Monday, August 5, 2013

Granite County Historical Society First Annual Seminar

July 13, 2013 GCHS held our first seminar at the Granite County Museum conference room. Twenty six people were in attendance at the morning seminar from 9am to noon.
The historical topics covered were:

1. Ted Antonioli described the discovery and early mining history of the Philipsburg mining district and the first prospectors and miners in the district: Hector Horton, Dan and Emmanuel Brown, William Graham, the Stuart Brothers, Walter Dance, Charles Frost, and others.

2. Terrence Delaney Phd. spoke about the life and experiences of James Stuart. Dr. Delaney wrote his dissertation on James Stuart and touched on many episodes in the life of this fascinating pioneer, including his role in the birth of Philipsburg. Dr. Delaney's participation in the seminar was aided by an honorarium from GCHS. His dissertation on Stuart is a monumental contribution to the history of western Montana and we hope to see it's publication as one or more books.

3. Loraine Bentz Domine spoke about Philipp Deidesheimer and Kate Perry, and discussed the letter from Kate that revealed Deidesheimer's role in laying out Philipsburg.

4. Steven Neal arranged two large albums of early Granite County Photographs for the audience to enjoy, including an impressive panorama of Granite.

5. Jim Waldbillig provided items from his great grandfather James Patten mine and mill for display, including a silver bullion bar from the Sweet Home mill.

A picnic brown bag lunch was enjoyed at the James Stuart/Hope mill-site for the 13 people participating in the afternoon mine tour.

On the tour, Ted Antonioli described the James Stuart mill, the Pelton wheel and water system still on site and the Cordova mine tunnel visible from the site. The group then walked to the Cordova mine and viewed the ore outcrop while Ted described the history of this claim.

Next the group was driven to Tower/Stumptown and Ted described the Northwest Mining Company mill and the nearby work at the True Fissure mine, which developed, appropriately enough, the Horton vein. Continuing past Stumptown, the tour went to the Rumley and Burgher, Comanche, Hope, Sweet Home, Two Percent and Poorman's Joy where Ted provided detailed analysis of each mines history, and the problems faced by the early miners (especially Stuart and the St. Louis and Montana Company) in profitably developing these deposits.

An assessment of the day follows: Group participation was excellent and many questions were asked. A couple of topics generated a lively discussion. Dr. Delaney preferred a notion that Stuart was more a "midwife" to the birth of Philipsburg than a "founder". Both terms have merit in explaining how Philipsburg came to be. We think though that it needs to be emphasized that Philipsburg would not have come into being when it did, and how it did, without the contributions of both James Stuart and Philipp Deidesheimer. Stuart apparently conceived the idea of building a mill and trying to make mining at Flint Creek a success during his trips to the district with Hector Horton in 1866. Silver mining requires a processing plant and Stuart was the driving force behind the building of the mill.

Philipsburg came into being as a construction boomtown and so directly results from Stuart's efforts and drive. In laying out the town, it seems to us that Deidesheimer was executing on an idea that was original to Stuart, so we give them shared credit as founders. It appears that town lots in the original townsite were at least partly allocated by the St. Louis and Montana Mining Company under the direction of James Stuart, the on-site managing director, since Hector Horton received Lot 1 in Block 1. This lot is not where his cabin is so he likely did not obtain it by "occupation", but rather as a reward for discovering the district. Allocation of certain lots is a traditional prerogative of town founders, and this theme will be developed in a future blog post. Dan Meschter's Flint Chip 17 has a good explanation of the origins of Philipsburg under the US law governing townsites passed in 1864. The process appears to have been under the supervision of the St. Louis and Montana Mining Co., with Countryman, the mill superintendent, elected "Chairman" of the town, with procedures established for residents to obtain lots by preemption, occupying the lot and doing certain work.

There was also an interesting discussion of whether James was a "physician", with Dr. Delaney demurring from the use of that term. Yet the west was rarely privileged, especially in the earliest pioneer days, to have medical school educated physicians that held MD degrees from great universities. Some of the few in this category that we have accounts of are variously described as a murderer (see Francis Thompson on Doctor Howard), a drunk (See Purple on Doctor Ford) or incompetent (see Con Kohrs on Doctor Crippen). Many health care providers of the west were "self-taught", educated mostly by life experience. If lucky enough (as James Stuart was), they might supplement that with "book learning". Utilizing this information and supplemented by Native American practices, James Stuart provided health care plus carried a bag of instruments and supplies to assist in his administrations. We think that meets the general concept of a physician as then understood.

Granite County Historical Society will present the 2nd annual history seminar in 2014. The focus for the day will be the life and times of Fred H. Burr. Watch for an announcement of the 2014 date in early spring.

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