Saturday, August 06, 2016

Mines and Thomas Edison

I've been around mines and mining towns all my life. My earliest memory, from the age of 2 or 3, is  taking a bath in the kitchen sink of my grandmother's apartment in Victor, Colorado. My mother was raised in Victor and nearby Goldfield and my grandfather was a gold miner there. About once a year my mother and I would visit my grandmother there until 1949 when she moved to Denver near where we lived. The image of mine headframes was fixed in my memory.

Butte, Montana, is also a mining town. Whereas Victor is nearly a ghost town--except for the casinos--Butte is a well preserved, clean, attractive city filled with evidence of the mining history.

Between 1864 and 1875 placer mining or gold panning was used to collect gold. By 1875 that ore was exhausted but before the town was abandoned, silver was discovered and the underground mining period began. They brought up not only silver but also copper, lead, zinc and manganese. Underground mining is very dangerous and one mine fire led to the deaths of 168 miners. In 1955 they began open pit mining of copper.

The Berkeley Pit mine is still in limited operation.

We didn't get a good photo of the huge open pit, but here is a link to a photo I found on the internet.

We were able to get a good view of the water that has accumulated in the pit. It is a very pretty view but the water is terrible polluted. Efforts are being made to treat and clean the water.

So, what has Thomas Edison got to do with all this?  As you know, he developed the electric light bulb and he found that copper makes excellent wire to conduct electricity.  The demand for copper for wire spurred the mining of copper.  Also, my last blog was about the Milwaukee Road trail.  The section of the Milwaukee Road rail line near Butte was one of the first sections of railroad to be electrified.  Edison came to Butte to view that project.

The city of Butte has done a good job of maintaining the historic buildings and reusing them in creative ways.

All those mine headframes supported pulleys that brought people and ore in and out of the mines. The pulleys were run by engines houses in engine houses like this. Today the building houses the Butte Senior Center.

Some of the old buildings have great signs painted on the sides.

Not everything is preserved in excellent condition. Look at this old door.

Many of the miners in Butte in the late 19th century were Irish Catholics. That heritage is reflected in this Butte welcome center.

How many of you know what this flower is called? It must grow about a mile above sea level because I remember lots of them near my Denver home.

It's a holly hock.

One last note on Butte. We get our TV through Dish Network and every time we move some distance I have to call and have our service address changed so we get local stations. When we arrived in Butte I called to do that. When I gave the customer service rep the zip code, he said,"Your're in a town named but?" No, we're not. I had to tell him how to pronounce "Butte."

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