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.



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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Three days in the life

… of a Butte tour guide/historian

by Richard I. Gibson

Woke up, got out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head…


Well, no. I haven’t needed a comb for decades. Here’s what really happened:

Some of the 2,500 artifacts in the Wah Chong Tai.
On Saturday I met a Chinese family at the Mai Wah Museum (it’s closed for the season, but we always try to accommodate people if we can find a volunteer to show them around). The parents had owned and operated a Chinese restaurant in Bend, Oregon, for many years, and they drove to Jackson, Wyoming, to pick up their daughter to bring up to Butte. None had been here before; they were in search of the grave of the daughter’s great-grandfather who lived here in the late 1940s.

I had tracked down a bit of information for them about the ancestor: he worked as an attendant at the Milwaukee Road depot (today’s KXLF) and lived across Montana Street at the Mueller Hotel (still standing) when he died in December 1950 and was buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery. They came to the Mai Wah to learn more about the Chinese experience in Butte. They provided some translations of Chinese labels for us (the parents are native Chinese), and I know they enjoyed the tour, but the line of the day came from the father, who said, “Well, this WAS worth driving 1,000 miles for.”

The Federal Building included the Butte post office in 1904.
On Sunday, another spectacular fall day, at Park and Main I met a woman from Boston who came to Butte to get a feel for the way things were here in 1900. She had my book, Lost Butte, but wanted more specifics to better characterize the experience of a character (a carpenter) in a novel she is writing. Butte is not the primary setting for the story, but important enough for her to visit to improve the tale’s veracity. We spent an hour and a half walking the streets, great fun for me too, and she gave me a question for further research: If today’s Federal Building on North Main was the main post office when it opened in 1904, where was the post office before that? I didn’t know, but it will be easy to determine (thanks to the Archives!). Note added later: in 1900, the P.O. was in the Goldsoll Block at 30-32 E. Broadway, just east of the City Hall.

And Monday morning I spent in a listening and discussion session with about 15 locals, including MainStreet/Folk Festival representatives, hotel folks, Tina from the Mining Museum, guest ranch operators, Forest Service people, and others. We attended a meeting hosted by the Montana Tourism Advisory Council and the Montana Office of Tourism, charged with devising a new 5-year strategic plan for tourism in Montana. Lots of ideas came out of it; my notes have a greater-than-usual number of stars (personal action items) ranging from web site stuff to educational programs I might help facilitate.

On the way to dinner at the Metals Bank, I stopped off at the Quarry to deliver a copy of Lost Butte to Erik, and encountered Cindy Gaffney, who is working on a project to bring a noted cheese maker from the Beara Peninsula of Ireland to Butte for next year’s An Ri Ra. Ultimately, Cindy would like to establish a cottage business using Butte mines as aging caves for Irish cheese, another link re-connecting Butte with ancestral Allihies Ireland.

Monday dinner was with a family who came to Butte from Pasadena, CA, and Connecticut. Harry had my book and when he called last week to set up the dinner, said it brought back fond memories of his time in Butte – in 1945, here for a few months when he was mustering into the Navy. He stayed in the dorm at the School of Mines and was befriended by a great many people here in Butte, so much so that it made a lasting impression on him. His unit marched in the V-J Parade here in August before he departed to lead his life elsewhere. This was his first visit in quite some time – the trip to Butte was essentially an 85th birthday present to Harry from his family. Tuesday he’s meeting with the Tech Alumni Foundation (Michael Barth) and with Chad Okrusch (he has Matt and Chad’s book, too). The family came to Butte because it was remarkable in 1945, and still is, as we all know. The dinner with Harry, his wife, and their son and daughter was as delightful as possible, a really memorable, truly Butte occasion for me. I can’t share Butte like a Butte native, but I sure can and do share Butte.  

If I ever act like I’m bored, or as if I have an uninteresting life, slap me down.

Wah Chong Tai photo by Dick Gibson; Post Office image is public domain from gsa.gov via Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Phone rates

by Richard I. Gibson

This is a follow-up to this post about the early telephone systems in Butte. I happened on rate information from 1882, when the rates in Butte were “less than Omaha” or any place in the east. Remember that the telephone was invented in 1876.

The central office was in Owsley Hall (Main Street north of Park) in 1884, and if it was elsewhere in 1882, it was certainly somewhere in the central business district. In 1882, customers paid $24 per quarter (3 months) if they were within a mile of Central, with a surcharge of $3 per quarter mile beyond the first mile. Two miles beyond the exchange office cost you $36 a quarter, or $144 per year. Right – no discount.

At the time miners earned $3.50 a day, so I’d speculate that $8 per month was not out of their reach, although it would likely have been seen as a luxury. As indicated in the previous post, the number of customers soared quickly as Butte grew.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Price Civic Glory?

One of 40+ Shabbishacks announcements from May-June 1928.
Click to enlarge.
by Richard I. Gibson

The 1928 Shabbishacks campaign was probably the first concerted effort to remove “blight” in Butte. It’s discussed in Lost Butte, but there were more than 100 buildings demolished as part of this program, led by W.A. Kemper, president of the Better Butte Association. In all likelihood, most of these buildings were about to fall down and some had been abandoned for ten years or more; one blew down in a wind storm shortly after it appeared in the daily newspaper notices of derelict buildings.

The frame house shown here, at 509 Jasper Street, was built after 1900 and before 1912 in the Gagnon Addition. Where is Jasper Street? It’s a very short street south of West Woolman and north of Caledonia, extending west from Jackson St. to the next alley. Today as far as I can tell there are no addresses on Jasper, and even in its heyday it was only long enough to contain six homes, three on each side. 509 sat on the north side, the westernmost house on the short block, at the alley.

The West Gagnon Mine was straight east across Jackson from the intersection with Jasper Street. It exploited the Gambrinus Vein in its earlier years, and in the early 1960s the Anaconda Company was using the West Gagnon shaft as an exhaust ventilation conduit for the Steward Mine. Today, the mineyard is reclaimed open space (east of Jackson, south of Woolman), with the shaft bulkheaded. The West Gagnon was one of those smaller (albeit more than 2,200 feet deep) “neighborhood mines” that are hard for us newcomers to visualize today.

You'll find an album containing many of the Shabbishacks images on the Lost Butte Facebook page.

Image from Butte Miner, June 1928 (newspaper at Butte Archives).