Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin.



Friday, March 13, 2015

The Floods of 1908


By Richard I. Gibson

This article appeared originally in the CFWEP.org newsletter, The Montana Steward.

Butte was booming in 1908. For all practical purposes, the War of the Copper Kings was over, even though the Anaconda Company would not completely consolidate its ownership of nearly every mine and more until after William Clark died in 1925. After Augustus Heinze was out of the picture in 1906, money that had been tied up in litigation freed investors to build, build, build. The building boom of 1906-1907 saw some of the grandest construction effort ever undertaken in Butte’s business district.

Among the buildings erected in that two-year period were the Metals Bank, Phoenix Block, Silver Bow Club, Leonard Hotel, Napton Apartments, the Water Company building (built initially for the Intermountain Telephone Company), the Carpenters Union Hall, the First Baptist Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and much more. The county’s population – mostly within the built-up area of Butte – was nearly 57,000 in the 1910 census, a gain of more than 20% since 1900.

And in 1908, the city directory listed 324 named mines.


With all that construction, attention was also finally paid to street paving and sidewalk construction. In June 1908 the city council was looking at a huge project to permanently pave sidewalks on residential streets all around the central business district, including much of Granite, Quartz, and Wyoming. Wooden walks were on the list for Woolman, Copper, Henry and Front, as well as much of the East Side. Street paving was in the offing for the near West Side including West Granite and Broadway, Idaho and Washington. But until the paving was completed a few years later, ruts and gullies must have been common on unpaved streets, and boardwalk sidewalks, where present, could have washed out easily.

Unpaved roads and walkways and extensive mine operations all over the Hill – just imagine 324 mine dumps, some huge, some small – meant that storm water would likely have not just run off, it would have run off carrying plenty of dirt and debris with it.

Both in the city and nearby, pretty much all the trees were gone. Summit Valley’s forests, such as they were, were exploited early on for fuel in smelters, timbers in mine drifts, and wood for building construction. The land was bare. Mine tailings and sewage alike were discharged into Silver Bow Creek.

Silver Bow Creek where it crosses Montana Street and flows between the historic slag walls from the Colorado Smelter was highly constricted there. Upstream, wetlands had been drained to accommodate construction of smelters on the east side of the Hill, in Meaderville and points south. The stream was already nothing like the original creek that the first prospectors in 1864 likened to a silver bow glistening in the sun. There was little to prevent mass runoff and flooding.

Late May and early June 1908 were some of the wettest days in Montana history. Rain, wet snow, and snowmelt combined to produce one of the most devastating floods to ever hit the region. On May 31, a cloudburst at Columbus took out a mile of Northern Pacific track. In Butte, there was “too much snow” for Memorial Day services, and the parade was cancelled. On June 2, Butte received 0.9” of rain, part of a storm system that affected most of western Montana and disrupted train travel; On June 2, a washout at Bonita, about thirty miles east of Missoula, resulted in a train plunging off the track, killing one man. By that day, there had been no through train into Butte for 48 hours on the Northern Pacific, whose trains were stalled in Billings and at Drummond. And it continued to rain and snow. At Elk Park on June 2, the Butte Miner reported that “the flat resembled a huge lake, and the Boulder River is a raging torrent.”

June 4, 1908, was a Thursday, and the devastation really began to impact Butte. The dam at White’s Ice Pond (Alcova Reservoir, where the Butte Country Club is today) failed. Water rushed down to Silver Bow Creek, already swollen, which inundated the Montana Power Company substation at Oxford and Montana Streets, where the water was four feet deep. Silver Bow Creek was reported to be a mile wide. And on June 4, the rain changed to snow. Nine inches fell that day, dropping power lines all over the city. Any power that remained to transmit was cut off to avoid electric shocks from downed lines – a team of horses from the Lavelle Livery was electrocuted at Park and Washington, and several residents narrowly escaped the same fate. “Plague of Darkness Reigns,” the red-ink headline in the Butte Miner proclaimed. No street lights, no electric trolleys, no other power – except for the central business district, Park to Granite and Montana to Wyoming, most of which was served by the Phoenix Power plant in the alley south of the City Hall.

By June 5, the situation with railroads was the “worst in history” in the state. Problems extended from Great Falls to Billings, and Butte to the Flathead, with landslides and washouts completely shutting down train travel. The Water Plant Dam at Great Falls collapsed, Choteau was “surrounded by water,” and the town of Belt was partially inundated. Passengers on the train stalled at Drummond practically ate Drummond out of food and drink over the three days they were stranded there. A man walked off a washed-out footbridge at Rocker, the first flood related death in Silver Bow County.

On Saturday, June 6, “Entire Montana Now Paralyzed by Destructive Floods,” according to the Anaconda Standard. The big Higgins Bridge in Missoula collapsed the next day, joining every other bridge in Missoula County. The Miner reported that William Clark’s Milltown dam at Bonner was safe, although at one point 15 feet of water was going over the spillway, and part of the structure of this brand-new dam was dynamited to allow more water to flow through.

The rainfall was not limited to Montana, but was widespread across the upper Missouri Valley. Flooding in Kansas and Missouri, especially around Topeka and Kansas City, was even more devastating to residential neighborhoods than the floods in Montana. By June 7, the rains had slacked off, and the Miner reported that “a strange object appeared over the western part of the city, resembling a ball of fire. Later it was identified as the sun, which disappeared several weeks since.” But it was another 6 days before the story left the front pages, and many months before a semblance of normalcy returned to the devastated communities in western Montana.

The long-term legacy of the 1908 flood was toxic mine tailings washed down Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River. Vast quantities, enough to cover more than 1,000 acres, spread throughout the watershed and piled up behind the Milltown Dam, ultimately killing life along huge reaches of the river. Today’s environmental cleanup, costing tens of millions of dollars, is necessary not just because the mine operations were cavalier in their concern for the environment, but because one of the most intense periods of mine and smelter activity coincided with a remarkable period of rain and snow falling on a landscape that had been modified so it could not cope with the precipitation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dusseau the Photographer

"The House that Jack Built," northeast corner Main and Broadway, 1901, before being demolished for the Hirbour Tower. Sign on second floor says "Dusseau the Photographer." Hennessy Building in left background.

By Richard I. Gibson

Angelo (or Alrick) Dusseau was born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1842 or 1843, of French-Canadian parents. He traveled west, to Wisconsin, by the time he was 23 years old, working as a carpenter on a railroad and as an engineer for a steam line in Missouri. By 1869 he was in Montana, a practicing musician in Helena.

July 20, 1876. Butte Miner.
A.J. Dusseau’s true calling – as a photographer – began in Deer Lodge about 1874, and he was in booming Butte by 1876 or 1877. One of his first studios in Butte was on “Upper Main Street” at a time when there was no north or south Main, reportedly above the Post Office, when it was on the west side of Main between Granite and Quartz. His studio may also have been just south of the corner of Copper and Main, on the east side.

By 1882 his residence and studio were both in “The House that Jack Built,” a two-story building on the corner of Broadway and Main where the Hirbour Tower stands today (see Lost Butte, Montana, p. 47). His sign, “Dusseau the Photographer,” was emblazoned across the Main Street side of that building until it was replaced by the Hirbour in 1901. In 1902, in partnership with George R. Thompson, Dusseau’s studio was at 219 East Park and the family was living at 720 Utah Avenue. Thompson continued the photography business after Dusseau died in 1908, and there was still a photo studio at 219 East Park in 1916. I believe the home at 720 Utah is still standing.

Among Dusseau’s photographic work is a portrait of Louisa Earp, wife of Morgan Earp. The portrait dates to about 1877, probably soon after he moved to Butte. Louisa and Morgan were probably together in Montana at various points in time from the late 1870s until early 1880. It’s not clear when they married – some reports say 1875 – nor is it clear exactly when and for how long they were in Butte, but there is little doubt that Morgan was on the Butte police force from December 1879 until March 1880. He joined his brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, soon after he left Butte, and was wounded at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881. He was shot and killed in Tombstone in March 1882 at age 30.

Dusseau’s wife Amanda, from Missouri, was 17 years younger than A.J. Their daughter Elmira was probably born in Butte in 1888. A.J. Dusseau died August 28, 1908, leaving a rich photographic legacy.

Sources: Cabinet Card Gallery; Photo of Butte man in Pythian regalia from The Autry’s Collections; portrait of couple courtesy Francine Le Blanc. Ad from Butte Miner, July 20, 1876. Broadway and Main photo from Anaconda Standard, May 12, 1901. See also Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers, By Sherry Monahan

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Smells of Butte


By Richard I. Gibson

Geologists know that rocks have distinctive smells. Probably not enough to take your identification to the bank, but when you break granite it smells differently than limestone or sandstone. We might not know for sure what it is, blindfolded, but we’d know they are different. And wet smashed granite doesn’t smell the same as hot dry granite.

Butte must have accosted the world with its smells. I can imagine that the early stamp mills – smashing rocks – must have generated a really distinctive dust smell, and if it was winter, or raining, it would have been just that much different. People notice these things, in the town where they live, where they know its cycles and systems.

If you lived at 401 North Wyoming, at the foot of the Anaconda Road, would you smell the thousands of men pouring down the Road every eight hours – even if they’d showered in the dry, even if they were picky about keeping their street clothes clean?

It’s inconceivable to me that at least in spring and summer, walking past the dozen groceries on Park Street, that you wouldn’t be drawn by the citrus scent of imported oranges and grapefruit, piled on the sidewalk stands. By the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, by the bread – Oh, the fresh-baked bread!

And the restaurants! So many, so varied! What tantalizing aromas must have enticed the miner, the haberdasher, the clerk, the teacher! The complicated blending of Greek, of Italian, of Serbian, of boiled cabbage, must have been unidentifiable, but memorable. Your grandparents, your great-grandparents could probably be transported to a spot in Butte in a particular time if those molecules could be blended again. Like the smell of an old window screen after a summer rain, evoking the scenes of childhood. Like a circus memory, the smell of cotton candy and roasting peanuts and elephant dung and acrobats’ sweat. Smells of Butte.

There’s no such thing today, but it’s not all gone. You can walk down the block of Park east of Montana at certain times, when the Renfrows are roasting coffee at Tap 'Er Light and Chuck is doing something in Quarry Brewing that sends more aroma than usual into the air. It’s usually late morning, on a not-too-cold day, with just enough breeze, probably 2.7 miles per hour, to move the scents around. It doesn’t smell like coffee or like beer. It smells like Park Street east of Montana.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The first block of East Park Street

North side of Park Street, Main to Wyoming, circa 1893. See bottom for annotated version.

By Richard I. Gibson

Somewhat remarkably, most of the buildings in the photo above are still standing. You are looking at the north side of Park Street between Main and Wyoming. From left to right, the buildings are

1. Owsley Block, northeast corner of Park and Main, with the turret. Site of NorthWestern Energy construction today. 

2. Narrow building with a tall turret. Parking lot west of Trimbo’s today, lost in 1973 fire that destroyed Owsley Block (Medical Arts Building).

3. Owsley Block #2, with the prominent bay front. Trimbo’s today.

4 – 5 – 6. Of the three buildings east of Trimbos, two definitely still stand, and probably all three. The first one, with the high second story, is Owsley Block #1. Then there are two buildings of equal height. All three of these buildings are occupied by Rudolph’s furniture today. The façade on the third building has been modified a lot but I think the original building is still in there.

7. The little one-story building is gone, replaced in 1917 by the Chester Block (Whitehead’s) which still stands.

8 – 9.The massive block with the two large awnings is the Shiner Block (Exer-Dance), vacant but still standing in 2015, and the corner building, the Key West House (lodgings) and Bray’s Butte Cash Grocery, is occupied by Rediscoveries today.

This photo dates to 1892 to 1895. The Owsley Block was completed in 1891-92, and The Butte Cash Grocery was located on this corner from 1887 to 1896. The Key West House was not in business under that name in 1895, but of course the sign might still have graced the façade.

The trolley line started in 1890. You can see the tracks in the center of a dirt Park Street. I believe the sidewalks are made of wood, and note the fire hydrant in front of the Butte Cash Grocery and the policeman leaning on the telephone pole to the right.

Courtenay, Case, & Gravelle Company (“Gents Furnishings”), advertised on the east face along the top of the Owsley Block, was incorporated in 1891 and had its store in the big corner building at Park and Main. Joseph Gravelle had come to America from his native France in 1889. After the store closed in 1906 he moved to Waitsburg, Washington to open a store under his own name. Courtenay left the partnership in 1897, to be replaced by Ohioan Arthur Ervin; the store changed its name to accommodate that change in ownership. Joseph Case came to Butte in 1880 from his native San Francisco, to which he returned when the store closed. Ervin also left Butte in the early 1900s.

A.F. Bray
Absolom F. Bray was a more permanent fixture in Butte. He was born Oct. 21, 1852, at Langdon Cross, Cornwall, England, and came to America in 1876. He established his first grocery in Butte about 1885, but failing heath drove him to California for a time. He returned to open the Butte Cash Grocery in 1886. It was originally located at the site of the Murray Bank, the northwest corner of Copper and Main, but he moved to the site in the photo above, Park and Wyoming, the next year. In 1889, Bray was elected to the first Montana state legislature.

“He had a voice that could make a boatswain’s rumble sound like a whisper” – A.F. Bray in the legislature.

When the photo above was made, the store was a typical retail grocery, but in 1896 he moved to the corner of Park and Arizona and focused on the wholesale trade as well as retail. He was doing $1,000,000 a year in revenue by 1901.

“Every nook and corner are crammed with the finest assortment of staple and fancy groceries that the markets of the world can furnish.” —Butte Cash Grocery, in Western Resources, 1901


A.F. Bray died September 5, 1906 in Butte. His son, A.F. Bray, Jr., born in Butte, became a prominent member of the legal profession, serving as the chief judge of the California Court of Appeals. Bray Jr. died in 1987 at age 97.





Sources:
I do not know the source of the photo at top. It is too old to be in copyright, so it is public domain and free to use, but I would like to credit the source if someone knows.

Courtenay Case & Gravelle store information 

A.F. Bray Jr. 

Progressive Men of Montana; Western Resources, Denver, CO, June 1901 (Bray photo).

Quote about his voice from Walton History, By Shirley W. Cozad

Butte Cash Grocery advertisement from Anaconda Standard, May 29, 1896.

Courtenay Case ad from Anaconda Standard Almanac 1893, digitized by Butte Public Library

Annotated to show buildings including present-day occupants. Owsley and the one labeled #2 are gone today.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tom Manning

Harriet Schultz and Cheryl Ackerman examine one volume of the transcript of Tom Manning's inquest.


By Richard I. Gibson

Most of my readers probably know of Tom Manning, one of the two killed in the Anaconda Road Massacre on April 21, 1920.

Striking miners marching up the Anaconda Road were shot by armed gunmen coming from the Neversweat Mine – probably agents of the Anaconda Company, but the whole truth will never be known. Twenty-five-year-old Manning, an Irish immigrant who lived at 20 West Quartz Street (Montana Standard parking lot today), intended to bring his wife and infant son to Butte that fall, using savings he’d scraped together in three years of mining. But he never got the chance.

Doctor's testimony shows that
Tom Manning was shot in the back.
Manning died four days after he was shot in the back. He lay in state at the home of Tom Scanlon, an IWW sympathizer, at 316 North Idaho (a vacant lot today). 3,000 mourners followed Manning’s casket from St. Patrick’s church to Holy Cross Cemetery.

While most union men believed the Company did the deed, the coroner’s jury undoubtedly was influenced – if not outright controlled – by the Anaconda Company. Ultimately, the verdict was returned that they could not determine blame. The radical Butte Daily Bulletin, with obvious irony, headlined

“Tom Manning Dead, According to Verdict Rendered by Coroner’s Jury.”

So, if this is all well known, why this post? Recently the entire transcript of the inquest into Tom Manning’s death re-surfaced. It had been in obscurity in the Court House, and now resides in the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. The transcript runs to a couple thousand pages, and includes, as evidence, a complete typescript of the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. Together with pages of testimony.

While the final result of the inquest has always been known, to know that the full text is now available is great news for historical researchers. Thanks to Harriet Schultz at the Archives for showing it to me!

Photos by Dick Gibson. Additional information from Lost Butte, Montana, by Richard I. Gibson, and More Montana Campfire Tales, by Dave Walter.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Heaviest locomotive in the world - or maybe not quite!



By Richard I. Gibson

In February 1901, Butte and Anaconda were abuzz with the announcement of the arrival of a new engine for the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railway. The “mastodon hog,” No. 19. was built by the Schenectady Company for the express purpose of hauling ore from Butte to the then new smelter being built in Anaconda.

Here are her specs:

Gauge: 4 feet, 8½ inches
Cylinders: low pressure, 34-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
High pressure, 23-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
Drivers: 56-inch diameter
Wheel base: 26 feet 9 inches
Engine weight: 110 tons
Water and Coal load: 54 tons (5,500 gallons of water, 10 tons bituminous coal)
Front sheet of steel boiler, 84-inch diameter
Boiler pressure: 210 pounds of steam per square inch
Boiler sheet thickness: one inch (average heretofore, five-eighths inch)
Boiler tubes: 414 1¼-inch tubes

The smokestack was cast iron, engine frames were hammered iron, and piston rods were made of Cambria steel hardened by the Coffin process. The tires were Krupp crucible steel four inches thick. The drive springs were installed by the A. French Spring Company. The cab was wood, with steel running boards. The whole engine was painted “B.A. &  P. standard black.” She had two Dressel headlights 16 inches in diameter.

The first test run, under the command of Engineer Tipton, was accompanied by the builder’s agent, L.S. Watres, Master Mechanic Harrity, and an Anaconda Standard reporter. The engine traveled from Anaconda to Rocker pulling 41 cars. The engine’s maximum capacity was rated at 60 cars of ore totaling 4000 tons, which it could pull at 30 miles per hour.

The engine came in on the Great Northern Line, and its size proved a problem in many places where bridges were too low for it to pass. They had to lower the stack in order to do so. It jumped the track at Minot, North Dakota, the only serious incident en route to Anaconda.

“Elaborate and complete in every detail, the new freight engine marks a new epoch in freight hauling in the United States, and especially in the transmission of ore in mining states to the smelters.”

But within a dozen years, the B.A. & P. was moving from steam locomotives to electrical systems, erecting the first heavy-haul electric railway in the world. No. 19 was sold to the General Equipment Company of New York City on July 24, 1917. General Equipment in turn sold it to the Peñoles Mining Company in Mexico. It was probably scrapped by the late 1940s.

Primary source: Anaconda Standard, February 3, 1901. See also Wired For Success, by Charles Mutschler (WSU Press, 2002).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chastine Humphrey


These cabins and the tree were on the first block of West Quartz Street, where the old fire station (Butte Archives) stands today. The main cabin and tree were just west of the fire station, in today's parking lot. All these buildings are gone today. All but the left-most of the row of three cabins were gone by 1901. 

By Richard I. Gibson

The first boy born in Butte, Chastine Humphrey, was born April 16, 1868, in a three-room log cabin beneath the shade of a fir tree – the only tree in the townsite of Butte. The cabin stood on West Quartz Street at the later site of the Maryland Boarding House, which was located at 21 West Quartz, the parking lot immediately west of the Fire Station, today’s Archives building.

Chastine Humphrey, Sr., the boy’s father, laid out the townsite of Butte in 1866. The senior Humphrey’s bother, Oliver, passed through the Butte area in the early 1860s but ultimately settled in Helena. He wrote to his brother encouraging him to come to Montana, and in late 1864, Chastine, his wife and daughter (later Mrs. Nell O’Donnell of Walkerville) arrived in Butte. Mrs. Humphrey was reportedly the first woman in Butte.

Of the cluster of cabins Humphrey built, only one was still standing in 1901, just east of the then new fire station. That log cabin served as a barn and stable for Gilmore & Salisbury’s stage coach horses. Further east, another small cabin had been built by Ben Kingsbury. The 3-story Kingsbury Block was built about 1887 on the northwest corner of Quartz and Main, where it stood until it was demolished in the Model Cities program in 1969-70. Furthest east, probably the cabin in the lower left corner in the image above, William Matthews and Bryan Irvine shared the space. Matthews committed suicide by jumping from a window at the Insane Asylum at Warm Springs. Irvine was still in Butte 30 years after the date of the image above (circa 1868), living at 643 West Granite Street in 1895.

Other residents in the 1860s in this block included A.W. Barnard, on the south side of the street. The story went that when W.A. Clark first came to Butte, he spent his first night here in Barnard’s cabin. Barnard, like Kingsbury, became quite wealthy, and built the Barnard Block on the site of his original cabin.

The tree that sheltered the Humphrey house, the last one in the area, finally “yielded to the axe and fell like the gallant soldier on the field of battle, after all hope had gone.” The Humphreys burned the wood in their fireplace and kitchen stove.

Chas Humphrey, the son, took a job with the Butte Miner newspaper in 1879, at age 12. He eventually became a member of the International Typographical Union, working until automated machines – Mergenthalers – replaced him in 1895. He continued in the printing profession including typesetting for the Jefferson County Zephyr, in Whitehall.

Chastine Humphrey, Jr. died of pneumonia January 12, 1901, only 32 years old. The Humphreys are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

On the occasion of Chas’s death, his sister Nell O’Donnell recounted the locations of the Humphrey cabins on West Quartz.
“Our house stood where the Maryland House now stands [i.e., the lot immediately west of the Archives building today]. It has been said that it stood upon the site of the new fire station. It is true a house belonging to father stood on the fire station site, but we did not live in it. The old tree stood on the slope almost where the kitchen of the Maryland house stands. [i.e., near the alley, just west of the northwest corner of the Archives building].”
The photo below is from 1875 and shows the Humphrey cabin and the tree at far right. Beneath it is the same photo, annotated to show buildings and Main Street.





Primary resource: Anaconda Standard, January 27, 1901. Also Sanborn maps and city directories. See also this post about the first house in Butte, on East Quartz St.  See also The Story of Butte, special issue of The Butte Bystander for April 15, 1897. Images of Butte in 1875 from A Brief History of Butte, Montana: the World's Greatest Mining Camp, by Harry C. Freeman, 1900, digitized by Butte Public Library, annotations by Gibson.