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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for following up the previous Savage picture and article with this picture and article. I have enjoyed reading the back story of both pictures.