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, July 29, 2015

Entering Butte, 1939



by Richard I. Gibson

Since I did the research for a Facebook request, I thought I'd add this documentation for another of the Library of Congress images.

This photo is from summer 1939, taken by Arthur Rothstein as part of the Office of War Information / Farm Security Administration series. The location is the 1000-1100 block of East Park – East Galena Place – East Galena, where they intersect Parrot St. which is probably more or less the street behind the sign, but US Hwy 91 cut through there at an angle to the streets and this sign is likely on Hwy 91 at the city limits.

So, this is part of the East Side / East Butte (not Meaderville, not McQueen) and the area is pretty close to where the Pit viewing stand is today, or a bit toward the pit from there. The mine at far right behind the shacks is probably the Pennsylvania Mine complex, which is within the pit today. The mine in the distance, right of the word “Butte” in the sign, is probably the Anaconda Mine (also within the pit today) but I’m not sure. The East Side Volunteer Fire Station is the newer-looking building to the immediate right of the word “limit” on the sign.

This and many similar from that era are available from the Library of Congress.    

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Butte Light

Guest Blog Post by Geoff Weston, Newcastle, England.

When I started to write this I thought I’d check what it says about light in the dictionary and I note it’s also known as luminous energy.

That’s particularly true for me in Butte, Montana. I spent a month there in June as a visiting English artist and every day (except mid-summers day when the weather turned British) the light was breathtaking. It wasn’t the reason I came to Butte but it was one of the reasons I so enjoyed being there.

The morning light in particular. So many mornings I was out early with my camera searching out that luminosity. The American photographer Robert Adams writes about the alchemy of light, about its ability to transform even the most mundane of objects. I was lucky enough to be on hand to record that in Butte.

I very rarely see that quality of light in the UK. Occasionally by the coast or after a sharp frost that clears the air you might get something similar but the luminosity here is farther down the scale.

Of course light is the photographer’s raw material. That doesn’t mean you always want sunshine, but if you do, and you want the sort of sunlight that illuminates whatever it is you’re photographing, then Butte offers something special. Something luminous.

Herewith are some of Geoff's photographic visions of Butte's light. 










Monday, June 29, 2015

Gas station, summer 1939



This photo from the FSA-OWI program was made by Arthur Rothstein in the summer of 1939. The location is the corner of Park and Oklahoma – the gas station is at 501 East Park Street.  The mine in center background is the Moonlight Mine, and right of it on the skyline is the Anaconda Mine.

The vertical standpipe right of center says “steam baths” in vertical letters. It is behind (south of) a building on Broadway Street that contained a sauna – that was within Finntown.

The gas station building was boarded up and vacant by 1951, and was probably gone by about 1960. There is no listing in the city directories for “Consumers Oil Company” so it was either a short-lived business or came under some other name for listing purposes.

—Richard I. Gibson

“The photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA)-Office of War Information (OWI), transferred to the Library of Congress beginning in 1944, form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944. This U.S. government photography project was headed by Roy E. Stryker, formerly an economics instructor at Columbia University, and engaged such photographers as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, and Carl Mydans. The project initially documented the Resettlement Administration's cash loans to individual farmers, and the agency's construction of planned suburban communities. The second stage focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and of migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording rural and urban conditions throughout the United States and mobilization efforts for World War II.” (From the Library of Congress web site.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Floods of 1908


By Richard I. Gibson

This article appeared originally in the CFWEP.org newsletter, The Montana Steward.

Butte was booming in 1908. For all practical purposes, the War of the Copper Kings was over, even though the Anaconda Company would not completely consolidate its ownership of nearly every mine and more until after William Clark died in 1925. After Augustus Heinze was out of the picture in 1906, money that had been tied up in litigation freed investors to build, build, build. The building boom of 1906-1907 saw some of the grandest construction effort ever undertaken in Butte’s business district.

Among the buildings erected in that two-year period were the Metals Bank, Phoenix Block, Silver Bow Club, Leonard Hotel, Napton Apartments, the Water Company building (built initially for the Intermountain Telephone Company), the Carpenters Union Hall, the First Baptist Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and much more. The county’s population – mostly within the built-up area of Butte – was nearly 57,000 in the 1910 census, a gain of more than 20% since 1900.

And in 1908, the city directory listed 324 named mines.


With all that construction, attention was also finally paid to street paving and sidewalk construction. In June 1908 the city council was looking at a huge project to permanently pave sidewalks on residential streets all around the central business district, including much of Granite, Quartz, and Wyoming. Wooden walks were on the list for Woolman, Copper, Henry and Front, as well as much of the East Side. Street paving was in the offing for the near West Side including West Granite and Broadway, Idaho and Washington. But until the paving was completed a few years later, ruts and gullies must have been common on unpaved streets, and boardwalk sidewalks, where present, could have washed out easily.

Unpaved roads and walkways and extensive mine operations all over the Hill – just imagine 324 mine dumps, some huge, some small – meant that storm water would likely have not just run off, it would have run off carrying plenty of dirt and debris with it.

Both in the city and nearby, pretty much all the trees were gone. Summit Valley’s forests, such as they were, were exploited early on for fuel in smelters, timbers in mine drifts, and wood for building construction. The land was bare. Mine tailings and sewage alike were discharged into Silver Bow Creek.

Silver Bow Creek where it crosses Montana Street and flows between the historic slag walls from the Colorado Smelter was highly constricted there. Upstream, wetlands had been drained to accommodate construction of smelters on the east side of the Hill, in Meaderville and points south. The stream was already nothing like the original creek that the first prospectors in 1864 likened to a silver bow glistening in the sun. There was little to prevent mass runoff and flooding.

Late May and early June 1908 were some of the wettest days in Montana history. Rain, wet snow, and snowmelt combined to produce one of the most devastating floods to ever hit the region. On May 31, a cloudburst at Columbus took out a mile of Northern Pacific track. In Butte, there was “too much snow” for Memorial Day services, and the parade was cancelled. On June 2, Butte received 0.9” of rain, part of a storm system that affected most of western Montana and disrupted train travel; On June 2, a washout at Bonita, about thirty miles east of Missoula, resulted in a train plunging off the track, killing one man. By that day, there had been no through train into Butte for 48 hours on the Northern Pacific, whose trains were stalled in Billings and at Drummond. And it continued to rain and snow. At Elk Park on June 2, the Butte Miner reported that “the flat resembled a huge lake, and the Boulder River is a raging torrent.”

June 4, 1908, was a Thursday, and the devastation really began to impact Butte. The dam at White’s Ice Pond (Alcova Reservoir, where the Butte Country Club is today) failed. Water rushed down to Silver Bow Creek, already swollen, which inundated the Montana Power Company substation at Oxford and Montana Streets, where the water was four feet deep. Silver Bow Creek was reported to be a mile wide. And on June 4, the rain changed to snow. Nine inches fell that day, dropping power lines all over the city. Any power that remained to transmit was cut off to avoid electric shocks from downed lines – a team of horses from the Lavelle Livery was electrocuted at Park and Washington, and several residents narrowly escaped the same fate. “Plague of Darkness Reigns,” the red-ink headline in the Butte Miner proclaimed. No street lights, no electric trolleys, no other power – except for the central business district, Park to Granite and Montana to Wyoming, most of which was served by the Phoenix Power plant in the alley south of the City Hall.

By June 5, the situation with railroads was the “worst in history” in the state. Problems extended from Great Falls to Billings, and Butte to the Flathead, with landslides and washouts completely shutting down train travel. The Water Plant Dam at Great Falls collapsed, Choteau was “surrounded by water,” and the town of Belt was partially inundated. Passengers on the train stalled at Drummond practically ate Drummond out of food and drink over the three days they were stranded there. A man walked off a washed-out footbridge at Rocker, the first flood related death in Silver Bow County.

On Saturday, June 6, “Entire Montana Now Paralyzed by Destructive Floods,” according to the Anaconda Standard. The big Higgins Bridge in Missoula collapsed the next day, joining every other bridge in Missoula County. The Miner reported that William Clark’s Milltown dam at Bonner was safe, although at one point 15 feet of water was going over the spillway, and part of the structure of this brand-new dam was dynamited to allow more water to flow through.

The rainfall was not limited to Montana, but was widespread across the upper Missouri Valley. Flooding in Kansas and Missouri, especially around Topeka and Kansas City, was even more devastating to residential neighborhoods than the floods in Montana. By June 7, the rains had slacked off, and the Miner reported that “a strange object appeared over the western part of the city, resembling a ball of fire. Later it was identified as the sun, which disappeared several weeks since.” But it was another 6 days before the story left the front pages, and many months before a semblance of normalcy returned to the devastated communities in western Montana.

The long-term legacy of the 1908 flood was toxic mine tailings washed down Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River. Vast quantities, enough to cover more than 1,000 acres, spread throughout the watershed and piled up behind the Milltown Dam, ultimately killing life along huge reaches of the river. Today’s environmental cleanup, costing tens of millions of dollars, is necessary not just because the mine operations were cavalier in their concern for the environment, but because one of the most intense periods of mine and smelter activity coincided with a remarkable period of rain and snow falling on a landscape that had been modified so it could not cope with the precipitation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dusseau the Photographer

"The House that Jack Built," northeast corner Main and Broadway, 1901, before being demolished for the Hirbour Tower. Sign on second floor says "Dusseau the Photographer." Hennessy Building in left background.

By Richard I. Gibson

Angelo (or Alrick) Dusseau was born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1842 or 1843, of French-Canadian parents. He traveled west, to Wisconsin, by the time he was 23 years old, working as a carpenter on a railroad and as an engineer for a steam line in Missouri. By 1869 he was in Montana, a practicing musician in Helena.

July 20, 1876. Butte Miner.
A.J. Dusseau’s true calling – as a photographer – began in Deer Lodge about 1874, and he was in booming Butte by 1876 or 1877. One of his first studios in Butte was on “Upper Main Street” at a time when there was no north or south Main, reportedly above the Post Office, when it was on the west side of Main between Granite and Quartz. His studio may also have been just south of the corner of Copper and Main, on the east side.

By 1882 his residence and studio were both in “The House that Jack Built,” a two-story building on the corner of Broadway and Main where the Hirbour Tower stands today (see Lost Butte, Montana, p. 47). His sign, “Dusseau the Photographer,” was emblazoned across the Main Street side of that building until it was replaced by the Hirbour in 1901. In 1902, in partnership with George R. Thompson, Dusseau’s studio was at 219 East Park and the family was living at 720 Utah Avenue. Thompson continued the photography business after Dusseau died in 1908, and there was still a photo studio at 219 East Park in 1916. I believe the home at 720 Utah is still standing.

Among Dusseau’s photographic work is a portrait of Louisa Earp, wife of Morgan Earp. The portrait dates to about 1877, probably soon after he moved to Butte. Louisa and Morgan were probably together in Montana at various points in time from the late 1870s until early 1880. It’s not clear when they married – some reports say 1875 – nor is it clear exactly when and for how long they were in Butte, but there is little doubt that Morgan was on the Butte police force from December 1879 until March 1880. He joined his brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, soon after he left Butte, and was wounded at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881. He was shot and killed in Tombstone in March 1882 at age 30.

Dusseau’s wife Amanda, from Missouri, was 17 years younger than A.J. Their daughter Elmira was probably born in Butte in 1888. A.J. Dusseau died August 28, 1908, leaving a rich photographic legacy.

Sources: Cabinet Card Gallery; Photo of Butte man in Pythian regalia from The Autry’s Collections; portrait of couple courtesy Francine Le Blanc. Ad from Butte Miner, July 20, 1876. Broadway and Main photo from Anaconda Standard, May 12, 1901. See also Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers, By Sherry Monahan

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Smells of Butte


By Richard I. Gibson

Geologists know that rocks have distinctive smells. Probably not enough to take your identification to the bank, but when you break granite it smells differently than limestone or sandstone. We might not know for sure what it is, blindfolded, but we’d know they are different. And wet smashed granite doesn’t smell the same as hot dry granite.

Butte must have accosted the world with its smells. I can imagine that the early stamp mills – smashing rocks – must have generated a really distinctive dust smell, and if it was winter, or raining, it would have been just that much different. People notice these things, in the town where they live, where they know its cycles and systems.

If you lived at 401 North Wyoming, at the foot of the Anaconda Road, would you smell the thousands of men pouring down the Road every eight hours – even if they’d showered in the dry, even if they were picky about keeping their street clothes clean?

It’s inconceivable to me that at least in spring and summer, walking past the dozen groceries on Park Street, that you wouldn’t be drawn by the citrus scent of imported oranges and grapefruit, piled on the sidewalk stands. By the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, by the bread – Oh, the fresh-baked bread!

And the restaurants! So many, so varied! What tantalizing aromas must have enticed the miner, the haberdasher, the clerk, the teacher! The complicated blending of Greek, of Italian, of Serbian, of boiled cabbage, must have been unidentifiable, but memorable. Your grandparents, your great-grandparents could probably be transported to a spot in Butte in a particular time if those molecules could be blended again. Like the smell of an old window screen after a summer rain, evoking the scenes of childhood. Like a circus memory, the smell of cotton candy and roasting peanuts and elephant dung and acrobats’ sweat. Smells of Butte.

There’s no such thing today, but it’s not all gone. You can walk down the block of Park east of Montana at certain times, when the Renfrows are roasting coffee at Tap 'Er Light and Chuck is doing something in Quarry Brewing that sends more aroma than usual into the air. It’s usually late morning, on a not-too-cold day, with just enough breeze, probably 2.7 miles per hour, to move the scents around. It doesn’t smell like coffee or like beer. It smells like Park Street east of Montana.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The first block of East Park Street

North side of Park Street, Main to Wyoming, circa 1893. See bottom for annotated version.

By Richard I. Gibson

Somewhat remarkably, most of the buildings in the photo above are still standing. You are looking at the north side of Park Street between Main and Wyoming. From left to right, the buildings are

1. Owsley Block, northeast corner of Park and Main, with the turret. Site of NorthWestern Energy construction today. 

2. Narrow building with a tall turret. Parking lot west of Trimbo’s today, lost in 1973 fire that destroyed Owsley Block (Medical Arts Building).

3. Owsley Block #2, with the prominent bay front. Trimbo’s today.

4 – 5 – 6. Of the three buildings east of Trimbos, two definitely still stand, and probably all three. The first one, with the high second story, is Owsley Block #1. Then there are two buildings of equal height. All three of these buildings are occupied by Rudolph’s furniture today. The façade on the third building has been modified a lot but I think the original building is still in there.

7. The little one-story building is gone, replaced in 1917 by the Chester Block (Whitehead’s) which still stands.

8 – 9.The massive block with the two large awnings is the Shiner Block (Exer-Dance), vacant but still standing in 2015, and the corner building, the Key West House (lodgings) and Bray’s Butte Cash Grocery, is occupied by Rediscoveries today.

This photo dates to 1892 to 1895. The Owsley Block was completed in 1891-92, and The Butte Cash Grocery was located on this corner from 1887 to 1896. The Key West House was not in business under that name in 1895, but of course the sign might still have graced the façade.

The trolley line started in 1890. You can see the tracks in the center of a dirt Park Street. I believe the sidewalks are made of wood, and note the fire hydrant in front of the Butte Cash Grocery and the policeman leaning on the telephone pole to the right.

Courtenay, Case, & Gravelle Company (“Gents Furnishings”), advertised on the east face along the top of the Owsley Block, was incorporated in 1891 and had its store in the big corner building at Park and Main. Joseph Gravelle had come to America from his native France in 1889. After the store closed in 1906 he moved to Waitsburg, Washington to open a store under his own name. Courtenay left the partnership in 1897, to be replaced by Ohioan Arthur Ervin; the store changed its name to accommodate that change in ownership. Joseph Case came to Butte in 1880 from his native San Francisco, to which he returned when the store closed. Ervin also left Butte in the early 1900s.

A.F. Bray
Absolom F. Bray was a more permanent fixture in Butte. He was born Oct. 21, 1852, at Langdon Cross, Cornwall, England, and came to America in 1876. He established his first grocery in Butte about 1885, but failing heath drove him to California for a time. He returned to open the Butte Cash Grocery in 1886. It was originally located at the site of the Murray Bank, the northwest corner of Copper and Main, but he moved to the site in the photo above, Park and Wyoming, the next year. In 1889, Bray was elected to the first Montana state legislature.

“He had a voice that could make a boatswain’s rumble sound like a whisper” – A.F. Bray in the legislature.

When the photo above was made, the store was a typical retail grocery, but in 1896 he moved to the corner of Park and Arizona and focused on the wholesale trade as well as retail. He was doing $1,000,000 a year in revenue by 1901.

“Every nook and corner are crammed with the finest assortment of staple and fancy groceries that the markets of the world can furnish.” —Butte Cash Grocery, in Western Resources, 1901


A.F. Bray died September 5, 1906 in Butte. His son, A.F. Bray, Jr., born in Butte, became a prominent member of the legal profession, serving as the chief judge of the California Court of Appeals. Bray Jr. died in 1987 at age 97.





Sources:
I do not know the source of the photo at top. It is too old to be in copyright, so it is public domain and free to use, but I would like to credit the source if someone knows.

Courtenay Case & Gravelle store information 

A.F. Bray Jr. 

Progressive Men of Montana; Western Resources, Denver, CO, June 1901 (Bray photo).

Quote about his voice from Walton History, By Shirley W. Cozad

Butte Cash Grocery advertisement from Anaconda Standard, May 29, 1896.

Courtenay Case ad from Anaconda Standard Almanac 1893, digitized by Butte Public Library

Annotated to show buildings including present-day occupants. Owsley and the one labeled #2 are gone today.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tom Manning

Harriet Schultz and Cheryl Ackerman examine one volume of the transcript of Tom Manning's inquest.


By Richard I. Gibson

Most of my readers probably know of Tom Manning, one of the two killed in the Anaconda Road Massacre on April 21, 1920.

Striking miners marching up the Anaconda Road were shot by armed gunmen coming from the Neversweat Mine – probably agents of the Anaconda Company, but the whole truth will never be known. Twenty-five-year-old Manning, an Irish immigrant who lived at 20 West Quartz Street (Montana Standard parking lot today), intended to bring his wife and infant son to Butte that fall, using savings he’d scraped together in three years of mining. But he never got the chance.

Doctor's testimony shows that
Tom Manning was shot in the back.
Manning died four days after he was shot in the back. He lay in state at the home of Tom Scanlon, an IWW sympathizer, at 316 North Idaho (a vacant lot today). 3,000 mourners followed Manning’s casket from St. Patrick’s church to Holy Cross Cemetery.

While most union men believed the Company did the deed, the coroner’s jury undoubtedly was influenced – if not outright controlled – by the Anaconda Company. Ultimately, the verdict was returned that they could not determine blame. The radical Butte Daily Bulletin, with obvious irony, headlined

“Tom Manning Dead, According to Verdict Rendered by Coroner’s Jury.”

So, if this is all well known, why this post? Recently the entire transcript of the inquest into Tom Manning’s death re-surfaced. It had been in obscurity in the Court House, and now resides in the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. The transcript runs to a couple thousand pages, and includes, as evidence, a complete typescript of the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. Together with pages of testimony.

While the final result of the inquest has always been known, to know that the full text is now available is great news for historical researchers. Thanks to Harriet Schultz at the Archives for showing it to me!

Photos by Dick Gibson. Additional information from Lost Butte, Montana, by Richard I. Gibson, and More Montana Campfire Tales, by Dave Walter.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Heaviest locomotive in the world - or maybe not quite!



By Richard I. Gibson

In February 1901, Butte and Anaconda were abuzz with the announcement of the arrival of a new engine for the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railway. The “mastodon hog,” No. 19. was built by the Schenectady Company for the express purpose of hauling ore from Butte to the then new smelter being built in Anaconda.

Here are her specs:

Gauge: 4 feet, 8½ inches
Cylinders: low pressure, 34-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
High pressure, 23-inch diameter, 32-inch stroke
Drivers: 56-inch diameter
Wheel base: 26 feet 9 inches
Engine weight: 110 tons
Water and Coal load: 54 tons (5,500 gallons of water, 10 tons bituminous coal)
Front sheet of steel boiler, 84-inch diameter
Boiler pressure: 210 pounds of steam per square inch
Boiler sheet thickness: one inch (average heretofore, five-eighths inch)
Boiler tubes: 414 1¼-inch tubes

The smokestack was cast iron, engine frames were hammered iron, and piston rods were made of Cambria steel hardened by the Coffin process. The tires were Krupp crucible steel four inches thick. The drive springs were installed by the A. French Spring Company. The cab was wood, with steel running boards. The whole engine was painted “B.A. &  P. standard black.” She had two Dressel headlights 16 inches in diameter.

The first test run, under the command of Engineer Tipton, was accompanied by the builder’s agent, L.S. Watres, Master Mechanic Harrity, and an Anaconda Standard reporter. The engine traveled from Anaconda to Rocker pulling 41 cars. The engine’s maximum capacity was rated at 60 cars of ore totaling 4000 tons, which it could pull at 30 miles per hour.

The engine came in on the Great Northern Line, and its size proved a problem in many places where bridges were too low for it to pass. They had to lower the stack in order to do so. It jumped the track at Minot, North Dakota, the only serious incident en route to Anaconda.

“Elaborate and complete in every detail, the new freight engine marks a new epoch in freight hauling in the United States, and especially in the transmission of ore in mining states to the smelters.”

But within a dozen years, the B.A. & P. was moving from steam locomotives to electrical systems, erecting the first heavy-haul electric railway in the world. No. 19 was sold to the General Equipment Company of New York City on July 24, 1917. General Equipment in turn sold it to the Peñoles Mining Company in Mexico. It was probably scrapped by the late 1940s.

Primary source: Anaconda Standard, February 3, 1901. See also Wired For Success, by Charles Mutschler (WSU Press, 2002).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chastine Humphrey


These cabins and the tree were on the first block of West Quartz Street, where the old fire station (Butte Archives) stands today. The main cabin and tree were just west of the fire station, in today's parking lot. All these buildings are gone today. All but the left-most of the row of three cabins were gone by 1901. 

By Richard I. Gibson

The first boy born in Butte, Chastine Humphrey, was born April 16, 1868, in a three-room log cabin beneath the shade of a fir tree – the only tree in the townsite of Butte. The cabin stood on West Quartz Street at the later site of the Maryland Boarding House, which was located at 21 West Quartz, the parking lot immediately west of the Fire Station, today’s Archives building.

Chastine Humphrey, Sr., the boy’s father, laid out the townsite of Butte in 1866. The senior Humphrey’s bother, Oliver, passed through the Butte area in the early 1860s but ultimately settled in Helena. He wrote to his brother encouraging him to come to Montana, and in late 1864, Chastine, his wife and daughter (later Mrs. Nell O’Donnell of Walkerville) arrived in Butte. Mrs. Humphrey was reportedly the first woman in Butte.

Of the cluster of cabins Humphrey built, only one was still standing in 1901, just east of the then new fire station. That log cabin served as a barn and stable for Gilmore & Salisbury’s stage coach horses. Further east, another small cabin had been built by Ben Kingsbury. The 3-story Kingsbury Block was built about 1887 on the northwest corner of Quartz and Main, where it stood until it was demolished in the Model Cities program in 1969-70. Furthest east, probably the cabin in the lower left corner in the image above, William Matthews and Bryan Irvine shared the space. Matthews committed suicide by jumping from a window at the Insane Asylum at Warm Springs. Irvine was still in Butte 30 years after the date of the image above (circa 1868), living at 643 West Granite Street in 1895.

Other residents in the 1860s in this block included A.W. Barnard, on the south side of the street. The story went that when W.A. Clark first came to Butte, he spent his first night here in Barnard’s cabin. Barnard, like Kingsbury, became quite wealthy, and built the Barnard Block on the site of his original cabin.

The tree that sheltered the Humphrey house, the last one in the area, finally “yielded to the axe and fell like the gallant soldier on the field of battle, after all hope had gone.” The Humphreys burned the wood in their fireplace and kitchen stove.

Chas Humphrey, the son, took a job with the Butte Miner newspaper in 1879, at age 12. He eventually became a member of the International Typographical Union, working until automated machines – Mergenthalers – replaced him in 1895. He continued in the printing profession including typesetting for the Jefferson County Zephyr, in Whitehall.

Chastine Humphrey, Jr. died of pneumonia January 12, 1901, only 32 years old. The Humphreys are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

On the occasion of Chas’s death, his sister Nell O’Donnell recounted the locations of the Humphrey cabins on West Quartz.
“Our house stood where the Maryland House now stands [i.e., the lot immediately west of the Archives building today]. It has been said that it stood upon the site of the new fire station. It is true a house belonging to father stood on the fire station site, but we did not live in it. The old tree stood on the slope almost where the kitchen of the Maryland house stands. [i.e., near the alley, just west of the northwest corner of the Archives building].”
The photo below is from 1875 and shows the Humphrey cabin and the tree at far right. Beneath it is the same photo, annotated to show buildings and Main Street.





Primary resource: Anaconda Standard, January 27, 1901. Also Sanborn maps and city directories. See also this post about the first house in Butte, on East Quartz St.  See also The Story of Butte, special issue of The Butte Bystander for April 15, 1897. Images of Butte in 1875 from A Brief History of Butte, Montana: the World's Greatest Mining Camp, by Harry C. Freeman, 1900, digitized by Butte Public Library, annotations by Gibson.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Robert Burns’ Birthday

Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902. Vignettes are Butte Scotsmen.

By Richard I. Gibson

In Sweet Thunder, Ivan Doig describes a celebration of poet Robert Burns’s birthday, held at the Butte Public Library. Although that account was fiction, Scots and their friends in Butte did celebrate the birthday of one of Scotland’s favorite sons.

Bobby Burns was born January 25, 1759, near Ayr in southwest Scotland. Although he died at age 37, probably from a heart condition complicated by dental surgery, he left a legacy of well-loved songs and poems. Scotland voted him the Greatest Scot of all time in 2009.

In Butte, the Scottish community was small. In 1901, Burns’s birthday wasn’t a particularly grand event. The Royal Highlanders was an insurance organization of businessmen of many nationalities, but they sponsored a dance and show at the Auditorium (in the Public Library at Broadway and Dakota Streets) that included an opening bagpipe performance and dance exhibitions focused on Scottish traditions including music, dance, drama, and readings. Charles Brebner performed the caber feigh on the bagpipes, a traditional tune in which the dancers raise their arms in imitation of deer’s antlers. Christine Brebner, Lillie Skillicorn, and Tena McDonald all demonstrated the Highland Fling. Charles Brebner was an engineer on the Northern Pacific Railway and his daughter Christine taught at the Butte Conservatory of Music. They lived at 1033 Iowa Street. Lillie and Robert Skillicorn (he was a miner at the Rarus) lived at 308 East Quartz.

By 1902, the birthday party was a big event. “A night wi’ Burns” was organized by Butte Scotsmen with the intent to create a fraternal organization, the Sons of Scotland. Alex McDonnell, Alex McLean, Dan and Jack McDonald, Malcolm McPhail, D.C. Mather, and Duncan McGregor all donned traditional Scottish garb for the event. Their lives were as diverse as Butte – a saloon keeper at 124 S. Montana, a miner at the Little Minah who lived in the Southern Hotel on Broadway Street (still standing), a carrier for the Inter Mountain newspaper, a miner from Norris.

In 1904 the celebration moved to the Finlen Hotel (the old three-story Finlen) where 115 guests gathered for a banquet at 10:00 p.m. Alexander Macaulay (a harness maker at 526 Nevada Avenue) chaired the proceedings, which included piping and a sword dance by D.C. Mather. Mather’s pipes led the haggis in a parade around the room together with a barrel of Scotch whiskey.

Here’s the menu:

A Little Barley Bree
Scotch Broth
Finnan Haddies in Patties
Olive. Sweet Pickles.
A Wee Donald. Scotch Haggis.
Scones. Short Bread. Bannocks.
Sandwiches.
Ice Cream. Assorted Cakes.
Fruits. Nuts. Coffee.

Barley Bree is a whiskey; finnan haddies is smoked haddock. Bannocks are barley flatbreads, and haggis is sheep's organs mixed with vegetables encased in the sheep's stomach — the national dish of Scotland.

The meal was followed by an extensive program of literary and musical entertainments, ranging from bagpipes and violins to vocal performances. To start the festivities in a traditional manner, David Leys (clerk at Leys Jewelry in the Owsley Block) recited Burns’s “Address to a Haggis.” The guest list was noteworthy, including ex-Senator Lee Mantle, ex-Senator William Fisk Sanders, retired Judge John Lindsay, Postmaster George Irvin, Augustus Heinze, R.D. Leggatt, Andrew Jackson Davis, Charles Schatzlein, John McQueeney, and enough “Mac’s” and “Mc’s” and others to fill the hall.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!
—Robert Burns

Resources: Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902; January 26, 1904; Anaconda Standard January 26, 1901; City Directories.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Walkerville, 1881

Walkerville, 1881. Photo by Charles Roscoe Savage. See bottom for annotated version.

By Richard I. Gibson

In a previous post we dissected a photo of Butte by Charles Roscoe Savage that was most likely made in 1881. Today I’m focusing on a second Butte photo in the Savage collection, digitized by Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. This one is a remarkable view of Walkerville, presumably also from 1881.

Although Butte was taking off in 1881, rising from the population nadir in 1874, Walkerville had a more stable early history in part because of its silver. The Butte mineral district is zoned with concentric sections like a sliced onion, and the outer rings are more silver rich. The mines on the west side, including the Travona and Orphan Girl, were mined for silver much more than for copper, and the same was true on the north side, in Walkerville. Any silver on the south is buried beneath thick sediments on the Flats, and on the east side, the silver-rich zone was uplifted along the Continental and other faults and has been eroded away.

Marcus Daly famously came to Butte at the behest of the Walker Brothers of Salt Lake City to manage and develop the Alice Silver Mine in Walkerville. Daly brought his expertise in the Comstock Silver Belt of Nevada, but eventually made his real fortune in the copper mines of Butte.

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. The photo above, looking north, shows the heart of Walkerville, with buildings lining both sides of Daly Street across the foreground and Main Street running north on the right side of the photo. The big two-story building with three windows is the Caplice & McCune Store, a building that is still standing. Two buildings south from the store, the Rainbow Saloon, on the southwest corner of Main and Daly Streets, also offered boarding and lodging. W.H. Peck and H.J. Hurley managed it in 1885. By 1888 it was called the Light House Saloon.

The little shop on Daly with the front porch, in front of the left-most window of the Caplice & McCune Store, was a meat market in 1884. West (left) of it, the Head Quarters was another saloon. Further west on Daly, the three white-fronted stores were (from right to left) L.W. Fosters general merchandise, a saloon with billiards, and a boarding house with a large dining room in 1884.

New Alice Stamp Mill, 1884. Redrawn from Sanborn Map.
Click to enlarge.
The two big mine complexes at the top of the hill above Walkerville are the Moulton to the left and the Alice to the right. The Alice was connected by a tramway to the New Alice Stamp Mill. The old mill is the complex of buildings above the Caplice & McCune Store, in front of the hoisting works on the skyline. Both stamp mills would have been in operation when this photo was made (or maybe not literally in operation at this moment, given the lack of dust and smoke). In 1884 the Alice mine and mill employed about 65 men per shift, probably two shifts of 12 hours each (the 8-hour day and three shifts a day only became common in the early 1900s). In addition to the big stamp room, the Old Alice Stamp Mill buildings included a leaching room, a stone-walled retort, settling tubs, dryers, a dust house, and an engine room adjacent to the three boilers that generated 720 horsepower of steam energy. The new stamp mill added 6 boilers at 300 horsepower. The combined mills had 100 stamps and a processing capacity of 90 tons a day.

The Moulton Stamp Mill, in the buildings to the left (west) of the Moulton Mine stack, had 40 stamps and a 40-ton-per-day capacity, and 30 employees. There were “frequent strong winds from west and northwest” at the Moulton. Ya think?

We think the other photo of Butte by C.R. Savage was made about September, 1881 on the basis of under-construction buildings and the nature of the shadows, which suggests the autumnal equinox. If this photo was made about the same time, which is likely, the Alice was probably well lit by electric lights. The first electric light in Montana had been lit there November 17, 1880. When the City Council, Mayor Valiton, and a crowd of citizens (“some accompanied by ladies”) visited the Alice a few days later to see the sight, the Butte Daily Miner reported

“Notwithstanding a blinding snowstorm was raging, the entire party was treated to a most beautiful sight as they approached Walkerville. On top of the [Alice] hoisting works appeared a light which in the escaping steam seemed like a ball of fire rolling in the heavens, while through the windows of the mill the light shone beautifully distinct and cheerful.”

Resources: 1884 Sanborn map; Butte Daily Miner, November 24, 1880; November 18, 1880; city directory for 1885. See also these additional posts about Walkerville.

Annotated version of the photo. Daly Street in yellow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Vice-Consul of Greece


by Richard I. Gibson

In 1900, Greece maintained nine consular offices in the United States – consuls in New York, where the Consul General was located; Chicago; Boston; Philadelphia; and San Francisco. Vice-Consuls provided services in Norfolk, Virginia; St, Louis, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; and Lowell, Massachusetts. On December 7, 1900, the King of Greece issued a decree naming a fifth Vice-Consul: George Scholomiti of Butte.

George Scholomiti was born in Kosmas, in the Parnonas Mountains of Greece, not far from Sparta. He came to Butte about 1890 and was connected to the restaurant business for most of his time here. In 1891 he was a clerk and cashier at the Theater Comique, on South Main Street where the southern part of the Metals Bank building stands today.

By the time he was appointed vice-consul, Scholomiti was operating a successful restaurant at 28 South Main Street. The two-story building there before 1900 contained two saloons and “female boarding” – meaning, a brothel, but I believe it was renovated or possibly replaced by another two-story building that housed Scholomiti’s restaurant by 1900-01. He maintained his office as vice-consul at 62 West Park, where he lived upstairs. That building was part of the complex of structures that housed Symon’s store until they burned down in 1905, and the Phoenix Building rose to replace them.

George and his bother Peter were operating two restaurants in 1907, a tiny one at 8 South Main (one of many small buildings that were replaced by the Rialto Theater in 1916, where the Wells Fargo Bank is today), and the one at 28 S. Main. The two-story building at 28 South Main, on the corner with Galena, was gone by 1951, replaced by the one-story building that houses the Butte Weekly and adjacent businesses today.

George appears to have died or left Butte by 1909. His brother and other relations (sons?) continued in the restaurant business, with one at 825 East Front Street (the Bennett Block, Brinck’s Building demolished in 2014), operated by Chris Scholomiti, and the Globe Café at 28 South Main where Chris, John, and Michael Scholomiti all worked. 

About 1915, Chris Scholomiti built a boarding house at 1100-1102-1104-1106 South Utah Street. It appears to have been an investment as no Sholomitis lived there, but it still stands today, with the name “Scholomiti” across the upper front facade. In 1928, it held Mrs. Duffy’s Grocery Store on the ground floor. Residents included Leo and Luella Lehti – he was a driver for the Western Creamery Company; Roscoe Baldridge, an engineer, and his wife Minnie; and Edgar and Margaret Price. Edgar was a switchman on the Great Northern Railroad. The last listing in the city directories for any Scholomiti is 1928.


St. George’s Day, England’s National Day, is usually identified with the British in Butte, and the Sons of St. George celebrated the day on April 23. But Greeks celebrated it as well, on May 6 – the same day, but according to the Gregorian Greek Orthodox calendar. The 100 or so Greeks in Butte in the early 1900s celebrated with a picnic at Nine Mile Canyon, with all expenses paid for by the three Greeks in Butte with the name “George” – George Scholomiti (at front center in the photo above), George Stamatiou, and George Buller.

Someone in Butte must have subscribed to the primary Greek-American newspaper of the day, the Atlantis, published in the Greek language in New York. Issues of the Atlantis from January 1921 were glued onto boards now in the basement of the Wah Chong Tai building in Butte's Chinatown to serve as minimal insulation. Were these just random pages of discarded newspaper that the proprietors of the Wah Chong Tai used? Or was there a closer connection between the Chinese family and the Greeks? The Scholomiti restaurant at 28 S. Main was just a short block and a half from the Wah Chong Tai. 

The last Greek store in Butte was probably Athens Grocery and Imports at 601 Utah, operated by Ernest and Georgia Pappas for 45 years. The Scholomiti legacy lives on in the building at 1100 S. Utah, and in connections around the world. A few years ago, Joel and Sheri Broudy (of Wein’s Men’s Store in Butte) were traveling on business to Chicago. A taxi driver picked them up at the airport, and inquired where they had arrived from. When he heard “Butte, Montana,” he told the Broudys that his grandfather had been the Greek Vice-Consul in Butte, Montana – George Scholomiti.



Resources: Anaconda Standard, January 21, 1901; May 8, 1905; Butte Heritage Cookbook; City Directories; Sanborn Maps. Thanks to Irene Scheidecker, Kim Kohn, Ellen Crain, and Sheri Broudy for guidance and information.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A picture tells a story

Charles Roscoe Savage photo of Butte circa September 1881. Mountain View Church at left; Timber Butte in right distance; Idaho Street heading down the hill along the right side.

By Richard I. Gibson

Click on images below to enlarge.

A picture tells a story, if only we can read it.

Recently on Facebook, Building in the Past, a wonderful page that shares great historic imagery from all over, shared a photo of early Butte that I had never seen, copied at the top of this post. Now, of course I haven’t seen every historic photo of Butte – but I’ve seen all the ones that are commonly reproduced, and so has my colleague, Nicole von Gaza-Reavis. She had not seen this one either, so we began a Facebook discussion of the photo, its subjects and its timing.

The main points of the photo are immediately evident to those who study historic Butte seriously. The church at left is Mountain View (the original church, built circa 1877 and replaced by the present one in 1899) at Quartz and Montana. That’s Timber Butte in the distance, and the dirt street heading downhill on the right of the photo is Idaho Street.

After that, identifying details takes a little more sleuthing.

Down Idaho Street, on the left (east) side of the street, the steep-roofed building is the original Presbyterian Church at the corner of Idaho and Broadway, replaced by the present building in 1896 (where the Covellite Theater is located). Nicole and I determined that you can see the Jacobs House at Granite and Montana – but only its roof, partly hidden among other roofs in the left portion of the photo. You can get a suggestion of a vacant lot across (left) from the Jacobs House – that’s where the original county court house would go up in 1884, a few years after this photo was made. The Jacobs House is probably the only building in this photo that still stands today.

Which leads us to the question of the timing. The original source is the Charles Roscoe Savage photograph collection, digitized by Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. Savage worked as a photographer for various railroads and of course did additional photography as well. The original source gives the date as ca. 1880.

Caplice Block was at Park and Montana (SW corner)
When you get into the photo and keep track of where the streets are located – a challenge in places, because of the foreshortening in the view – you can recognize the Caplice Block as the largest single building in the photo. It’s just to the right of center in the middle distance, and it was located on the southwest corner of Park and Montana Streets. Its roof is not completed in this photo – the top was an ornate French Second Empire style, similar to today’s Finlen Hotel. With a Butte Miner newspaper article from May 14, 1882 that reported on the completion of the Caplice Block (except for some painting), I speculated that the photo would have been a few months prior to that May 1882 date. If you look at the shadows in the photo, it is clear that the photo was made late in the day – and the shadows are pretty close to east-west in orientation. In Butte, that only happens around the times of the equinoxes – March and September. So I concluded that the photo probably was made in March, 1882.

Caplice Block at right. Note 7 windows (as in photo above)
and completed Second Empire roof.
But Larry Hoffman pointed out the lack of snow anywhere – especially on the mountains, and argued for fall of 1881. The first railroad (Utah & Northern) arrived in Butte December 21, 1881, so if Savage was riding the train, he came after that. But there is no reason to think that he wasn’t here in Butte, perhaps scouting things for the coming railway, before the line was completed. So back to the research.

It turned out that while the Caplice Block was indeed “completed” in May 1882, it was definitely being used the previous fall and winter. A news report on September 1, 1881, said that its walls were “looming up in magnificent proportions” and it was at least partially occupied before Thanksgiving 1881. So, new conclusion: the photo probably dates to the Autumnal Equinox, September 1881. That fits better with all the knowns we have. We may figure out other lines of reasoning, of course, that may deny this conclusion, or give it more support. That’s how this process works, at least this far back when there is really very little clear information about Butte. Only in 1884 and later, when we have Sanborn maps, city directories, and the Bird’s-Eye View, can we really make definitive statements about most buildings. Even then, things can be murky and subject to interpretation.

Charles Roscoe Savage was a prolific photographer, best known for his pictures of the driving of the “golden spike” connecting the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869. He was English and became a Mormon at age 14, in 1846. When he emigrated to the United States at age 23, he eventually settled and made his studio in Salt Lake City. Many of his photographs were lost in a studio fire in 1883, which may explain why (so far as we know) there are only two extant from his visit to Butte in (we now surmise) 1881.

Bird's-Eye View (1884)
Circled house is the one across from
Mountain View Church (#2 here),
same as the house across Quartz in the photo above
(to right of church in photo)
Beyond the specific buildings mentioned above, this photo provides a wealth of information about early Butte. The sharpness of the photo is probably a result of its being an albumen print, a method that used egg whites (albumen) and was printed as a direct exposure, so there was no photo developing in the modern sense. That method gives the outstandingly fine grain seen in this photo, but I’m not entirely certain that that is the nature of this image.

This photo bears out the idea that the 1884 Bird’s-Eye View is an almost photographic rendering of the way Butte looked in 1884. Mountain View Church is faithfully drawn, and even the house across the street from it has the exact roofline shown in the photo above.

The second Butte photo in the BYU Charles Roscoe Savage collection is of Walkerville. That’ll be the subject of a future post.

Thanks to Nicole von Gaza-Reavis, Larry Hoffman, and everyone who contributed to the multiple Facebook discussions of this photograph, and to Paul Charron (Building in the Past) for the original posting.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cold wave, January 1902



By Richard I. Gibson

Obviously it’s not THAT noteworthy: It gets cold in Butte in the winter. The cold wave of 1902 made the news, though – one of the coldest late January cold spells on record.

Wagon wheels creak with the complaining whirl of extreme cold and windows are sheeted with ice. The big policeman shrinks one coil deeper into his big coon-skin coat and wishes somebody would start something in the near-by saloon.” —Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902


The only colder temperature than Butte was at Fort Assiniboine, where -48° to -52° was recorded. The cold snap was statewide: 27 below at Helena, 35 below at Great Falls, 15 below in Billings.

“The hotel lobbies look inviting and travelers who come from sunnier climes postpone their business engagements and ask the clerk anxiously how long this is going to last.” Yes, some things never change.

At the busy corner of Main Street and Broadway, the “Ice Picture Man” entertained passers-by by reading Frostographs. The article from the Inter Mountain is quoted below in its entirety:

He came sliding down Main street with a festive air, whistling “When the harvest days are over, Jessie dear,” and occasionally balancing himself with the dexterity of a circus rope walker on the icy pavement until he reached the little knot on the corner, who were studying the thermometer and agreeing that it was much colder than the register indicated.

“Say,” said the gentleman with the whistle, who moved as if he had learned to walk on a pair of Norwegian skis, “did any of you fellows ever notice the peculiar designs on the windows here in Butte when the weather gets very cold? Now, it is a well-known fact that frost reflects the surrounding objects on the window panes, and that when you see trees and plants on the glass they are simply reproductions of the trees and shrubs in the neighborhood. These pictures are scientifically known as ‘frostographs.’

“If you notice the pictures on the Butte windows, however, you will see that there are very few of these beautiful trees and designs on the window panes, and I believe this bears out the theory that they are really reproductions.

“Now I have a theory.” Here half the audience slipped quietly away. “These pictures that you see on hear are photographic reproductions of familiar objects around the city.

“Let me show you,” and the stranger assumed the attitude and tone of the professional dime museum conductor. “On the right you see a faithful representation of the shafthouse of the Gagnon mine. Ah, I see you recognize the similarity. Over here you can observe readily a very excellent reproduction of the Hennessy building. Here, partly blurred by the melting ice, and yet readily recognizable, are the smoke stacks on the hill. See, there are the stacks of the ‘Anaconda’ and ‘Neversweat,’ and away up on top of the pane you find the shafthouse of the ‘Mountain View.’

“Now, note the perspective, how much larger in comparison these buildings are than the reflections of the works on the hill. The new Hirbour building takes up about half the pane, and even the city hall looks twice as large as the Hennessy building.”

“Say, mister,” said a street urchin, who happened along at that moment, “what do you call that mixed-up-looking mess there, close to what you call the city hall?”

“That,” said the professor, without a moment’s hesitation, “is a remarkable picture: that is a flawless frostograph of the police disturbance in Butte,” and before the crowd could catch its breath he was sliding down the hill with an easy swing that would make a Norwegian ski-runner ashamed of himself.



Source: Butte Inter Mountain, January 25, 1902