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. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Rothschild Connection

By Richard I. Gibson

Earl of Rosebery (image from Wikipedia)
Archibald Primrose, Fifth Earl of Rosebery and Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1894-95 married Hanna de Rothschild in 1878, at a time when she was the richest woman in Britain. Rosebery was a celebrated Scottish imperialist, anti-Socialist and philanthropist, first president of the London Scottish Rugby Football Club, so well known that his image adorned cigar boxes. The combined Rosebery-Rothschild fortunes allowed them to invest widely, even as far afield as Butte, Montana Territory.

Rosebery’s American business interests were developed by a dashing young New Yorker, Ferdinand Van Zandt. The growing silver mines at Burlington, a few miles west of Butte, led him to encourage Rosebery to invest in the Bluebird Mine in 1885, and November 22, 1886, Van Zandt’s 90-stamp mill opened there, helping yield the remarkable output of 1.4 million ounces of silver in 1888 alone.

Home of Van Zandt in Burlington (c. 1906)
But success was short lived. Litigation contending claim encroachment in 1889 tied things up for several years. George Tyng, Rosebery’s manager at the White Deer Cattle Ranch in the Texas Panhandle, settled most of the law suits by 1891, but another that same year, a $2-million case, resulted in the authorities seizing the mine anticipating the need for payment, effectively shutting down production indefinitely. When the news reached London, Van Zandt shot himself in his room at the Brown Hotel in upscale Mayfair (some sources say he jumped to his death from a hotel window). The mine began to fill with water and was ultimately sold off piecemeal. The crash in the price of silver in 1893 was the final nail in the coffin: the Bluebird hoist went to the Diamond and the headframe was transported to the Blue Jay Mine (the Blue Jay was due east of the Steward, about half way between the Kelley and Parrot Mines). Ruins of the mill (closed permanently March 1, 1892) can still be found out west of Butte, east of Rocker.
Town of Burlington (c. 1906)

Burlington itself suffered because the Bluebird Mine and mill were the town’s primary employers, even though a number of smaller mines were in the vicinity including the Great Republic, Champion, and Moody & Sankey. All were primarily silver producers and all suffered mightily in the collapse of 1893.

Burlington had begun in a big way in 1885 when the post office was established. Within a few years some 2,000 residents called the place home, making for a flourishing community supporting at least seven saloons, two groceries, several hotels, a church, a community library, and a school. In 1887 the Bluebird was the only non-union operation in the Butte District; on June 13 that year (Miner’s Union Day) union leaders from Butte hiked out the Bluebird Trail (the westward extension of Park Street) and intimidated workers at the Bluebird Mine, bringing them back to Butte where they were initiated into the union, making Butte a closed shop, with all mines unionized.
Bluebird Mill about 1897, when it was idle. See map below for location.

Following the crash of 1893, at least 60 houses were loaded onto wagons and relocated into Butte. The town died a decade-long death. The post office closed in 1901 and the last business, a saloon and road house, shut down in 1905. Twelve families were still hanging on in 1906. For a time early in the 20th Century, Burlington’s dairy cows reportedly provided as much as 25 wagons of milk to Butte daily.

Map (1896) of area west of Butte, to Burlington, Bluebird, and Rocker. Click to enlarge.
Resources: Anaconda Standard, June 17, 1906 (source for two photos); The Story of Butte, special issue of the Butte Bystander, April 15, 1897 (photo of mill), from Gibson's collection; Montana Pay Dirt by Muriel Sibell Wolle, 1963; George Tyng/Rosebery/Van Zandt; Geologic Map from Butte Special Folio, US Geological Survey; When Toil Meant Trouble (George Everett).

Friday, December 21, 2012

The first house in South Butte

by Richard I. Gibson

You might think that 217 South Wyoming would lie between Mercury and Silver Streets, and you’d be right—but in the 1880s and early 1890s there was another 217 South Wyoming, between Second and Third Streets in South Butte. South Butte was separate and distinct from Butte, with its own street address system and its own population accounting until about 1895.

That house at 217 S. Wyoming, later 919 S. Wyoming, was built at Blackfoot City and moved into South Butte in 1883 by John H. McQueeney, establishing the first residence in that neighborhood. McQueeney was born in 1843 in New Haven, Connecticut, to Irish immigrants, Patrick and Catherine (nee McHugh) who took young John (second of eight children and the only survivor in 1900) with them to Chicago in 1854. After working in various Chicago businesses including ink manufacturing, about 1880 John headed west and became a cashier with the Utah & Northern Railroad (the first railroad into Butte, in 1881). He arrived in Butte in 1883 and established a transfer company or delivery service. He did well, allowing him to expand into real estate and other investments.

943 S. Wyoming (at Second St.): gone today.
The pre-1891 house at right (with the bluish roof) survives.
By 1898 McQueeney’s success took him a few lots south of his first Butte home, to 943 S. Wyoming (northwest corner with Second St.). This large two-story house with its jerkin-headed gable was his home for many years; the post-card photo here shows it to have been one of the more prestigious homes in South Butte.

In 1916, McQueeney’s original house at 919 S. Wyoming was gone, replaced by stables and a corral associated probably with his transfer company. The big house on the corner, 943 S. Wyoming, was lost sometime after 1957, but elements of the retaining wall survive, recalling the unusually spacious yard. In 1928, John and Isabella McQueeney's son Frederick was still living in the house at 943 and managing the McQueeney Transfer and Storage Company.

So far as I can determine, John McQueeney has no connection with the name of the McQueen neighborhood.

Thanks to Pat Armstrong for guidance and for the initial question, and for the image of the house at 943 S. Wyoming (via Jean Johanson). Additional resources: Progressive Men of the State of Montana (1901); city directories at Butte Archives; Sanborn maps.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Walkerville 1884

by Richard I. Gibson

from 1884 Bird's-Eye View, via Library of Congress. Annotations by Gibson.


Walkerville began early because of the nature of Butte’s minerals. The district is like an onion, with the core layers most copper rich, and the outer zones more silver rich. That’s why the Orphan Girl mine on the west side produced more than 7,000,000 ounces of silver before it closed in 1956 (but that's less than 1% of Butte’s silver) and why Walkerville grew up in the 1870s, before Butte’s real boom began.

Named for the Walker brothers of Salt Lake City who invested there, Walkerville held the famous Alice Mine (where Marcus Daly got his start), as well as massive associated mills. The Valdermere and Magna Charta Mines stood atop the hill to the east, and the Allie Brown, Lexington, Josephine, La Plata, and others bordered Walkerville on the south.

In 1884, much of this industrial complex was interconnected by a series of trams and railways, taking ore from smaller mines to central mills. Walkerville held one of McCune and Caplice’s largest general stores (on Main just north of Daly). The Rainbow Hotel, run by E.D. Sullivan, was on Main Street a bit north of the Lexington. The old Walkerville School on this illustration is not the Sherman School that still stands in Walkerville today.

Walkerville’s official population in 1880 was 444 (compare Butte at 3,364) but by 1890 it had quadrupled to 1,743 in the census, and nearby locations likely doubled that.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Mantle & Bielenberg Block – 3. Creamery Café

By Richard I. Gibson

Previous posts about the M&B block are here and here
1979 HABS/HAER photo.


The Creamery Café, commemorated in the prominent ghost sign on the east face of the M&B building (and a less prominent one on the west face), occupied part of the ground floor here from 1913 until 1957. The Café moved to the M&B on Broadway following the devastating fire on North Main, its original location.

Theo McCabe and Roy McClelland both came to Butte in 1903, and in July 1903 partnered to establish a restaurant in the basement at 36 North Main Street. Four years later, the Creamery Cafe subscribed to the Independent Telephone Company’s network (phone no. 5058), and the partners each had home phones as well, at 502 South Washington and 662 Colorado, respectively.

36 N. Main St. circa 1904.
In 1911, the Creamery was at 24 North Main, but it hadn’t moved—the address scheme changed. It was still in the basement of the same building, known as the O’Rourke Estate Building. (The building at Granite and Main, Curley’s store today, is the one we think of as the O’Rourke Estate, but the Estate likely owned many properties around Butte). On July 30, 1912, a fire and explosion at about 4:00 a.m. resulted from a worker rendering lard in the café oven and placing the burning container on the stove, where the flaming grease spattered everywhere spreading the fire very quickly. Although “all the fire equipment in the city” responded, ultimately three buildings were lost.

The fire burned out several businesses, wiping out almost the entire inventory of the McDonald Shoe Company, a $22,000 loss. Residents in Mrs. Josephine Bietz’ rooming house on the upper floors barely escaped with their scant night clothes; several ailing residents had to be carried out as the flames reached their apartment doors. Mrs. Bietz had been burned out when her lodging house was in the Harvard Block on West Park, destroyed in the huge conflagration that wiped out the Symons Stores and more in 1905 (Phoenix Block today). Several pets were killed in the fire, but no humans were injured seriously.

July 30, 1912. D'Acheul building at right,
Creamery Cafe in building at left.
The building south of the O’Rourke Estate/Creamery, 20 N. Main (32 N. Main before 1911) was erected before 1891 and for many years housed D’Acheul’s drug store. (See the vignette in this previous post; compare to the 1912 fire photo here.) At the time of the fire that destroyed it, Ley’s Jewelery was on the ground floor there, and the second level held offices and meeting halls; ironically, the Cooks and Waiters Unions met there. The total value of losses was estimated at more than $70,000 at the time, with about $52,000 covered by insurance. Later estimates pegged the total loss at about $49,000.

The three destroyed buildings were replaced in short order by three more, including two that survive today: the Rookwood Hotel/Speakeasy (and BS Café) at 24-26 N. Main, and the three-story building next door which holds a Ley’s Jewelry ghost sign. All the buildings in the rest of the block adjacent to these buildings, all of which survived the 1912 fire, were lost in conflagrations in 1969 (buildings to the north to Broadway) and 1973 (Medical Arts Center fire south to Park).

Sources: Montana Catholic Newspaper (Butte), January 21, 1905, including interior shot of café; Sanborn Maps (1900, 1916); City Directories (1903-1957); Anaconda Standard (fire image) and Butte Miner for July 31, 1912; ghost sign photo from 1979 HABS/HAER survey, via Library of Congress (public domain).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Was There? Excelsior at Caledonia

By Richard I. Gibson

The little triangular tract bounded by Excel, Caledonia, and the walking trail (former BA&P Railroad bed) has an interesting history. In 1891, the area around Excelsior was platted, but few homes had been built. Andrew Jackson Davis’s twin-sister homes at Granite and Excelsior were a year old, anchoring burgeoning upscale development along Granite and Broadway, but west of Excel and north of Granite there were only nine homes in the area north to Copper and west to Henry, and three of those were little shacks.

By 1900, Silver Bow County (mostly what we think of as Butte today) had more than doubled its 1890 population, from 23,000 to 48,000. The west side was growing, and in the same area, Granite to Copper and Excel to Henry, there were 37 houses, including five large two-story structures. West of Henry was more sporadic, but homes were popping up there, as well as to the north along Caledonia.

The growing west side was served by its own fire station beginning in 1901. It stood in the angle between Caledonia and Excel that was cut by the BA&P railroad. The photo here, from 1901, shows the fire station in its last stages of construction – it still bears the sign reading “this work is being done by Howard L. Hines, Contractor.” The view looks north from Caledonia, with the railroad crossing on Excel at right rear. Map

By 1916 the station had one hose wagon, an 1100-foot 2½-inch hose (made of first class cotton), two 400-foot second class cotton hoses, and was staffed by 6 men on two shifts, supported by two horses.

In 1951, the building together with the railroad tower house behind it was still standing, but was in use as an auto repair shop. In 1957 it was gone.

Image taken from p. 43 of Souvenir history of the Butte Fire Department (1901) by Peter Sanger, Chief Engineer, scanned by Butte Public Library.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Mantle & Bielenberg Block – 2. Nick Bielenberg

By Richard I. Gibson

The first in this series on the M&B Block is here.


Nicholas Bielenberg was born June 8, 1847, in Wewelsfleth along the Elbe River near its mouth in Holstein, then part of Denmark and today in Germany downstream from Hamburg. The family emigrated to Davenport, Iowa, when Nick was 7; he left home at age 16 to apprentice as a butcher in Chicago. Two years later, 1865, he took a steamboat up the Missouri to join his brother John and half-brother Conrad Kohrs in Montana. Nick operated butcher shops at Blackfoot City and Helena for several years, but by 1873 his focus was changing to stockgrowing. He continued various businesses, including the Butte Butchering Company, ultimately one of the largest meat-packing operations in the northwest and reputedly one of the first to employ large-scale cold storage.

Bielenberg lived most of his life in Deer Lodge, where the family home at 801 Milwaukee saw guests ranging from Jeanette Rankin to Gary Cooper. Nick was one of the first to bring cattle into the Deer Lodge Valley, and was one of the first members of the Montana Stockgrowers Association in 1879. He is generally credited with starting the sheep-raising industry in western Montana, eventually running some 130,000 head on ranches across the state.

Nicholas Bielenberg’s daughter, Alma (Higgins), became prominent in Butte garden circles, but she got her start in Deer Lodge. At her request Nick acquired the mortgage on the Deer Lodge Women’s League Chapter House, donating it to the organization. This gave Alma a platform for her early civic works that culminated in Butte’s garden clubs and National Garden Week.

In Butte, the butchering company was his primary venture, together with the Mantle & Bielenberg Block as an investment in an office building. Both Lee Mantle and Nick Bielenberg were prominent Republicans; Nick left the party to follow Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, when Bielenberg was a delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated Roosevelt on the Bull Moose ticket. By most accounts, Nick Bielenberg was a close friend and confidant of Teddy Roosevelt.

Pilot Butte Headframe in 2007 (photo by Dick Gibson)
Bielenberg was a partner in the Pilot Butte Mining Company, which in 1912 had a three-compartment shaft 2,400 feet deep. In that year, Pilot Butte employed 31 underground miners and 12 on the surface, resulting in an annual payroll of $60,000 (compare the Anaconda company’s annual payroll of more than $14,000,000 the same year). The Pilot Butte was connected underground to the Elm Orlu and Black Rock mines, both owned by W.A. Clark.

Nick Bielenberg died in Deer Lodge July 6, 1927.

Resources: Obituary, Helena Daily Independent, July 7, 1927; historic plaques (Montana Historical Society); A History of Montana, Helen Fitzgerald Sanders, Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913; Progressive Men of Montana (1901); Kohrs Packing Company blog  (portrait) ; Butte Butchering advertisement scanned by Butte Public Library; Biennial report of the Montana Dept. of Labor and Industry, 1913-14; photo of Pilot Butte mine headframe by Dick Gibson.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Butte Hotel

By Richard I. Gibson

Butte Hotel, left center with awnings, c. 1904.
Windsor is 2-story to left; Hirbour Tower at far left.
Original California Saloon (gray) at right behind the people.
The four-story Butte Hotel at 23-31 East Broadway (a parking structure today) was erected in 1892-93, opening in August 1893. It contained 120 rooms, expensive at $3 to $5 per night, as street cars “pass the door every 10 minutes,” their advertising boasted in 1895.

The Wilson Brothers, Frank and Hugh, were merchants in Centerville where they ran a general store at 942 North Main Street in the early 1890s. Apparently it was successful enough for them to erect the Butte Hotel on a vacant lot, the former site of the St. Nicholas Hotel. The St. Nicholas dated to before 1884, and I do not know if it burned down or it was demolished, but the location was a vacant lot by 1891.

Hugh Wilson was the first manager of The Butte. In 1918, brother Frank bought him out and managed it for years thereafter, succeeded by his widow, Mabel. The place became associated with the Democratic Party (Republicans met down the street at the Anaconda Employees Club, the old Thornton Hotel), and was known as “Liberty Hall” for the political addresses delivered from its balcony.

The Butte Hotel was one of the primary residences of Augustus Heinze. It contained both a public restaurant and a dining room for hotel patrons, as well as various store fronts on the first floor, and of course a big saloon and billiard parlor.
Butte Hotel lobby, 1895.
John Jahreiss operated a noted barbershop in the hotel. The Cabaret (probably in the original dining room) was a venue for national performers. The sketch here, from 1895, shows the lobby as viewed from the main Broadway Street entrance.

The hotel was vacant for some years until 1952 when remodeled stores opened on the first floor, and in September 1953 major remodeling had created 42 “ultra modern apartments” in the Butte Hotel building.

Unfortunately, the most expensive fire in Butte’s history to that date destroyed the building on August 9, 1954. Almost all of the apartments were occupied, and the fire left 125 residents homeless. Damage was estimated at more than $1,000,000 in 1954 dollars.

Montana Standard: coverage of August 9, 1954 fire.
The Windsor building to the west of The Butte was also destroyed in the fire. It was built in Deer Lodge in the 1870s and moved to Butte about 1880, and held Clifford’s bar and cigar store when it was destroyed in 1954, having survived the Shabbishacks campaign of 1928.

The Butte Hotel had survived at least two previous fires, one on July 13, 1901 ($10,000 damage) and another during World War II in a bingo parlor on the first floor.

The sketch of the lobby is from an ad in The Great Dynamite Explosions at Butte, Montana, by John Francis Davies (1895). The postcard image (from Dick Gibson's collection) is from between 1901 (Hirbour Tower present) and 1905 (original one-story California Saloon present – it was demolished in 1905). The fire photo is from the August 10, 1954 Montana Standard (in the Butte Archives).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scrap Drives for the War

by Richard I. Gibson

Butte’s copper contributed mightily to the U.S. war effort in both world wars. Shell casings (brass, a copper-zinc alloy), motors, and diverse war materiel all demanded copper, driving Butte to produce its most copper ever in 1917, at close to 180,000 tons.

During World War II, in Butte and across the nation, the public was actively involved in rounding up metal scrap to help with the war effort. While there is some evidence that the scrap drives didn’t really contribute all that much to the need for metals, there is no doubt that they contributed to morale, pride, and the sense of patriotic participation on the home front.

Scrap drives in Butte were documented well by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration--Office of War Information, the same photographers who had been recording the desolation of the Dust Bowl a few years earlier. All the photos below were taken by Lee Russell in October 1942. The school in the second photo is Webster, which stood where the intersection of Idaho and Aluminum is today (Idaho St. did not go through).

Kids did a lot of the work.
In front of Webster School on Aluminum St.

Boy Scouts and other organizations were involved.

Beer (this barrel was from Butte Brewing Co. on N. Wyoming) was provided to scrap drive volunteers.
They got free lunch, too.

Montana Governor Ford addressing the crowd to kick off the scrap drive.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mantle & Bielenberg Block - 1. Unions

by Richard I. Gibson

West Broadway was a busy place in the late 1890s. In 1897, 17 unions met at Pioneer Hall, Bricklayers Hall, or elsewhere inside the Mantle & Bielenberg block (today home to Sassy Consignments and Sales):

Mantle & Bielenberg Block (at right) in 1979
  • Brewers – every Sunday
  • Typographers – first Sunday
  • Musicians – second Sundays
  • Operative Plasterers – every Monday
  • Iron Moulders – second and fourth Mondays
  • Plumbers, Gas & Steam Fitters – every Monday
  • Pioneer Assembly, Knights of Labor – every Monday
  • Building Laborers – every Tuesday
  • International Association of Machinists – second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Tin, Sheet Iron, and Cornice workers – every Wednesday
  • Mill & Smeltermen – every Wednesday
  • Butchers – every Thursday
  • Printers and Decorators – every Thursday
  • Bricklayers and Masons – every Friday
  • Building Trades – every Saturday
  • Bakers – second and fourth Saturdays
  • Quarrymens Union – time not specified

15 other unions met variously at Miners Union Hall, Good Templars (on Broadway), Carpenters Union Hall, Columbia Block (Broadway), Scandinavian Hall (Quartz at Alaska), and other locations.

This post was started as a comprehensive report on the M&B Building, but, as John Muir wrote, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." The same in Butte. As I began researching Nick Bielenberg, the spider-like connections became evident: he was half-brother to Conrad Kohrs of Grant-Kohrs Ranch fame, who in turn was connected to Harry D’Acheul. And guess what – Nicholas Bielenberg was Alma Higgins’ father. So the rest of this interesting and complex story—including both Bielenberg and the M&B Block itself, together with the Creamery Café that occupied it—will come sometime in the future.

Photo from HABS/HAER survey, 1979, via Library of Congress (public domain). Union meeting information from Butte Bystander, January 8, 1897.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Butte Thanksgiving, 120 years ago


News notes from the Anaconda Standard for Thanksgiving, Thursday November 24, 1892.

John J. Garrity, “an intelligent looking man about 38 years old” who lived in South Butte, was arrested for mail theft on the Northern Pacific main line through Butte. In his job as baggage man he began robbing the mails the previous April, taking thousands of dollars in goods, much of which was jewelry and women’s undergarments. When arrested, he was “tending bar in South Butte and living of the harvest gathered while on the mail run, and basking in the smiles and favors of his lady friends to whom he had made the presents of underwear and other female unmentionables.” Garrity confessed the crime.

City Council’s police committee recommended the appointments of three men as policemen, a seemingly routine action, but following the committee’s report, “the committee flew off on a tangent and nearly everybody nominated some one for the police force.” Six more men were nominated, and “a general slaughter of the innocents then ensured and the heads of several excellent men were chopped off.” Only Charles Anderson, one of the original three, was approved by Council majority, leaving two more vacancies. Four new nominees were put forth, and John Nichols was elected; at that point further balloting for policemen was postponed until the next meeting.

“Mrs. Chris Nissler, wife of the brewer, died yesterday at Old Silver Bow.”

“Tom Lamb paid $1 and costs for getting drunk and going to bed on the sidewalk.”

“The amusing and interesting little monkey who has made a host of friends around the Standard office in the last three months by upsetting ink bottles and tearing up letters and ‘copy’ is missing, and it is thought that he has been abducted. A liberal reward is offered for Jocko’s return, either with or without his tail.”

Three members of the “fighting branch of the Austrian colony in Meaderville” were brought up to Judge McMurphey to answer a charge by John Schwab that the other two fired shots at him. One of the others in turn accused Schwab of assault with a knife. The cases were to go forward a week from next Thursday.

The drilling tournament was in progress, with Joe Freethy and Tom Tallon ultimately the “unquestioned champions of the world with the great record of 38 and 13/16 inches.” This would have been a double jacking drilling contest.

W.A. Clark et al. sold a portion of the Stewart Lode Claim to T.P. Maloney, for $221.40.

The Theater Comique (present-day location of the southern part of Metals Bank building, on Main Street) held a “good-natured, surging mass of people” who saw the opening of an acrobatic performance by the Gillette Family, together with a performance by raconteur Professor Oofty Goofty. Godfrey the dare-devil gymnast “displayed marvelous skill and nerve,” and the La Rose sisters “sang themselves into public favor at once.” Other performers included Fenton the pedo-manualist, Ollie Leonard the pleasing balladist, Lillie Haines vocalist, and Professor McKenzie and his drama. “Big Bertha” was the manager of the successful program, in her first managerial experience in Butte. All for probably 15¢, or maybe 25¢ for good seats.

Meanwhile, Maguire’s Opera House on Broadway (where the Leggatt Hotel is today) offered a special engagement by Ms. Jeffreys Lewis, as well as the comedian Charles Dickson.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Drilling image from Dept. of Transportation. Ads from Nov. 24, 1892 Anaconda Standard, from Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dr. Donald Campbell of West Broadway Street

By Richard I. Gibson


Donald Campbell was born the sixth of ten children November 1, 1862, at Marble Mountain, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, in western Cape Breton Island on the shores of Bras d’Or Lake. His parents were from Inverness and Southerland shires, Scotland, but had been in Nova Scotia since their infancy. In 1883 he emigrated to the U.S., to Massachusetts, where he worked in mental hospitals. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Vermont (Burlington) in 1891.

Young Doctor Campbell came to Butte, penniless, in the spring of 1892, quickly rising to prominence not only in Butte but throughout the west. By 1896 he was a state representative to the American Medical Association. He was elected Recording Secretary of the Rocky Mountain Interstate Medical Association in 1899, and likely was instrumental in bringing that group to Butte for its second annual conference, August 28-29, 1900. He seems to have accepted the office in the RMIMA reluctantly but with good humor, saying “I believe I owe the Association my thanks for electing me to this office but I think it was done more to get even with me than anything else and some time I shall get even with the man who suggested my name.”


Murray Hospital at Quartz and Alaska (parking lot today)
Campbell was a founder of the Silver Bow Medical Association and served as its vice president in 1900-01. He maintained his office in his home at 307 West Broadway, an ornate house in a section called the Mediterranean Block. The core of that house dates to before 1884, when it was a small, T-shaped one-story home. Campbell expanded it in 1896, adding the second floor and some of the embellishment, although much of the present Spanish Revival appearance dates to a second major remodeling in 1916.

Dr. Campbell became the personal physician to copper king F. A. Heinze sometime in the late 1890s, a position that undoubtedly contributed to his fame and fortune. He was also the local physician and surgeon to the Northern Pacific Railway. By 1905, he no longer maintained an office in his home, as he had become an officer, and eventually President, of the Murray Hospital (at Quartz and Alaska Streets). See also these posts on the Murray Hospital and Dr. Murray.

307 W. Broadway, part of the "Mediterranean Block"
He married fellow Nova Scotian Jessie F. Jeffreys at Hunter's Hot Springs, Bozeman, in 1893. Campbell died February 5, 1925, and is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Jessie lived until 1943. Today, his home is occupied by another member of the medical profession—a dentist.

Sources: Sanborn maps, Progressive Men of Montana, Find a Grave, Proceedings of the RMIMA, Western Resources June 1901: Butte, Montana at the dawn of the twentieth century. Images: Dr. Campbell’s portrait from Western Resources (1901), Montana Memory Project, scan by Butte Public Library; Murray Hospital from an old postcard; modern photo of 307 W. Broadway by Dick Gibson.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Iona Cafe and Pincus Building

By Richard I. Gibson
Iona Cafe (left), Pincus Building (right) in 2012
The Iona Café at 16 South Main Street is for sale.  It generated some buzz on the Building Butte Facebook page, so herewith is some historic background on it and the adjacent Pincus Building.

In 1909, baker Joseph W. Boulet established his bakery at 72 East Park, part of the Ivanhoe Block erected in 1905 and still standing. Boulet’s manager, Carroll Cornelius, lived upstairs in the Ivanhoe, while Boulet lived in a home at 1131 South Arizona, a duplex represented by a vacant lot today. A fire at the bakery and Iona Cafe at 72 E. Park (the address has changed), on Dec. 29, 1913, led to the business moving to South Main St.

State Cafe (left), Pincus Building (right), 1979
In 1914, the first building permit was issued for the building at 16 S. Main that would become the Iona Café. It began as a one-story building, but the second floor was added before 1916; the original building cost $4,000. The Iona Baking Company and the Iona Café, both run by Joseph Boulet, occupied the building by 1915. The entry tiles naming the Iona still survive.

The Iona Baking Company lasted until 1917, but that year the café became the State Café, managed by George Buller, who roomed at 26 East Park (US Bank and parking lot today). The ghost sign on the north side of the Iona, “Flor de Baltimore,” promotes a brand of cigar.

The Pincus Building south of the Iona is named for Adolph Pincus, an entrepreneur who dabbled in real estate, sold cigars, ran a copper precipitation plant, and referred to himself as a “capitalist,” which in those days pretty much meant an investor. Pincus built the second Thomas Block in 1913 to the design of architect Herman Kemna (see page 56 of Lost Butte), but in 1893-94 he was having the building constructed on South Main that bears his name. It was originally a saloon and pawn shop, and over time it has contained a restaurant and various stores, including (in 1928) the Butte Saddlery Company whose ghost sign survives on the south face of the Building.

State Cafe (left), Pincus Building (right), 1979
Pincus was born in Germany in 1859 and came to the U.S. in 1880. He died in 1929, and both he and his wife Hattie (1869-1932) are buried in B’nai Israel Cemetery in Butte. In 1928 they lived at 541 West Park (at Crystal), today the parking lot for the Hummingbird Cafe.
Front door, State Cafe, 1979
Click to enlarge

Robert Nickel was Pincus’ architect for the building. Nickel was only in Butte from about 1891-96, but his mark remains, in both the Pincus Building and the Haller Block at 605 West Park, today’s Hummingbird Café (see the Building Butte Facebook page cover photo). Nickel lived in a little miner’s cottage at 522 West Granite, which I can see out my window as I type this.



Photos: historic photos are from 1979 HAER survey of Butte, via Library of Congress and are public domain, photos probably by Jet Lowe. Modern photo (2012) by Dick Gibson.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Alma Higgins

The Alma Higgins Christmas Tree (left center) dedicated Dec. 14, 2013. 200 block of West Broadway.

By Richard I. Gibson

Dec. 2013: Christmas tree to honor Alma HigginsAnother story

Alma Higgins
Alma Higgins came to Butte from her native Deer Lodge in 1920, when she was 46 years old. She was an active member of various clubs and organizations, and founded the Civic Improvement League of Deer Lodge in 1902; she and Montana Womens’ Clubs generally were leading forces behind the creation of the State Forester position in 1909, a precursor to the University of Montana’s School of Forestry.

Butte was ugly in the 1920s (called “the ugliest town in the world” by Time magazine in 1928), but Higgins worked through photography exhibits and letter-writing campaigns, as well as in eventually 18 Butte garden clubs to beautify Butte. Her “Garden Week” in Butte in 1922 became a national event (still celebrated) thanks to her lobbying and the designation by President Harding in 1923. I have to wonder if Harding met Higgins on his visit to Butte that year: There is always more to research.

Alma Higgins became known as the nation’s Christmas Tree Lady after promoting living Christmas trees, one of which became the first National Christmas Tree. She died in 1962, with a remarkable legacy of conservation and leadership—largely forgotten today. Norm DeNeal and his colleagues carry on her tradition, developing and caring for the Lexington Gardens, the flowers at the Berkeley Pit visitor center, and all over Butte.

Plaque in Butte's Higgins Memorial Garden
Click to enlarge.
There is a small memorial to Alma Higgins in Butte. The garden has been there since 1931; it sits against the retaining wall at the northwestern corner of the parking lot between First Baptist Church and the Covellite Theater (old First Presbyterian Church). The location is essentially the back yard of the old Montana Hotel that stood here until it burned down in 1988, and where Alma lived when she died March 16, 1962. Alma's friend, Ann Cote Smith, had the plaque made.

Reference: Janet Finn and Ellen Crain (Eds.), Motherlode: Legacies of Women’s Lives and Labors in Butte, Montana. Livingston, MT: Clark City Press: 2005, pp. 204-228. See also this post about Alma's father, Nick Bielenberg.

Images: I believe the historic photo of Higgins is in the public domain, via http://www.nwhistorycourse.org ; if it is not, let me know and I will remove it. The photo of the plaque in the Alma Higgins Memorial Garden in Butte is by Dick Gibson.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remembering McQueen


Photos above are from the Anaconda Company's Copper Commando for Nov. 24, 1944. And the text below is from the same issue.

Typical scenes around McQueen ...

McQueen's Volunteer Fire Department. These boys respond cheerfully to the fire siren and make sure that McQueen homes are secure against the ravages of fire. In the center of the picture with the axe is Martin Jovick, chief of McQueen's Fire Department. 

The Holy Savior Church, at whose head is Reverend Michael Pirnat.

The homes we show you are those of Aldo Favero, Louis Bertoglio and Sam Mandich of the Tramway; also the homes of Jack Halse, Ernest Laity, Martin Jovick, Jack Mitchell, Floyd Massey and Tony Brocco.
Everything in the images above is gone today.

(Scan by Dick Gibson)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sheriff Furey

By Richard I. Gibson

The union-supporting Butte Bystander newspaper cheered the election of James B. Furey as President of the Butte Miner’s Union in 1897. As they reported December 18, 1897, he was into his second term in “that important office,” re-elected with virtually no opposition. He ultimately served four terms as President.

Furey was born July 6, 1854 in Quebec, to parents who had emigrated from Derry, Ireland. By age 18 he was working in mines in New York, and he headed west about 1878 to the Coeur d’Alene area of Idaho for several years before relocating to Butte in 1893. Furey was elected Silver Bow County sheriff in 1900 as a member of the Labor Party. He belonged to the Order of Elks as well as the Ancient Order of United Workmen, whose initials embellished the façade of the Miners Union Hall on North Main in 1900.

When Furey was elected Sheriff, all of Silver Bow County’s elected officials were either from the Labor Party or were Democrats or Populists. District Judge William Clancy, for example, was a Populist, while the county was represented in the state legislature by five Democrats, five from the Labor Party, and two Populists. Mary Mullins, a Democrat, was the Superintendent of Schools.

The Bystander, W. Mitchell, Editor, was published by the Standard Manufacturing and Printing Company with offices at No. 3 East Park Street, within the Owsley Block (Medical Arts Building when it burned in 1973). The paper cost $2 per year (in advance) or 5¢ a copy.

Sheriff Furey traveled to San Francisco in late 1902 to bring back to Butte one Ruth LaBonta, alias Eva Hart, alleged murderer of Dr. H.A. Cayley on October 11 in Butte. Watch for a future post on this topic.

Furey photo from Butte Bystander, Dec. 18, 1897; Miners Union Hall photo from Freeman, 1900, A brief history of Butte, Montana (scan by Butte Public Library).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Harry D'Acheul and Kennedy Furniture Company

By Richard I. Gibson

Click any image to enlarge.


Parapet at 18-20 West Broadway today.
The parapet today says “Christie 1932,” but this building is much older than that. In the historic image here the sign says “D’Acheul 1890,” reflecting its origin. Harry D’Acheul, born in Missouri about 1845 to parents native to France, partnered with Prussian-born Henry Parchen to establish a prominent drug store in Butte that operated for many years at 32 North Main. The D’Acheul Drug Company in 1891 advertised that they were importers of assayers’ materials and dealers in paints, oils, varnish, and window glass. (Vignette of D’Acheul Drug Co. store from an invoice in Columbia University Avery Architecture & Fine Arts Library, 1891.)
32 N. Main, 1891
Parchen-D’Acheul had a store in Helena as well, where D’Acheul acquired a house at 804 Dearborn from its owner, Joseph Russell, who suffered financial reverses. D’Acheul then rented it to Conrad and Augusta Kohrs, who bought that house in 1900. In Butte, D’Acheul’s principal construction investment beyond his own business may have been the 1890 four-story business block at 18-20 West Broadway (sometimes given as 22-26 W. Broadway), today part of Jeff Francis’ Piccadilly Museum complex. It originally had a cast-iron ground-floor store front, visible in the historic photo below (from Freeman, 1900). Christie’s was the furniture company here beginning in 1932.

18-20 W. Broadway, 1900

1894 ad
In the 1890s the D’Acheul Block housed the Kennedy Furniture Company on all four floors. By 1900 Kennedy boasted “the most complete line of furniture to be found, probably, in the Northwest” (Freeman, 1900). Kennedy Furniture began in 1894, successor to the Northwestern Furniture Company. In addition to rooms chock-full of chairs, they carried hundreds of carpets, rugs, and tapestries. The ad here, from December 1894, shows a ladies’ desk—expensive at $9.35 but “worth $15.” The interconnected nature of Butte’s business community is reflected in the annotation of Henry Mueller, Vice President of Kennedy Furniture. He was also President of Butte’s largest brewery, the Centennial, and Mayor of Butte in 1891. Mueller lived at 218 West Park. His son Arthur, a later Centennial President, lived at 803 West Park and had the Mueller Apartments on Granite Street built in 1917 as an investment.

1894 ad
Harry D’Acheul was elected in October 1882 to serve as a director of W.A. Clark’s Moulton Mining Company, which in its first nine months of operation had produced $300,000 in bullion; as of October 21, 1882, the Engineering & Mining Journal reported that they had 10,000 cords of wood on hand. In 1884 D’Acheul was also co-owner of Butte’s first public electric plant on East Mercury Street, together with W.A. Clark, Patrick Largey, John Caplice, and W.M. Young. The investors had formed the Brush Electric Light and Power Company of Butte in 1882. The company initially generated power at the Burlington Mill, supplying electricity to first illuminate the business district with 25 light bulbs on December 6, 1882. One of those lamps was in Parchen & D’Acheul’s drug store. Two years later Parchen-D’Acheul’s store was the locale where Butte residents came to see the power of the then-new Brush-Swan Incandescent Lamp, which promised to be a bulb suited for general household use.

311 W. Granite, D'Acheul House
Harry and Hattie D’Acheul’s home still stands at 311 (313) West Granite. See this later post for a report on the 1912 fire that destroyed the original Parchen-D'Acheul store at 32 N. Main.




Image sources: Ads, Montana Standard, Dec. 31, 1894, from Library of Congress; Kennedy Furniture/D’Acheul Block from Freeman, 1900, A Brief History of Butte, Montana (scan by Butte Public Library); D’Acheul Drug vignette from an invoice in Columbia University Avery Architecture & Fine Arts Library, 1891; “Christie 1932” and D’Acheul House photos by Dick Gibson.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Mayflower Mine

Click to enlarge. Letter in Dick Gibson's collection.
By Richard I. Gibson

We know, of course, that W.A. Clark had his fingers in many mineral pies beyond Butte, in Arizona and Nevada among others. But he was also involved in mining outside the Butte District, and not too far away, as indicated by this letter to him (in New York) from the Superintendent of the Mayflower Mine south of Whitehall. The text of the letter is transcribed below.

Mayflower Mining Company
W.A. Clark, President
J. R. Clark, Vice Pres.
A.J. Johnson, Treasurer
C.W. Clark, Secretary
B.C. Leyson, Superintendent of Mines
Butte Office: Over W.A. Clark & Bros. bank, cor. Main and Broadway

Gaylord, Montana, July 14, 1898

William A. Clark, Esq.
#43 Cedar St.
New York

Dear Sir:

The North drift at the 120 foot level is looking much better again this morning.
There is 4½ feet of ore in the bottom and 6½ feet in the top. This drift is in 28 feet. Comensing [sic] with today the N.P. R. Ry will only run trains into Parrot on Tuesdays and Fridays of each week. The two ore trains are hauling every day. I expect the third to commence tomorrow.
Yours Respectfully,
Bassett C. Leyson
Mayflower Mine, 1971. Photo by Dick Gibson.

Clark led the Mayflower Mining Company from 1896 to 1901, during which time production totaled about $1,250,000 worth of gold in 1900 dollars. The high-grade ore from the main mine averaged $150 per ton. The mine began from a 700-foot tunnel, with a 925-foot winze (a sub-vertical shaft) that found ore at several different elevations. The ore was mostly native gold in carbonate, but also included commercially valuable tellurides and sulfides. The reference in this letter to Parrot is to a railroad siding on Parrot Bench south of Whitehall, where the Parrot Smelter was located. The nearby company town of Gaylord (named for original superintendent Jared Gaylord) came to be referred to as Parrot, and when the Amalgamated (Anaconda) took over operations about 1902, the smelter was abandoned. The photo shows the mine in 1971, with ridges of Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics in the background.

43 Cedar Street in New York City today is in the heart of lower Manhattan’s Financial District, two blocks from Broadway and two blocks from Wall Street. So far as I can tell, the building contained several law offices and at least one publishing company, and I think it is gone today; the space seems to hold a small plaza and fountain.

The Clark & Bros. Bank in Butte at 49 N. Main (southwest corner with Broadway) was a two-story building that included a barber shop and bath house in the basement as recently as 1900. The bank continued in a new reinforced concrete building erected in 1916, which was ultimately replaced by the present building in the 1960s. Butte’s first two-story building, the Hotel de Mineral, occupied this corner in 1875.

Bassett Leyson also worked on mines in Walkerville for Clark. Born in Wisconsin (1858), he traveled by schooner in 1871 to Panama, across the isthmus by wagon train, and by boat to California. He died in Bozeman in 1942, with a front-page Montana Standard article covering his death February 6. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

“It’s a free for all”

“The senatorial fight begins to grow warm”

By Richard I. Gibson


The headlines above focused Anaconda Standard readers on December 31, 1894 on the ongoing U.S. Senate contest. (Click image at right to enlarge the article, then "view image" and click the plus to make the image bigger) Wait a minute – the Senate race was still in progress December 31? Wasn’t the election November 6? Well, yes. But remember that state legislators elected U.S. Senators then, and they did not meet until January to do that deed.

The 1894 election in Montana was overshadowed by the state capital fight, won by Helena over Anaconda (by the narrow margin of 51.8%), but the vagaries of politics in Montana were well in evidence in other races as well.

Montana only had one senator in 1894, because one seat was vacant. The legislature in 1893 had failed to choose a senator in one of W.A. Clark’s first hard-fought campaigns. Various machinations led to the Governor appointing Butte’s Lee Mantle to the post, but the U.S. Senate did not seat him, in part because of opposition to cases where gubernatorial appointments came about due to legislative inaction, and perhaps in part through Clark’s lobbying. In any case, the newly elected 1894 state legislature would meet in January 1895 to elect two senators instead of the usual one: first, a short-termer, to fill out the vacant slot, and the other to the regular six-year term.

Lee Mantle
With a Republican majority in the state legislature, the contests were basically among republicans (leaving Clark in the cold until 1899). Which of the two winners would serve the 4- and 6-year terms? That was not decided until the legislature conducted the election itself. Ultimately, Lee Mantle, Butte Mayor in 1892, founder of the Inter Mountain newspaper, and player in the Destroying Angel case, filled the short term and served from 1895 to 1899, while Thomas Carter, a Helena lawyer, was chosen for the regular term and served from 1895 to 1901 (and a later Senate term as well, 1905-11).

Thomas Carter
Governor John Rickards, who had appointed Lee Mantle to fill the vacancy in 1893 which he ultimately did not fill, was also a candidate. Although he was a Butte real estate and insurance businessman, apparently some of Mantle’s supporters rejected him as an outsider. For his part, as reported in the article here, Rickards said “I am ready to shake hands with Mr. Mantle at any time as a friend and as a stalwart, faithful, hard-working republican.”

For much more about Montana politics in the 1890s, see Michael Malone’s The Battle For Butte, especially pages 94-105.

Images of Mantle and Carter from Wikipedia; Anaconda Standard article from Dec. 31, 1894, from Library of Congress.