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, December 10, 2013

Fair Drug & Assayers Supplies

By Richard I. Gibson

Scott Robert Fair was born November 26, 1857, in St. John, New Brunswick, to parents who were natives of Ireland. Fairville, today a neighborhood in St. John, was named for his father, the first resident there. Scott Robert began to study pharmacy in Boston when in his late teens. After working in Boston and New York, he came to Montana about 1889.

By 1893 he had established (with assayer Olof Bergstron) a drug store and assay supply outlet at 137 East Park, on the northwest corner with Arizona Street. He at least dabbled in mining, establishing the Mayflower Mine south of Whitehall—which by about 1896 he had sold to W.A. Clark for a reported $150,000. The Mayflower went on to produce more than 225,000 ounces of gold and 875,000 ounces of silver for Clark and later the Anaconda Company, a total value of around $3 million by 1961, most of it in 1896-1901. New owners in the 2000s have been testing and drilling to evaluate re-opening the Mayflower.  

Invoice, dated Dec. 30, 1900,
to The Butte General Electric Co.,
purchased 45¢ worth of tubing
and paid the bill 1/17/1901
Fair was closely connected with W.A. Clark. In addition to the sale of the mine, his partner Bergstron was the assayer for the Colorado Smelting & Mining Company, of which Clark was vice-president. In February 1900, Fair was summoned to Washington. D.C., to testify in the Senate hearings related to Clark’s alleged bribery of the Montana legislature to “buy” that Senate seat. Fair was asked directly whether he told Montana legislator Thomas Normoyle that $10,000 was his if Normoyle would vote for Clark. Fair denied that, and other suggestions, strenuously—but Normoyle insisted that he had in fact made such an offer, in Fair’s establishment at 115 East Park Street. The upshot of the hearing was the Senate’s refusal to seat Clark; he resigned from the position before he could be ousted, then famously got his friend the Lieutenant Governor of Montana, in the absence of the Governor, to appoint him to that now-vacant seat. That ploy failed as well, but Clark was finally elected and seated in the U.S. Senate in 1901.

1901 advertisement
When he began the drug store at 137 E. Park, Fair lived at 408 West Quartz (a house that I can see out my window as I type this) with his brother George F., who dealt in real estate. By 1896, he and his wife Caroline were living at 606 West Park, and in 1897-98, they relocated to a new home at 221 N. Excelsior which would stay in the family at least until 1963. About the same time, they occupied the new building at 115 East Park that would house the drug and assay company for two decades.

Among the products available at Fair’s Drug was a special “pneumonia mixture,” touted as a cure and sold to treat miners’ consumption (silicosis).

The Fairs participated in Butte’s high society. Caroline Fair attended affairs with Mrs. A.H. Heilbronner, Mrs. Reno Sales (he was chief geologist for the Anaconda Company) and many others.

1907 advertisement
S. Robert Fair died May 20, 1914. His widow Caroline and son George R. continued to run the Fair Drug and Assay Supply Co., but in 1918 they moved the operation a block to the east, to the corner storefront in the new Arizona Hotel on the southeast corner of Park and Arizona. The drug store address was 200 E. Park. In 1918 George was living at 628 W. Quartz. Caroline, Robert’s widow, died in 1944. Her daughters Katherine, Caroline (McCarthy), and Nellie (McDaniel) lived in Butte until the 1960s. Katherine died in September 1963, when she was living at 317½ N. Alabama Street.

The Fairs continued to run the drug store in the Arizona Hotel until about 1936-37, when Ben Gunnary took over. The original drug store building, 115 E. Park, served as the Union Grill for most of the 1930s and was known as Frank’s CafĂ© in 1954. In the late 1950s and early 1960s both 115 E. Park (Jim’s Trading Post) and the Arizona Hotel corner store were used furniture shops.

Arizona Hotel c. 1919
The Arizona Hotel was demolished about 1965, and the west half of the 100 block of East Park was removed in 1967-68. About 1971 the Burger Crown restaurant was built on the site of the Arizona Hotel. The Burger Crown burned May 4, 1975, and today that space is the parking lot for Sparky’s Garage Restaurant.

About 1969, the present building went up on the site of 115 E. Park and that half of the block. It held Currie’s Tire & Appliance Center for years, and many still refer to it as the tire store. Where it stands today, in 1900 there were nine storefronts on Park and five more on Wyoming, plus various outbuildings. Among the businesses were a tent manufacturing factory, two restaurants, a Chinese tailor, two saloons, one bakery, an auto dealer, a hat shop, a sausage factory, a liquor store, and a cleaner.

Sources: The Story of Butte, Butte Bystander, April 15, 1897 (source of main photo), in Gibson’s collection; The History of Montana, by Helen Fitzgerald Sanders, Volume 3, 1913; Congressional Record, Montana Senatorial Election Hearings, Feb. 5, 1900; Anaconda Standard, May 21-22, 1914; August 12, 1912; June 30, 1907; March 24, 1901; Sept. 21, 1963; Advertisement from Souvenir History of the Butte Fire Dept., 1901, Butte Public Library scan; Invoice, dated Dec. 30, 1900, to The Butte General Electric Co., purchased 45¢ worth of tubing and paid the bill 1/17/1901, via Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History (Ft Missoula); City Directories; Sanborn maps.

1 comment:

  1. As always, i learned something new- I had never heard of the Fair Drug etc. Love the picture that accompanies this story. Thanks!