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, 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.