Livingston — Butte City, 28 September 1893

The train led on a branch line of the Northern Pacific Railway in a Southeastern direction across a bare and sad area, through uncultivated hilly terrain and only in the distance the peaks of the Rocky Mountains were visible. Everywhere we saw cattle in great numbers that seemed to be well nourished despite the poor soil. One and a half hour before Butte City the land turned mountainous. The train crossed deeply cut valleys and gorges on tall wooden bridges. Numerous round rock blocks of considerable size were laying around everywhere allowing only sparse tree growth in the few open places.

At many points we could see clear signs of mining that is very actively undertaken in this Rocky Mountain district rich in ore and centered on Butte City. This mining city in the purest sense of the word is situated in a bare valley surrounded by mountains and is recognizable from afar by its smoking stacks. In the middle of the surrounding area of the city rises a hill rich in ore whose copper and silver deposits are extracted by several mines. The attached machine houses, various laundries and large heaps of dead rocks covered the surface of the hill. Small tracks on which wagons and sledges with the mined ore moved led from site to site. Everywhere there was smoke, hammering and knocking.

Around this hill are arranged the city and some settlements that have in time become suburbs, so that Butte currently has 40.000 inhabitants. If American cities in general are known to have been built without taste and present a chilling sight, then Butte City must count to be among the worst.

One should imagine a community of a considerable extent where not one tree, not one spot of green, the motley houses are built on clay or sand and in the more distant roads are reminiscent of gypsy wagons. Everywhere the Non plus ultra of tastelessness is achieved. The roads are bumpy like a miserable country road. And still there are millionaires living in the city but they do not indulge in any luxuries here and do not embellish their sad homes and only amass dollars.

A dense network of wires extended over the roofs and bright boards with obtrusive ads covered the front and side walls of all buildings. In a two-hour tour I have never receiver viler impressions than here but am still satisfied to have seen Butte City as my opinion that one has to see for oneself and not let one’s judgement be formed only by descriptions was confirmed once more.

I was interesting in visiting one of the mines and thus I drove to a mine where I was informed that the officials and workers were at lunch and the mine at rest which made me conclude that a European shift organization that prevented the interruption of the work flow was not possible to install in this „free“ country here. After longer discussions, one worker was ready to show us the mine which was said to go down 335 m and we entered as seven on a sledge intended for four persons. Fortunately we stopped already at the second level and, each equipped with a flickering candle, followed a gallery until we arrived at the work place after we had climbed over multiple ladders. Here the copper and silver veins in the rock were visible in a strange clay mass.

Mining is done in terraces that lie one above the other and are supported by wooden pillars and as elsewhere, they do use plenty of the cheap wood here. The profit  of the mine seems to be small as only 60 workers were employed and everything looked quite shabby. I thus refrained from visiting the likewise resting laundry and smeltery and returned to the station.

Then started an extended period of shifting our wagons in which they were pushed together so forcefully that only their excellent construction prevented damage, as we often had had the opportunity to observe this.

Light-heartedly we parted from Butte City and drove up to dusk to the South towards Salt Lake City through a bare valley with numerous small stations. Alongside the tracks numerous herds were mingling. Some beautiful light effects were produced by the setting sun in the mountains and compensated for the strong monotony of the area.

Links

  • Location: Butte, Montana, USA
  • ANNO – on 28.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Das Heiratsnest“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.

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