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.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Citizenship Denied, With Prejudice

By Richard I. Gibson

What did it take to become a U.S. citizen in Butte in 1917? The basic requirements were about as they are today, five years of residency and pass a citizenship test. You had to get two witnesses to testify to your character as well. So, more interestingly, what did it take to be denied citizenship?

I went through 750 petitions for citizenship in the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, spanning most of the time from 1915 to 1920. At a guess, maybe 10% or so were denied. Let’s list the reasons for denying citizenship in Butte in 1917.

Without prejudice

First, you could be denied without prejudice. These were mostly technicalities, of which by far the most common was “failure to diligently prosecute the petition,” which I think means that too much time had gone by between the applicant’s Declaration of Intent to become a citizen and the actual hearing to address the question, but it seems to be a reason that is separate from “Declaration of Intent more than seven years old.” 

The second-most common cause for denying a petition was having witnesses that were incompetent. That included witnesses who were not themselves U.S. citizens, as well as those who had inadequate personal knowledge of the petitioner for the necessary five years. Other fairly common reasons included the petitioner withdrawing the application, often because of returning to his or her native country, and an application that was from someone who lived outside the jurisdiction of the Silver Bow County court.

I saw only two applications denied for not knowing enough about civil government (i.e., they failed the test), and one was rejected because he couldn’t read English. Two lost out because they had filed their intent to become citizens before they were 18 years old, which invalidated the petition, and two others had renounced their allegiance to the wrong government (one renounced Germany, one France, when both were determined to be subject to the King of England). A few failed to satisfy the 5-year residency requirement. One of them had returned to England for a year, invalidating his intent. A few used different names in the declaration of intent and the petition to become a citizen, and that was a no-no. One woman’s request to become a citizen was denied because she claimed her husband was a citizen when he was not. And about 10 petitions were dismissed because the petitioner was dead.

Five or six applications were nullified because the petitioner was already a citizen, typically having obtained it while in the U.S. military. Once you had declared your intent to become a citizen, you were subject to the draft even if you hadn’t yet received citizenship. One applicant was denied his petition for failing to register for the draft in Butte on June 5, 1917 – but his request was dismissed without prejudice, as was the request of the one illegal immigrant in the record, a seaman who deserted his British ship.

With prejudice

In all the 750 petitions, I only found only ten who were denied citizenship “with prejudice.” Two of them were men of “immoral character,” though the details were not specified. One other applicant appeared before the court “under the influence of liquor,” and another was disrespectful of the court in some way. One did not admit to having an arrest record. Another refused to pay “a reasonable fee to take depositions regarding his residency and character” – since that sounds like a technicality to me, I have to wonder if there was more to it than that.

Three were denied in connection with their rejection of military service – one “refused to bear arms in support of the U.S. government;” another was a deserter under the Selective Draft Law; and the third claimed exemption from military service, contrary to his Declaration of Intent which said otherwise.

This research all came about because Don Plessas was researching his grandfather, Peter Gaida. You can find much more about him and his descendents, and about Meaderville, in Don’s book, Katie’s Story, which you can find in Butte at the Archives, in bookstores, at the Visitor Center, and elsewhere.

Don discovered that Peter Gaida’s application for citizenship was denied, with prejudice, because of “his association with the I.W.W. organization in Butte, Montana.”

Even acknowledging the turmoil and contentiousness in Butte over the I.W.W. and other labor unions, this seems to be a remarkable thing – to deny citizenship for that reason. The denial came on January 25, 1918, near the height of the anti-Communist, anti-German, hyper-patriotic hysteria sweeping Montana during World War I, but it still seems surprising, especially since it is the only one out of 750 applicants denied for such a blatantly political reason. The I.W.W. boasted hundreds if not thousands of members in Butte in the late 1910s, and it’s hard to believe that Peter Gaida was the only non-citizen I.W.W. member to apply for citizenship then. Maybe he was the only one whose witnesses tattled on him. Don and I will continue to research this.

Don’s grandfather, Peter Gaida, remained in Butte, but died in 1922 from miner’s consumption (silicosis) when Don’s mother Katie was four years old. Her story includes the remarkable history of Meaderville, and I recommend it highly.

Thanks to Don Plessas for the discovery and permission to blog about it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Take me out to the ball game

By Richard I. Gibson

Minor league baseball in Butte began about 1892, when Butte was part of the Montana State League. In 1900, the team was called the Butte Smoke Eaters, but (perhaps because the smelters were moving away to Anaconda, and the atmosphere in Butte was improving) by 1902 the Butte Miners were playing, as part of the Pacific Northwest League.

The league the Butte Miners played in was variously the Pacific Northwest, Pacific National, Northwestern, or Inter-Mountain, and from 1911-1914 they were part of the Union Association.

In April 1914 the team that took the field was managed by James William “Ducky” Holmes, a 45-year-old pro with 21 years in the minors including eight years as a manager. Most of his career was in Nebraska and Iowa (where he was born, January 28, 1869), with some years as far away as Detroit. 1914 was his only year in Butte. He was 5’6” tall, 170 pounds, and batted left and threw right. His career lasted until 1922, and he died in Iowa in 1932.

The 1914 Butte Miners finished second in the League, after the Boise Irrigators and ahead of the Helena Senators, Murray (Utah) Infants, Ogden Canners, and Salt Lake City Skyscrapers. Butte led the league in 1913. Butte's 1914 players who had some time with the majors included John Halla (Cleveland, 1905), Ed McCreery (three games for Detroit in late 1914), and Steve Melter (St. Louis in 1909).

After the 1917 season, Butte had no minor league team until 1978 when the Butte Copper Kings franchise began.

Photo from Anaconda Standard, April 19, 1914
Reference: http://www.baseball-reference.com

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day - 1903

From the March 15, 1903, Anaconda Standard. The vignettes are Ross Castle, Killarney (upper right) and The Vale of Avoca (lower left). The artist, Willis Hale Thorndike, was born on Feb. 8, 1872 in Stockton, California, and studied art in San Francisco, Paris and New York. He began his career with the San Francisco Chronicle in 1890. By about 1901 he was in Anaconda, living at the Montana Hotel and working as an illustrator for the Anaconda Standard. He appears to have met and married Irene Hunsicker in Anaconda, and they lived there until they left for New York on January 3, 1904. Back east, Thorndike worked for the New York Herald and Baltimore Sun until 1915 when he returned to California. He worked as a political cartoonist in Los Angeles from 1928 until his death there on March 18, 1940.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Robert C. Logan

Today’s post is part of African-American History Month.

By Richard I. Gibson

Robert Logan traveled the world, spent most of his life in Butte, and started out a slave.

He never knew his parents. At age one, in 1859, he was sold into slavery in Lexington, Kentucky for $150. His master, Edward W. Powell, raised race horses, and Robert rode as a jockey as well as performing other duties for Powell and other horsemen. When Logan was 17 he fled Kentucky and for the next dozen years survived one way or another. In 1890, he arrived in Butte. According to the 1890 census, there were 1,490 African-Americans living in Montana then.

Logan took one of the only semi-professional jobs available to a Black man in 1890, as a porter on the Butte-to-Salt Lake run of the Union Pacific Railroad. During layovers in Salt Lake City, he took voice lessons from Evan Stevens, the Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and other voice instructors in Salt Lake City. They helped him make his deep voice into a world-renowned instrument.

Logan sang in 1896 before 30,000 people at the Welsh International Eisteddfod musical competition in Denver and was the only non-white finalist. The winner “was a foregone conclusion,” a Welshman, but Robert Logan came in second. This launched his career as a singer.

In 1899 he joined a Black minstrel group, the Georgia Minstrels, that performed in 40 states, 10 Canadian provinces, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. His deep bass voice became famous. “His range covers more than two full octaves with his lower notes resembling the distant vibration of thunder,” according to a New South Wales newspaper review in 1899. And in Hawaii, he reportedly portrayed Simon Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin so well that the "audience was ready to do him bodily harm."

The troupe included Butte on its itinerary, and when in Butte they often performed at parties hosted by William Andrews Clark, Jr., presumably at Will’s home on Galena Street. W.A. Clark., Jr. was the founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1919.

Logan tired of the traveling performer’s life and returned to Butte permanently in 1905. He took a job as janitor for the Miner’s Savings Bank and Trust on West Park Street when they opened their doors in 1907, and held the job until he retired in 1935. He continued to sing with the Bethel Baptist Church choir – he and his wife Elizabeth lived at 112 S. Idaho Street, just two doors north of the African-American Bethel Baptist Church at the corner of Idaho and Mercury. Robert and Elizabeth organized the choir, and Elizabeth was the accompanist until her death in 1935. The sites of the church and the Logan home are occupied by the Fire Station today.

He continued to sing for special events, including the 1921 funeral of General Charles S. Warren at Mountain View Methodist Church. Warren was the first Chief of Police in Butte, a co-founder of the Inter Mountain Publishing Company, and a charter member and first president of the Silver Bow Club. Warren Island, in Lake Pend Oreille, is named for him. Warren lived at 211 S. Washington, so was a near neighbor to Robert and Elizabeth Logan.

Even at age 83 Logan was a soloist and singer with the Butte Male Chorus. He died in 1945, remembered as one of the greatest bass singers of his day. Robert and Elizabeth Logan are buried in Butte's Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

Resources: primary biography – Montana Standard, March 1, 1942; Montana Standard, March 3, 1945; The Crisis, W.E.B. duBois, ed., 1921; Montana, Its Story and Biography, edited by Tom Stout, American Historical Society, 1921. Thanks to Cheryl Ackerman for finding the 1942 news article.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Naming of the Neversweat

The famous seven stacks, 1900.
The following is taken verbatim from Mining Reporter, Dec. 29, 1904.


We have been entertained many times by the quaint naming of well-known mines, but strangely few of such stories find their way into print. Among mines of queer names and stories are the "Wake Up Jim," "R. A. M.," "Wano-Wato," "X10U8," the alleged Pontius Pilate group on Holy Cross mountain and so forth. At one time the naming of mining claims so appealed to the riotous imaginations of the early miners that the federal government took a hand in the game and made regulations as to how far they could go in giving their locations a name.

The stories as to how some claims received their curious appellations are always Interesting. The Anaconda Standard vouches for the following:

It has been told in the Standard on more than one occasion how the great Anaconda and St. Lawrence mines received their names. A companion mine to these mines is the Never Sweat, and at the present time it may be doubted if there is any greater mine in the entire Butte camp than the Never Sweat mine. While in years past more ore has been taken out of the famed Anaconda, at the present time there is no mine from which a greater amount of ore is taken than from the Never Sweat. It is down 2,200 feet and there is no deeper mine in the camp save the Anaconda itself, which is down 2,400 feet.

H. S. Clark, one of Butte's most esteemed pioneers, was telling to a party of friends the other day how the Never Sweat received its peculiar name.

"I think it was back in the year 1875 that it was located," said Mr. Clark. "I was clerk of the court at the time and it was the custom with a number of the prospectors in those days to give me an interest in the mines they located provided I would file the location and pay the fee, few of the prospectors having much ready cash. Some of my interests in the mines I kept for years; some I gave away; some I sold for little or nothing some I got a good thing out of. All of them nearly would have yielded me handsomely had I held onto them to later days.

"Among the locations made at that time was the Never Sweat. Joe Ransom and Bill McNamara were the locators and they gave me an interest in the property with them.

"Ransom and McNamara had got a little hole dug, perhaps forty or fifty feet deep, when they came by my cabin one day.

"'Well, how is the mine coming on, boys?' I asked.

"'It's a cinch we will never sweat any taking ore out of that hole,' said Ransom.

"'What have you named it?'

"'Ain't named it yet, and don't think it is worth naming," said McNamara.

"'You'd better name it so I can put the location on record in correct shape,' I said.

"'Well, you name it,' said Ransom.

"'Then we'll call it the Never Sweat mine,' said I, 'as you think you will never sweat taking ore out of it.'

"So that is the name it received and the name it has always had. I think I afterwards got about $1,500 for my interest."

The mine is worth untold millions at this day.

* * *

Photo from A Brief History of Butte by Harry C. Freeman, 1900.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day in Butte, 1903

The text reads:

For centuries, there has been a superstition connected with the 14th of February, and it has long been regarded as a fitting and propitious time for choosing valentines for loving friends. Just what connection it has with the memory of good old St. Valentine is not clear, but the custom has been handed down from the storied past and it is observed to-day, though in a modified form. Wheatly in his “Illustration of the Common Prayer” says that St. Valentine “was a man of most admirable parts, and so famous for his love and charity that the custom of choosing valentines upon his festival took its rise from thence.”  In England, Scotland and France the day was celebrated by a company placing the names of maids and bachelors written on pieces of paper into a receptacle and then drawing them lotterywise. This practice attained a high degree of popularity in the fifteenth century, but later fell into disuse for some cause. Nowadays St. Valentine’s day is observed by sending to one’s friend decorated cards with mottoes or verses written theron.

—Anaconda Standard, Feb. 8, 1903. Art by J.C. Terry, staff artist.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Western Lumber Company

By Richard I. Gibson

Even after the brick ordinance went into effect mandating fire-resistant construction in Butte, the demand for lumber was still huge. Many brick buildings were still framed in wood, and most residences in the booming city were wood, or brick-veneered wood.

W.A. Clark
The Western Lumber Company was “one of the oldest and most successful” lumber companies in the city. W.A. Clark, ever with an eye to profit (and probably other motives), created the company in 1898 and was President of Western Lumber in 1905. Other officers were A.H. Wethey, Vice President; W.M. Bickford, Secretary; Harry W. McLaughlin, Treasurer; and W.W. Dunks, local manager. Like Clark, Wethey got around in business, and he was also Secretary of Clark’s Colusa-Parrot Mining & Smelting Co. with an office at 10 West Broadway and a home on the prestigious west side, at 834 West Granite. McLaughlin was a Missoula legislator whose support Clark was reportedly trying to buy—1898 was precisely when Clark was beginning his aggressive efforts to attain the U.S. Senate seat.

Walter Bickford’s law office was in the Silver Bow Block (the old one, where the parking lot is today across from the Montana Standard) and he lived in a bay-fronted five-plex at 223 North Washington Street which is gone today. William Dunks, who lived at 817 Colorado and was a bookkeeper in 1900, succeeded O.J. McConnell as local manager about 1903. Dunks continued as the local manager at least until 1928, when the Anaconda Company acquired Western Lumber from W.A. Clark’s heirs. In 1931-32, Anaconda shut the operation down.

Western Lumber together with Clark’s real estate company, Clark-Montana, were ultimately responsible for the dam on the Clark Fork and the company town that became Milltown. They operated a small railroad in the Bonner area, with 10 miles of track, from 1912-1928. The company had sawmills across western Montana, with a planing mill at Lothrop (or Lathrop), near today’s Alberton northwest of Missoula, but most of the lumber came to Butte.

Milltown dam (1908 flood)
The Western Lumber complex occupied the block bounded by Main, Porphyry, Wyoming, and Gold Streets, where Butte High School stands today. By 1916, that block included an auto repair shop on the corner of Porphyry and Wyoming, pretty much where the main entry to the school is today. There were also blacksmiths and a paint shop in the block, together with a row of at least nine alley houses on the alley that’s now between the Tripp & Dragstedt Apartments and the school.

Western Lumber acquired the Montana Lumber & Manufacturing Co., which occupied the same Main St. location in 1900, but the buildings were “vacant and not used” at that time. Western rejuvenated and expanded the Butte operation. This part of town was a sort of “lumber central” for many years. In 1888, the Silver City Lumber Company spread across a couple blocks around Gold to Platinum and Colorado to Dakota (at a time when Gold Street didn’t go through) and there was a small planning mill, the Phoenix, on Porphyry east of Main, where the Montana Lumber and Western Lumber Companies would expand.

Butte High was built in 1936-38 on the land vacated by the 1931-32 demise of the Western Lumber Company, owned at that time by the Anaconda Company.

You could probably write a book about the Western Lumber Company — so look at this post as just a tantalizing introduction.

Resources: Montana Catholic, Jan. 21, 1905; Two Rivers History; City Directories; Sanborn Maps; photo of Milltown Dam during 1908 flood via Butte CTEC.