of a widely extended farm area. Public utilities in the city are giving effective service and are of metropolitan standard. The local newspaper press has effectively represented the interests of the city and state and the leading daily papers, with Associated Press service, challenge comparison with those issued in Eastern cities of far greater population.

Columbia Gardens

Provisions for rest and recreation are not lacking in the Montana metropolis, and the city takes special pride in its beautiful park and playground known as Columbia Gardens. This is a tract of about fifty acres, in a canyon a short distance east of the city, and for the development of this idyllic resort the city and state are indebted mainly to the generosity and loyal interest of Hon. William A. Clark. Competent judges have pronounced Columbia Gardens among the world's great mountain parks, and it is one of the few beauty spots on the continent to which no admission fee is charged. Attractive summer homes have been established by Butte citizens in the sloping country adjacent to the Columbia Gardens. The resort is easily accessible to Butte by street cars and it has realized Senator Clark's ambition to afford a place of recreation and amusement for all classes of citizens.

Other Mining Details

Butte has been built on mines and mining, and the industry must continue to set the city apart as a great industrial center for years to come, notwithstanding the temporary depression which has come in the train of the World's war. Because of the paramount importance of mining development in the Butte district, data concerning comparatively late activities may consistently be given in this connection. In 1864, the year in which original discoveries were made at Silver Bow Village, William Allison, Jr., and G. O. Humphreys had pushed on up the stream and pitched their camp on the present site of Butte. This statement is taken from an interesting historical narrative written by Henry C. Freeman, of Butte, and published in 1900. From the same source is here drawn further information. At the time of the arrival of Messrs. Allison and Humphreys there were no evidences of mining having been previously carried on in the immediate vicinity of Butte, save that a hole was found that probably represented the excavation made by Caleb E. Irvine, as noted in an earlier paragraph of this chapter. Dennis Leary and H. H. Porter soon afterward appeared on the scene, and as rich placers began to be uncovered there came an influx of prospectors and gold-seekers from the older camps of the state. At this time Butte the village began and was given its name. Here, in 1864, was erected the first wooden house, on what is now Quartz Street. In 1866-7 the first school was established at Butte, with Colonel Wood in charge. Before the close of 1866 placer mining gave out, and unsuccessful efforts to flux ores were made. The law of compensation came to the fore at this time, for it was through the medium of the discovery and development of other metals than gold and silver that Butte was destined to rise to greatness.

In the year 1882 came the discovery of the great copper body of the Anaconda mine, and the effect was revolutionary. The following statements arc worthy of perpetuation in this connection: "It was this event finally and completely established the permanency of the camp (Butte). The advent of the railroad in the previous year had removed all obstacles theretofore presented, and with the revelation that underlying all the mines operating along the hill outside of the Walkerville district was an enormous deposit of copper, came Butte's second transition to a camp of a new character, which doubled and trebled the importance of the previous one, and old scenes were re-enacted upon a larger scale. * * *

Both the western and eastern slopes of the hill (lying adjacent to the Anaconda) were now subject to the most careful scrutiny, and many mines sprang into existence. At the eastern extremity of the hill had sprung up the town of Meaderville (named for Charles T. Meader, a California Forty-niner who came here in 1876, purchased undeveloped claims and, in 1 881, erected the Bell smelter). Almost without exception it was discovered that in the mines of the hill proper, or that part lying south of Walkerville, the surface ones were richer in silver, but as depth was gained and the water level passed, their character was changed overwhelmingly to copper."

In 1880 the silver mines of Butte began to attract trans-Atlantic capital, the Alice, the Lexington and one or two other mines being appreciable producers of silver, the value of which increased with the resumption of specie payments, incidental to the passing of the Bland-Allison act, in 1878. The result was that Butte became the liveliest mining camp in the world, "with more money per capita than any other place of its population in the universe." At the beginning of 1880 the Colorado and Meaderville smelters were in operation, and many silver mills contributed to the industrial life of the locality. The year 1880 likewise marked the creating of Silver Bow County, formerly a part of Deer Lodge County, and Butte became a full-fledged city. Henry Jacobs was the first mayor and Charles S. Warren the first police magistrate. Marcus Daly came to Butte in the summer of 1876, and it has fittingly been said that his "memory must ever be associated with the rise, the development and the fulfillment of the copper business of this state."

Mr. Daly was soon followed by William A. Clark, and the activities of these industrial giants of Montana have become an integral part of the history of the state and that of copper production. With the completion of the Utah & Northern Railroad, in 1881, and the Northern Pacific, in 1883, the Butte district gained an undesirable class of citizens, and criminal activities required drastic subduing measures, for Butte had no intention of gaining reputation as a "bad town." In 1881-2 the Alice mine was sunk to the 500-foot level, but as yet the great wealth of copper in the district was but half suspected. The old Lexington mill was in active operation, at the corner of Broadway and Arizona Street, with Judge A. J. Davis as its owner. This eventually gave place to a larger mill, located between Walkerville and Centerville. The late '80s were marked by the erection of the courthouse, a two-story and basement structure, at Butte, and also the city hall, which was to cost $90,000, but in the building of which, exclusive of the basement, the sum of $160,000 was expended. The Free Public Library occupies the basement and ground floor of the city hall building, and has been wisely developed and managed. The late Charles S. Warren was one of the founders of this uplifting institution.

Fourteen years prior to the building of the Anaconda smelter, Joe Ramsdell and his associates built, near the Parrot mine, a small furnace for the smelting of copper, and, in the face of general ridicule, smelted about four tons of copper, which was sold in St. Louis for 28 cents a pound. The little plant was then sold to Charles Hendrie, who soon abandoned it. The Colorado smelter was the first successful copper smelter in the district, with a capacity of 25 tons, and with ore furnished by the Gagnon mine.

Eight silver mills were in operation prior to 1880. In 1875 W. L. Farlin erected the second mill for the reduction of silver-bearing quartz, this, known as the Dexter mill, having later come into possession of W. A. Clark and having finally been dismantled. John Howe placed the Centennial mill in operation in 1876, this having been the third silver mill. The year 1878 brought overland from Salt Lake City the equipment for the old Alice mill, which used ore from the Rainbow ledge. The output of the eight silver mills for 1878 was about $1,000,000. Butte at this time was the richest mining camp in the world, and growth and development along all lines were vigorous. The Butte Miner, the first newspaper of the future Montana metropolis, was founded in 1876, with George B. Johnston as editor and H. T. Brown as manager. It was a success.

Up to 1870 the placer mines of the Butte district yielded $9,000,000. From 1870 to 1880 the quartz mines yielded $3,000,000 and the placer mines $1,000,000. From 1880 to 1885 the quartz mines yielded $26,-606,600. Thus the total for the period 1870-85 was $39,606,600.

With repeal of the silver-purchasing clause of the Sherman Act of 1890, there came, in 1893, a veritable slump in silver production in Silver Bow County, and the Butte mines and mills closed down. Many of the employees in the mines and mills were then engaged by owners of copper properties, and the production of copper was materially increased. This is shown in the following tabulation of copper production in the Butte district: 1891, 23,435,000; 1892, 26,500,000; 1893, 24,819,000; 1894, 27,489,000; 1895, 30,880,000. Total $133,123,000

The output for 1896 was estimated at approximately $32,000,000. The total product of the Butte placers and of the gold, silver and copper bearing quartz of the district from 1865 to 1890 aggregated $135,502,287, and from 1890 to December 31, 1896, the aggregate was $165,123,000. Butte produced, in 1900, about one-fourth of America's copper output and one-seventh of the world's production. Butte has paid out in freight more than $9,000,000 a year, and the railroads entering the city have handled annually 17,300,000,000 pounds of freight furnished by Butte alone.

Since the inception of copper production at Butte, Silver Bow County has given, up to 191 5, the following output: Copper, 5,868,515,042 pounds; silver, 275,118,138 ounces; and gold, 1,270,739 ounces, with respective valuations as follows: Copper, $865,794,271; silver, $191,765,310; gold, $26,268,516. This makes a grand total of $1,083,828,097. The figures showing the production since 191 5 have been given in the general chapter on copper mining.

While the great Anaconda Company and its subsidiaries represent the dominant mining interest in Butte, a goodly number of independent companies have successfully operated in this district, including the following: North Butte, Butte & Superior, East Butte, Davis-Daly, Butte-Alex Scott; Butte-Ballaklava, Pilot-Butte, Tuolumne, Rainbow, Butte & London, Butte & Great Falls, Bullwhacker and Butte-Duluth. Other corporate and individual concerns of importance have operated successfully in this great copper field.

To Captain A. B. Wolwin is given the honor of being the pioneer in the mining of the large low-grade ore deposits on and near the surface southeast of Butte, and the treatment of such ore by the leaching process. Under normal conditions Butte's mines have produced annually about $1,000 for each man, woman and child of the city's population, and there have been fully 12,000 men employed in the mines and mills, with a pay roll represented in $1,500,000 a month. The underground mine workings of Butte show the marvelous aggregate of more than 2,700 miles. The Anaconda mine, on Anaconda Hill, has been the largest of the Butte district, was the stage of the early activities of Marcus Daly and the nucleus of all of the great Anaconda properties. Its workings have been carried to a depth of 1,800 feet, in its operations employment has been given to a force of 1,400 men, and the weekly output has attained an aggregate of 9,000 tons.

Underground Systems and Mine Litigations

It is impossible to enter into details concerning the work on and in the Butte mines, to describe the wonderful system of underground workings, or to note the output of the various mines. All this must be left to specific articles of more technical nature than the review here presented. However, it is worthy of special note that the Butte district has a provision that can be claimed by few if any other mining districts. This is that one can pass from one mine to another on the different levels for great distances. It is possible to descend the shaft of a mine in Walkerville and ascend through the shaft of another at Meaderville, two or more miles distant, and that without coming to the surface. This establishing of regular levels at given depths caused the entire abandonment of many surface workings of large mines, "even the ore being run into the levels of one mine centrally located, and all being hoisted through one shaft."

The proximity and continuity of ore veins in the Butte district have resulted in many litigations of tremendous proportions. On this subject the following statements have been given: "The generally recognized mining laws hold that the establishment of the fact that any given vein 'apexes' in any certain claim, gives the owner of that claim the right to work the whole of said vein, wherever it takes him, if across the side bounding lines of such claim, although estopping him from proceeding beyond the end lines. With hundreds of claims, if not thousands, paralleling each other, some line of one serving as some line of another, the opportunity for irreconcilable differences in many instances at once suggests itself." The record of clashing interests resulting from such differences is an interesting part of the history of the mining industry in Silver Bow County.

Great has been the work of the gigantic smelters that have clouded the atmosphere of Butte in past days, and every phase of mining industry has found prodigious exemplification in this district, where has been written one of the greatest chapters in the history of mining enterprise. Description of methods of extraction and treatment of ores is not germane to this review, but even the brief outline here presented will afford an idea of the wonderful achievement that has been staged in Silver Bow County in the past and serve as an earnest of the revitalizing influences that shall work for the good of Butte after the period of world-war depression has passed.

At Butte, there have been intervals of depression and inactivity, as is inevitable in industrial centers. The repeal of the silver-purchasing clause of the Sherman Act of 1890 brought a season of extreme depression in the mining industries of the Butte district, and both mills and mines closed down in 1893. The year 1921 also finds Butte enduring a trying tension that has come as a sequel of the World's war, and while the city's productive activities had fallen to low ebb, there is no reason to doubt her recuperative powers. The two periods mentioned are mentioned simply as instances of abnormal conditions which have temporarily deflected the general course of progress and prosperity.

A brief, but appreciative estimate of the city is this: "Butte, from a one-time mining camp and later a city of smoke, has emerged into a city of beautiful homes, splendidly paved streets, fine public buildings, dignified business blocks, and is generally accorded the distinction of being one of the most metropolitan cities of its size on the continent."

The mountains and valleys readily accessible from Butte offer unrivaled attractions to the tourist, the lover of scenic beauties, and the devotee of the rod or the gun. The city itself maintains a high standard of education and religious work and service, and its civic and social advantages make it a most attractive place of residence, now that its former pall of smoke from the great smelters has been lifted to reveal a clean and beautiful city, with ideal climate and vitalizing atmosphere with modern accommodations and excellent medicinal waters. Within two hours ride of the city are four health and pleasure resorts, sorts noted are at Boulder, Gregson, Pipestone and Alhambra.

Montana Counties 1921

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Source: Montana its Story and Biography, by Tom Strout, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, 1921

 
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