Editor’s note: Today the Standard launches a column by Floyd Bossard, of Butte, who had a long career in the mining industry. The column, called “Braggin on Butte,’’ will run twice a month and focus on Butte’s mining history and related topics. Following is the first installment:
Placer gold was discovered in 1864 in Silver Bow Creek near what is now Main Street. Placer gold mining collapsed in 1870. A total $9 million worth of gold was produced.
Hard rock mining (drilling and blasting) first commenced on the Travonia lode owned by W.A. Clark in 1876. Michael Hickey filed on 25 silver lode claims in 1876.
In 1876, the Philadelphia Exposition demonstrated the applications of electricity along with its utilization of copper metal.
Copper was a critical component in the generation, transmission and utilization of electricity.
Butte mines produced most of the copper used to electrify the United States during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s.
Marcus Daly arrived in Butte in 1876 and purchased the Alice Silver Mine for the Walker Brothers of Salt Lake City.
Daly was a visionary. He grasped Butte's full mining potential. Michael Hickey (an Irishman) had
recognized the rich silver veins on the Butte hill and filed on 25 claims (in the early 1870s) including the Anaconda claim. While operating the Alice Silver Mine in Walkerville, Daly walked over the hill, studied the mineral outcrops, and concluded that the five large E-W vein structures would carry rich mineral values to depth. He sought financial backing to pursue his theory. The Walker Brothers turned him down. He successfully sought financing in San Francisco and the Anaconda Partnership was formed, Higgins and Tevis (45 percent), Hearst (30 percent), and Daly (25 percent). The partnership lasted for 18 years (1881-1899) when it sold out to the Amalgamated Co.
The Partnership bought the Anaconda (70,000) Neversweat, and St. Lawrence ($125) from Hickey and Associates in 1882. Daly sank a shaft on the Anaconda vein and cut 5 feet of 55 percent copper on the 300 level, and 60 feet of 50 percent copper on the 600 level. Pure Bornite (copper 2S) was the richest copper sulfide ore in the world. The Partnership shipped 39,000 tons of copper ore to Wales.
To date, Butte has produced a variety and quantity of non-ferrous (copper, zinc, lead, and manganese) and precious (gold and silver) metals unmatched• by and other mining districts in the
world. The partnership formed the Anaconda Mining Co. in 1892.
The Amalgamated Copper Mining Co. purchased the Anaconda Mining Co. in 1899 and waged corporate warfare with Augustus Heinze over the ownership of the underground ore veins.
In 1899, three quarters of Montana's wage earners were drawing wages from the Butte mines, owned or dependent operations, and supply companies.
W.A. Clark opened the gates of Columbia Gardens to the public in 1899.
The Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway was completed between Butte and Anaconda in 1900,
and a route to the Pacific Coast had been surveyed when Marcus Daly died in 1900 at the age of 58.
The B.A. & P. Railway became the first electrified railroad in the United States in 1910.
The Anaconda Copper Mining Co. (A.C.M. Co. - formerly the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company) was formed in 1915.
Butte's population approached 100,000 in 1917.
-- Floyd Bossard, an Anaconda native, is a graduate of Anaconda High School, and graduated from the Montana School of Mines (now Montana Tech) with a degree in geological engineering in 1950. Furthering his studies in this field, Bossard earned his masters in industrial hygiene from the University of Cincinnati. He spent decades as a consulting engineer on mine ventilation, air pollution control, environmental impact studies and many other projects.