mine and successfully managed it for the Walkers. The town of Walkerville, which still overlooks the city of Butte, sprang up around the mine and other mines in the area.
In 1880, Daly sold his interest in the Walkers’ properties and bought the Anaconda Mine. He did so with investment money from several San Francisco capitalists, including George Hearst, the father of media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Clark and Davis also attracted investors from Denver and points east. It wasn’t long before capi- talists from New York and Boston bought into the huge potential of the area. During the 1880s, cop- per mining came into the forefront and Butte became the world’s greatest copper producer. The Union Pacific Railroad came to the area in 1881 allowing developers to build and equip smelters. The Butte smelters quickly became the best in the world at extracting the metal from the ore.
It wasn’t long before Butte began to pay a price for the riches. The air filled with toxic sul- furous smoke. Daly responded by building a giant smelter in Anaconda, just 30 miles west of Butte. To this day, the giant smokestack remains a land- mark. Shortly after Daly built the smelter, the Boston and Montana Co., with holdings only sec- ond to Daly’s, built one in Great Falls. Trains car- ried the ore from Butte’s mines to both smelters.
In 1899, Daly teamed up with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil to create the giant Amalgamated Copper Mining Co., one of the largest trusts of the early Twentieth Century. By 1910, it had changed its name to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company swallowing several smaller mining com- panies along the way. The Company dominated Butte for the next 70 years. The battle between the Copper Kings Clark and Daly is a large chapter in Montana history. To stir the mix, another Copper King, F. Augustus Heinze, fought the dominance of Amalgamated, providing excitement to an already interesting chapter in Montana’s legal history.
The mines brought whole families from every corner of the nation and around the world. They crowded into tiny houses and occupied apartment buildings called flats. The earlier skilled miners were Cornish, but the Irish soon followed, tempted by the prospects of steady pay. They came in
There is no skyline in the world like Butte’s. Standing like sentries on the surround- ing hillsides are stark black headframes of sev- eral mines no longer in use. The Orphan Girl headframe at the World Museum of Mining is visible from the interstate. Dominating the landscape are the Kelley, Steward, the Original, Belmont, Granite Mountain, Bell Diamond, Badger State, Travona, Lexington, Centerville’s mighty Mountain Con and the Anselmo gallows frames.
To put it simply, headframes are like the tops of elevators, but not hidden in the inside of a tall building. The frames held the cables that low- ered men, equipment, timbers, dynamite, ore cars and, in earlier days, the mules to pull the cars. Once the men and equipment were inside the mines, the frames hauled to the surface the copper ore which was then loaded on trains and shipped to the smelter in Anaconda.
At its peak, the Butte Hill was alive with the bright lights of the mine yards at night. The
droves and soon became the largest ethnic group. Suburbs of Butte, with names like Finntown, Meaderville, Dublin Gulch, Chinatown, Corktown, and Parrot Flat were soon filled with Italians, Croatians, Serbians, Finns, French Canadians, Lebanese, Scandinavians, Chinese, Mexicans, Germans, Austrians, and African-Americans.
Economic exploitation and the dangers of working in the mines led to the labor move- ment—an important part of Butte’s heritage. The city soon had the tag of the “Gibraltar of Unionism.” Butte’s Miners Union, founded in 1878, became Local No. 1 of the Western Federation of Miners. At the 1906 International Workers of the World founding convention in Chicago, Butte’s delegation was the largest.
In the late 1800s, the mining companies com- peted for scarce labor. This gave the unions lever- age and many successes. But, as the Anaconda Company consolidated operations, the unions lost their leverage and their power. In the early 1900s, worker frustration and company opposition com- bined to form a violent atmosphere. The Miner’s Union Hall was bombed in 1914, and in 1917 IWW organizer Frank Little was lynched. A fic- tional account of this incident is told in Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest.
In 1917, the Speculator Mine fire killed 168 men—to this day the most lives lost in a hardrock mining disaster in American History. Despite the dangers, mining flourished. At an altitude of 5,775 feet above sea level, Butte claimed it was “a mile high and a mile deep.” But like most mining camps, the riches extracted here—more than $22 billion by the 1980s—went to the speculators and investors far away from the mountains of Montana.
1955 saw the abandonment of labor intensive underground work when the Anaconda Company switched to more cost effective open-pit mining. The excavation of the Berkeley Pit and surround- ing area, changed the face and the skyline of Butte. The population declined and the new method of mining wiped away hundreds of homes, flats, boarding houses, bars and corner groceries which once proliferated on Butte’s East Side. Whole communities like Meaderville and McQueen vanished. Columbia Gardens was an
sound of bells used as signals for the hoist operators, the shrill mine whistles signaling the shift changes, and the throaty “toots” of the trains as they hauled their ore loaded cars through town could be heard around the clock.
elegant, old-fashioned amusement park with an elaborate dance pavilion nestled alongside the East Ridge. For generations it provided fun and amuse- ment to Butte families. It too fell victim to the open pit mining. Anaconda Mining Company merged with Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) in 1977. In 1985, ARCO’s holdings were purchased by Montana billionaire Dennis Washington.
When you visit uptown Butte and it’s older sections, much of its history can be seen by look- ing up. By viewing the ornate architecture, fading signs on the sides of buildings, and the head- frames surrounding the area, one can get a small sense of the grandeur this city once knew.
Walkerville This small town, which now serves as a suburb to Butte, was once a mining town. It was first settled by prospectors from Cornwall, England, and was named for the Walker brothers of Salt Lake City, who owned and operated the nearby Alice Mine. The post office operated from 1878 to 1959, with Francis P. Carey presiding as first postmaster. Today, the remains of homes can still be seen amongst the ore dumps and mine tipples. A ceme- tery also exists, with one headstone reading, “In
. Gone to Butte, U.S.A.”
T Our Lady of the Rockies
(Visitor Center) 3100 Harrison Ave in Butte. 494-2656
A statue weighing 51 tons, rising 90 feet high and requiring six years to construct is set atop the rugged Rocky Mountain ridge. This monument of Our Lady of the Rockies was built in the likeness of Mary, Mother of Jesus, but is intended to be a tribute to all women regardless of religion. Perched on the east ridge overlooking Butte, the statue is lit at night and can be seen glowing on Butte’s skyline. A bus tour is available, and a pos- sible gondola ride is under consideration.
T U.S. High Altitude Sports Center
When you first exit the Homestake Pass driving west into Butte, one of the first things you see is a large oval track. This track has been the training ground for several Olympic speedskating champi- ons, including Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen. The outdoor speed skating facility was completed in 1987, and has been the venue for several national and world speedskating competitions. In 1994, the Women’s World Championship was held here. The World Cup Competition has been held here on six different occasions. What makes the Center unique
BUTTE, DILLON, & VIRGINIA CITY AREA