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Gen. Charles S. Warren

Image of Gen. Charles S. Warren circa 1910 from The Montana Standard, June 13, 1954.


The winter of 1866-67 was a cold one in Butte. Actually, there wasn’t much “Butte” — the population as recalled by pioneer Charles S. Warren was fewer than 200, but the placer gold camp at Silver Bow down the creek from Butte still had perhaps 2,500 people, including “not more than 25 women and children,” according to Warren.

One of those women in Silver Bow was Mrs. H.A. Price, who ran the only restaurant. She was doing well with meals at $1.50, but for Christmas dinner 1866, she charged $2.50 (payable in gold dust) for a spread of rabbit and elk meat, but no turkey; and her traditional English Christmas specialty, plum duff, was a failure. But there were other treats available, for a premium price: a dish of sauerkraut from Salt Lake City for a dollar extra or a boiled onion for 25 cents.

Most of the miners were out of work for the winter, and a frigid Christmas week was spent with fires in the street and general “jollification,” even when the thermometers that were good to 40 below froze solid on New Year’s Eve. The spring of 1867 was no better, and Warren recalled that Eddy & McMahan’s Silver Bow Saloon could not open on March 15 because “every drop of whiskey was frozen.” As much as 10 feet of snow was on the ground at Silver Bow on June 1.

Charles Warren, born in Illinois in 1847, became one of Butte’s early — if less remembered — pioneers. He partnered with William Clark in the Black Rock Lode in 1880 and with Charles Mussigbrod in the Cossack, but he sold his interest in the Lexington to A.J. Davis for $50 or less — and Davis sold it a few years later for more than $1 million.

Following a short stint as Sheriff of Deer Lodge County in 1873, Warren became the first police magistrate in Butte about 1879. He invested with Lee Mantle in the Silver Bow Electric Company and the Inter-Mountain Newspaper and was one of the founders of the Electric Street Railway in 1890, when a fare was 10 cents (to be reduced to 5 cents after the first five years).

Warren’s fortune allowed him to become a charter member and first president of the Silver Bow Club. In 1872, he and his wife Mittie were among the first to be married in Montana Territory. Their Butte home was at 211 S. Washington, a near neighbor to internationally known Black singer Robert Logan, who sang at Warren’s funeral in 1921. Warren Island in Lake Pend Oreille is named for him.

Local geologist and historian Dick Gibson has lived in Butte since 2003 and has worked as a tour guide for various organizations and museums. He can be reached at


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