Saturday, October 12, 2013

Traders,Trappers, Mountain Men and Miners

".....nothing worthy of record occurred until the evening of the 11th, when four of our trappers, who had been absent from camp for some time, returned in a state of perfect nudity and most unparalleled misery. Their bodies were broiled by the heat of the sun to that degree, that the pain produced by coming in contact with our clothes was almost unsupportable." (Warren Angus Ferris, "Life in the Rocky Mountains", 1843)

These trappers had come upon a raging river and in an attempt to cross it, swam their horses across then built a raft and packed all their supplies, including their clothes on the raft before setting off in the roiling water. The raft capsized throwing them all off and then became entangled deep in a log jam. Finding it impossible to salvage anything they were able to save themselves and swim to the opposite shore. Riding naked in the broiling sun, rain, hail and nights of freezing temperatures it took them four days to find their comrades. By the time they arrived at camp their bodies were absent flesh from rubbing on the horse hide. They had no choice but to ride the horses because the rocks and prickly pear would have torn their feet to the bone in a matter of a few miles. "Add to the complications of the woes above enumerated, the knawing (sic) pangs of hunger  ...that they must have experienced in no slight degree, from the fact that they did not taste a morsel of food during these four days of agony, and we have an aggregate of suffering hardly equaled in the history of human woe." Yet this account is only one of many documented that describes more than one can imagine the human body surviving, as the trapper and mountain man plied his trade.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Algonquin mill

In 1879, the former superintendent of the Northwest Company, James K. Pardee, organized a new venture to develop the Algonquin lode, Dan Brown's  best discovery. Like the Northwest Company, the Algonquin would be financed out of Philadelphia, and, also like the Northwest, the most expensive component would be a dry roasting-pan amalgamation mill, which was depicted in a drawing in Northwest Magazine in 1887 (left).  It started up in February of 1880 and ran for several years on rich ore from the upper part of the Algonquin vein. It also processed the first ore from the Granite mine, and the mill served as the "pattern" for the huge stamp mills used to process the Granite ores. 
The mill, designed and erected by Thomas Fisher (though there was a lively dispute in the press over how much Mr. M. Carey was involved)  had 20 stamps and was supplied by the same firm, Griffith and Wedge, that had built the Alice and Moulton silver mills in Butte. In 1880, Hector Horton, the district's discoverer, lived in Hasmark, the town next to the mill, and was no doubt engaged in the construction as a brick mason. 

The Algonquin mill burned on December 31, 1898  and little sign remains of it other than a stone retaining wall (below left, Ted A. photo) and the remnants of a flue and stack (below right, Jim Waldbillig photo).

Jo Antonioli at the Algonquin millsite
Dave Harris at the site of the Algonquin mill smokestack