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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Walkerville party

By Richard I. Gibson

H.O. Christenson, the invitee, was a clerk; George Holbrook was a carpenter. William E. Hall was superintendent of the Alice Mine, and Frank Kramlick was proprietor of the American House hotel on the north side of West Daly Street in Walkerville (the labeled building on the Bird’s-Eye view is probably the American House, but not for certain).

George Hillebrand was foreman at the Lexington Stamp Mill (the “new” mill in Walkerville, not the old one that stood at present-day Lexington Gardens, Broadway at Wyoming Street) and Carroll, Reimel, and Coppedge were mill workers there. The mill was connected to the Lexington Mine on Main Street by a series of trestles.

Walkerville and the Lexington Mine and Mill (click to enlarge)

Fisher was an amalgamator at the Alice. He would have worked the machines that combined mercury with gold to free it from the rock. N.C. Anderson was a miner and Charles Bruhn was a butcher, the Butte partner of Nick Bielenberg in a meat market.

All the members of the party committee lived in Walkerville at a time when there were no street addresses, though most of the streets were probably there and named. They all lived on Daly or Main St except for Anderson, who lived on Dunn.

The AOUW was the Ancient Order of United Workmen, a fraternal organization that began in Meadeville, PA, in 1868. Its goal was to adjust “all differences which may arise between employers and employees, and to labor for the development of a plan of action that may be beneficial to both parties, based on the eternal truth that the interests of labor and capital are equal and should receive equal protection.” Members paid $1 into a private insurance fund for members’ survivors—the AOUW was the first fraternal organization to offer this. By the middle 1920s, lodges were merging and insurance took precedence over the fraternal aspects. The organization eventually evolved into the Pioneer Mutual Life and other insurance companies.

The Walkerville Hibernia (AOH) hall where the ball took place stood on Main Street just south of the intersection with Daly.

Invitation and envelope from Steve Henderson’s collection (scanned by him). The postmark appears to be 1889, but it is a smudged 1885. It would not have been a "Montana Terr." postmark in Dec. 1889, since Montana was a state at that time. Bird’s-Eye view, 1884, from Library of Congress, annotated by Gibson.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Polygamy Alley

Polygamy Alley is largely hidden behind Broadway Street buildings in this 1884 view, but it lies about along the green line. The carpenter's shop discussed below is almost certainly the one indicated near the west end of the alley. Click to enlarge.

By Richard I. Gibson

In early Butte—and into modern times in some places—the alleys were typically lined by businesses or homes with no other address than the alley. Many such alleys were simply referred to by the name of an adjacent street, such as South Main Alley (which evolved to China Alley) or East Granite Alley. Often enough, they were just called “the alley between Granite and Quartz Streets” or something similar. But from about 1884-1887, Butte boasted a uniquely named alley: Polygamy Alley.

It ran from Utah Street (today’s Hamilton) to Montana, between Granite and Broadway, just south of today’s Julian’s Piano Bar. Like many alleys, it was marked by a mixture of structures, including stables, sheds, outhouses, and the rears of a few large buildings including the Mt. Vernon Hotel, on Broadway. The 1884 hotel is occupied by the CCCS “Connections” building today *.

N.H. Ambrose ran a small boarding house in Polygamy Alley, probably about where the rear of the Water Company building is today. J.R. Anderson operated a canvas-covered carpenter’s shop near the modern back of the Carpenter’s Union Hall. That shop, where Anderson also lived, had become a more substantial frame structure with a basement by 1888, though it was still tiny, about 20 by 30 feet in size.

In 1885, two compositors, C.J. Lyons and J.F. Kline, probably typesetters for a printing company or newspaper, lived at the corner of Polygamy Alley and Utah (Hamilton), probably in a two-story rooming house that was the predecessor to Julian’s (Maley Block).

Mt. Vernon Hotel, 1979.
By 1888 buildings on Polygamy Alley were beginning to have addresses related to the streets to north or south. The carpenter’s shop became 120½ West Granite; a house on the south side of the alley became 69½ West Broadway, but there were still a handful of dwellings with alley-based numbers, at 109, 121, and 123, but by 1889 the name Polygamy Alley was no longer used. In the late 1880s and early 1890s the Butte fire department’s hose cart and 450-foot, 2½-inch hose were stored in the eastern part of this alley.

A handful of alley-facing businesses survived here in 1916, including an iron-clad carpenter’s shop (not the same one as Anderson had; this was a former stable, and stood just to the east of the new (1906) Carpenter’s Union Hall), a Chinese laundry, and a three-story lodging house due west of the Maley Block (Julian’s). That lodging house was still standing as recently as 1957, but is represented by a vacant lot today.

* I'm not 100% sure that the CCCS building dates to pre-1884. Same footprint, same number of stories, but it may be a somewhat newer, but pre-1900, replacement.

1884 Bird’s-Eye View and 1979 HABS/HAER photo of Mt. Vernon Hotel by Jet Lowe, both from Library of Congress. Thanks to Trish Pierson for discovering Polygamy Alley on a day when I was at the Archives.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Butte’s Canine Population, 1910

By Richard I. Gibson

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Monte Christo
“Butte has more dogs for a city of its size than any town in America. This is the opinion of every traveler who ever stopped off on his way east or west and of every citizen, be he dog fancier or dog hater, who has taken the time to think of something besides business. And it’s true.”

“You see dogs everywhere. On leashes and off leashes, on the run, on the sneak, on the yelp or on some other less fortunate brother dog’s neck.” 
Butte Evening News, Feb. 20, 1910

The Butte Kennel Club was organized in 1907 with James Keefe as its president and architect Herman Kemna among its first members. By 1910 the club had grown to 70 members, active in breeding and showing dogs across the nation. Bally Tip, Keefe’s Airedale, was touted by the Butte Evening News as “one of the greatest dogs in the country.” Airedales seemed to be a favorite in Butte, with more than 60 in residence in 1910 and at least six that had taken blue ribbons in national competitions. “Butte stands supreme” in the entire nation in terms of winning Airedales, the News bragged.

Keefe was proprietor of the Post-Office News Stand at 27 West Park. His home where Bally Tip presumably lived was at 313 S. Dakota. Kemna lived at 635 South Main. Keefe’s house is still standing, but Kemna’s appears to be gone.

The fancy house at 303 South Idaho (southwest corner of Idaho and Silver) once housed Butte’s Bachelors’s Club, and their mascot, Bach, an English Bull. Fire Chief Pete Sanger’s collie Flossie held forth at the Station on Quartz Street (today’s Archives building) as the Fire Department mascot. Flossie came to Butte direct from Scotland.

Dr. E.F. Maginn of 635 W. Granite (a home designed by Butte architect Henry Patterson) had “a string of silver cups long enough to go round a small hall,” won by his English Bull Terrier Monte Christo and other canines.

Sources: Butte Evening News, Feb. 20, 1910 (photos and quotes); Dogdom, v. 8, 1907, p. 956 (Kemna letter); city directories; Sanborn maps.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mrs. E. Creighton Largey (1884-1939)

Largey mansion, Broadway at Washington Street. The multi-columned home directly to the left is Largey Flats, built for visiting relatives and friends of the Largey family. It survives; the mansion burned down c. 1965. See below for more images.

By Richard I. Gibson

Even though Urusula Largey and Julia Coughlin only lived about seven blocks from each other, it’s pretty unlikely that they ever met. The divide between 223 East Granite and 403 West Broadway was deeper than the Mountain Con.

Ursula March was a well-known actress on the New York and traveling stage in the early 1900s. She played the female lead in the musical fantasy “Land of Nod” for two seasons about 1905-07. Butte’s E. Creighton Largey followed the company from town to town, courting Miss March, and they were ultimately wed July 22, 1908 (many sources say 1907, but it is almost certainly 1908), with write-ups on the wedding in New York theater gossip columns.

Creighton was the younger scion of Patrick Largey, often called Butte’s fourth copper king. Patrick started in Butte managing the Butte Hardware Company, but by 1890, when Creighton was three years old, Patrick had established the State Savings Bank, was a partner in Butte’s first electric and power generating company, and helped start the Inter Mountain Publishing Company. He would be a millionaire well before his murder in 1898, an event which set Creighton up as heir and co-manager of the estate.

After Ursula and Creighton married and set themselves up in the Largey mansion in Butte, directly across the street from the Charles Clark mansion (Arts Chateau), they became central to Butte’s social whirl.

In February 1910 Mrs. E. Creighton Largey threw a party to honor the first wedding anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. Phil Carr. It was a lavish affair, with Ursula and Creighton receiving at least 34 guests in the second floor red drawing room, likely comparable in size to one floor of Julia Coughlin’s home. An “elaborate, delicious” supper was served at midnight; miniature railroad cars honored the Carrs; “immense wedding bells of cotton sparkling with crystal dust” decorated the premises along with white satin streamers and asparagus vines; the edible ices were designed as flowers, doves, and hearts. Place markers at table were commissioned works of art. Guests included Dr. and Mrs. Frederick McCrimmon and Fred McQueeney.

The hostess wore a satin gown of orchid hue, and “her only adornments were diamonds.” She performed an impromptu musicale, recalling her stage career.

It was at a party similar to this one, also hosted by Ursula Largey, but across the street in the Charles Clark Chateau which the Largeys then owned, that the state song of Montana was written.

When Creighton and Ursula “tired of a life of ease” and left Butte in 1915, they headed to Los Angeles, where among other things Ursula helped form and directed the Venice Community Players, part of the growing “Little Theater” movement. She died in 1939. Creighton survived her by 24 years, dying in Los Angeles in 1963.

Resources: The Butte Evening News, Feb. 27, 1910; New York Dramatic Mirror, August 1908. House photo from A Brief History of Butte, Freeman, 1900, scanned by Butte Public Library.

Photo that is almost certainly the Largey House. Courtesy Sara Rowe (Sassy's Consignments) The central bay shows some changes from the photo above, but it is very similar to the drawing below.
Largey house, circa 1902-03, Artist W.H. Thorndike, republished in Montana Standard, 12/16/2014.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Coughlins of Granite Street

By Richard I. Gibson

“Esteemed Woman Called By Death”
—Anaconda Standard, June 7, 1929
223-223½-225 E. Granite. Photo from Jean Koskimaki's collection.

Julia Coughlin’s death at age 66 ended the 45-year tenure by her family in the 200 block of East Granite, between Arizona and Ohio Streets, straight across from the Washington School. For nearly 30 years of that time, Julia ruled the household and the businesses there as a widow.

Julia was born in California about 1863, and came to Butte in 1881. James H. Coughlin came to Butte about the same time (at least by 1885) and based on the estimated ages of their children, they likely married around 1889. James was a carpenter, working that year in the Anaconda Mine and living in a home at 219 East Granite. By 1896 he was working at the Ground Squirrel Mine #1, low on the flank of the Butte Hill just above East Mercury Street and about 8 blocks east of the Coughlin home on Granite.

In 1891, a new two-story duplex went up next door to the Coughlin home, at 221 (later, 223-225) East Granite. The Coughlins moved down the block to another new, single-story duplex at 227.

James Coughlin died in 1900, leaving Julia with at least three and probably five children. They continued to live at 227 East Granite until 1908, when daughter Ellen was in High School. But that year, the family moved to the big duplex at 223-225 where Julia established a confectionery (candy store); it’s likely that Julia bought the property. In 1909, Ellen was a student at the Butte Business College; children William, Julia (Nettie), Helen, Ray, and Tom were also living at the 223-225 address. [Note: it is not completely certain without more extensive research that all these names reflect Julia’s children. Based on ages and occupations, it seems unlikely that they were siblings of the deceased James, but not certain. They all lived in the building at 223-225 East Granite.]

By 1913, Ellen was a teacher, William was a student, Ray was a machinist at the Black Rock Mine, and Tom was a bellboy at the Thornton Hotel, a couple blocks from home. He moved a little further afield the next year, becoming a bellboy at the new Leggat Hotel. In addition to her ongoing management of the confectionery and working occasionally as a clerk, mother Julia became a teacher at Emerson School in 1914. By the early 1920s, the place at 223½ East Granite was a full-blown local grocery store, with Julia listed as the storekeeper, and she was still teaching school as well. Ray was delivering for the Ryan Fruit Company. About 1927, Ray joined his mother in managing the Coughlin Grocery. It appears that Tom and Ellen had moved away or died by then, but mother Julia, daughter Julia, Ray and his wife Pearl, and William were all still living in the big duplex with the grocery.

Julia died June 6, 1929, and son William, who moved to the old home at 227 E. Granite, apparently committed suicide by drinking cyanide November 7, 1932. The following year there were no Coughlins living in this block for the first time since 1885. Ray was an attendant at the Broadway Service Station and living with Pearl at 110½ N. Wyoming, not far from the old family home, and he was also president of the Butte City Council. Daughter Julia followed in her mother’s tradition, becoming a teacher at the Blaine School in Centerville.  She died July 24, 1947.

A grocery store continued at 223½ East Granite until 1939, managed successively by Mrs. Ann Krisk, Mrs. Ann Condon, and Harvey Fort. After the store closed, the place became residential only. A few people continued to live there until 1977, when the building was demolished. Today, this entire block is vacant except for a lone surviving miner's cottage.

Resources: Sanborn Maps, City Directories, Anaconda Standard June 7, 1929. Photo of 223-225 East Granite from collection of Jean Koskimaki, courtesy of Kathy Carlson.