Historical Notes - Week of December 21st

The River Press, December 27, 1882

[Note: Johnson and Jackson are the same man; it is unclear as to why the name was changed part way through the story, maybe to protect an identity?]

SHREWD MR. SMYTHE-How the Old-Timer Played it on a New Yorker

While the Clark’s Fork mines are not in the regions of eternal snow, the fall there is by no means inconsiderable. A story is told of a tunnel run on a lead in that district to the depth of 225 feet, which is deserving of being immortalized in print. Some two years since a party of Eastern capitalists made a purchase of the Silver King lode. They sent out as superintendent a dapper little chap from New York, who knew no more about mining than a Crow Indian does of geometry.

The superintendant, Mr. Smythe by name, came to Bozeman, hired a retinue of cooks, teamsters, etc., and went out to the mine. It had not been developed to any extent, and after an inspection of the prospect shaft, Mr. Smythe determined to have a tunnel run on the property. He announced his intentions and asked for bids. An old-timer and prospector named Johnson, hearing of Mr. Smythe’s wants, went to see the embryo superintendent. It did not take Johnson long to “size up” his man, and in a short time he had contracted to run a tunnel on the lead to a depth of 225 feet. Explaining to Mr. Smythe the character of the formation, and telling him that in soft rock he could make fair headway, he undertook to run the tunnel to the required length for $20 a foot, or $4,500 for the work. A payment was made Mr. Johnson on the spot of $1,000 and Mr. Smythe went to St. Paul, the tunnel contractor agreeing to make a weekly report as to the progress of the work. Mr. Smythe’s visit was made in the latter part of November. Just prior to his coming there had been a heavy snow fall, and in the vicinity of the mine the snow averaged a great depth. Mr. Jackson knew this. He started his tunnel, but instead of entering the mountain, took an easterly course abound the side under snow. The mouth was closely timbered, but after a distance of 30 feet the timbering was done in a less substantial manner, the contractor using 16-foot boards and 2x4 spikes. The track was laid in the same distance as the timbering. A car or two of waste littered the roadway, and the appearance of a veritable tunnel presented. In the latter part of January, Jackson sent the superintendant word that the tunnel was completed. In due time Mr. Smythe arrived. Jackson conducted him to the entrance, gave him the end of a rope which was exactly 225 feet long, and told him he need not soil his clothes: that the tunnel was very wet, and that when the end was reached he (Jackson) would strike the face with a hammer. This was done. Mr. Smythe expressed entire satisfaction with the work, paid Jackson $3,500 remaining due, and released him from his contract. The superintendent then went east and made his report. He returned six months later, prepared to at once proceed with the development of the mine. His queries as the meaning of the timbers around the mountain resulted in the discovery that he had been taken in. Jackson was last heard of in Tombstone, and the superintendent of the Silver King lode hasn’t been heard from since. - Courier

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Main street Cooke City looking East, Cosmopolitan Hotel.


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