Historical Note - Week of October 25th

The Helena Independent, October 29, 1889

THE COOKE CITY MINES

Mountains Which From Base to Summit contain Veins Bearing Mineral

The Men Who Located This District the Best of the American Pioneers

Plenty of Good Ore, But the Miners Must Have Cheap Transportation—Feasible Rail Route

Cooke City is surrounded by lofty mountains with pointed peaks and sharp ridges supported by rounded foot hills. These mountain to the very summits are intersected with numerous mineral veins containing iron, lead, zinc, copper, and manganese, all carrying silver and gold.

This whole region drained by the head waters of Soda Butte Creek, Clark’s Fork, Rosebud and Stillwater, belongs to the New World mining district.

It is believed that fully one thousand claims have been located in this district since its organization. The people who discovered, developed and hold the mines of this district with a firm belief in their vast wealth, belong to that intelligent and vigorous and patriotic portion of Americans who have finished up the states of the Atlantic slope, made those of the Mississippi valley and are now laying broad and deep the foundations of the great commonwealths of the Pacific slope and the Rocky mountains. The world has never seen the equal of this people. Ten thousand times more efficient than an army with banners have been these bands of workingmen and workingwomen, in their quiet but never wavering march from the Alleghenies to the Pacific, taking with them their household goods, their plows, their picks and shovels, their schools and their churches. Before this grand march of the pioneers carrying westward the empire, the savages retreated and slunk back into their peaceful reservations; behind it sprang up farms which feed the world, cities and railroads, what they call civilization: and from it poured out the streams of gold and silver and copper and lead which have vitalized and made permanent the financial condition of the country.

The Cooks, the Huntingtons, the Vanderbilts, the Goulds, the Ames and the Oakes and the Villards think that they made the “Great West.” But their geographies told them the Great West was a vast wilderness inhabited by bloodthirsty savages and buffaloes and trappers. They never dreamed of a railroad beyond the Mississippi till some school teacher told their children of the vast mines of gold and silver and the cities growing up in the mountains and on the Pacific waters. Then by the help of some of those pioneers who made the county, like Hauser and Power, and Broadwater and Hill, they dared to build railroads to gather up the golden nuggets, the golden harvests, the fat beeves and muttons and fast horses developed and raised in the great desert of their geographies.

The people of Cooke city and the New World mining district belong to the men who have made the country, and they hope the railroad men will speedily come to take their bullion to the eastern market at such cheap rates that they can afford to bring out the millions and millions now in sight and yet to be developed. Those mines of this district near Cooke City have been best developed and proven up. Three smelters have been erected at Cooke city to prove up the ores of the mines of this camp. The ores of many of the mines have been smelted in these furnaces and have given very satisfactory results. But they want and must have cheap transportation for their low grade bullion. Miners cannot afford to pay two cents freight on lead and sell it for less than four cents. But it is believed the pioneer railroad men will meet the pioneer miners and both will be greatly enriched by the many rich mines of Cooke City.

The low grade of the bullion and the cost of transportation have cause the smelters of Cooke City to shut down and the miners to quit work, save what is necessary to represent and hold their mines until such time as cheaper transportation will enable them to make a fair profit on the output of their mines and furnaces. Notwithstanding this delay of profitable returns, neither the prospectors who discovered these mines, not those who have purchased interests in them have lost faith in the final results: all are holding on for “the whistle of the iron horse.” When he comes the New World district will be alive with men, teams and smelters, and the railroad will have its trains loaded with coke and the bullion of the mines now idle for want of cheaper transportation.

These facts, as a matter of course, bring up for discussion the most feasible route for a railroad to this wonderful mining district.

All who have examined and studied the topography of the country, agree that the route from Cinnabar up the Yellowstone and Soda Butte creek is by far the best route on which a railroad could be constructed to Cooke city so as to carry cheap freights. On this there are no excessive grades and no serious obstacles to the cheap construction of a first-class road. On all other roads there are grades and obstacles which render a road to Cooke City difficult and expensive. In fact, the valley of the Yellowstone and Soda Butte creek is the natural route for a railroad to Cooke City.

The objections to this route are more imaginary than real.

It is said, “No railroad should be permitted in the park.” To this all may agree without detriment to the Cooke City road up the Yellowstone. Come say there is no act of congress, no law, simply the edict of the secretary of the interior, making the Indian reservation north of the Yellowstone a part of the park. If this be true the railroad to Cooke City only needs a charter from the state of Montana. If it be not true then congress can easily make the Yellowstone and Soda Butte creek the boundary, as they should be. For such a natural boundary between the park and the lively, enterprising people of Montana, there are very good reasons.

There must be a well defined line, or there will be endless disputes between the American citizen, who thinks his right to bear arms and shoot game should not be questioned and the American soldiers, who is detailed to keep the American citizens from shooting and killing game on the park.

Nothing but a flowing stream can make a boundary about which there can be no dispute. If on one side of a stream, he is right: but if on the other he kills a bird, he is wrong. All is plain—no need of mistakes and contentions.

It is also said the game flocks down into the valleys of the East Yellowstone and Soda-Butte creek, and it will be killed off.

No hunter would make such an objection, for all hunters know game will soon forsake all haunts where it is much disturbed and slaughtered.

But it is said: “You spoil the symmetry of the park; it is now a square bounded by right lines.” If this be an argument in the mind of any one, the answer must appeal to the same intellectual qualities. The proposed boundaries of the meandering streams must be more beautiful and pleasing to all lovers of natural objects in “Wonderland” than the stiff, straight line now claimed.

Again, they say, “you cut off the attractions of the park.”

If this be a valid argument then the park should be extended as to take in the river and mountains as far north as Livingston; for there is nothing outside of the proposed boundary equal in grandeur and beauty to that of the river and mountains now between the boundary and the latitude of Livingston. Those who run the park and make guides to the park, have said nothing of anything outside the proposed line as worthy of attention to the tourists, so the proposed natural boundary can not in any way injure the business of these parties.

The “Official Guide” does give the distance to Soda Butte, which would be left about five feet out of the park by the proposed boundary: as Soda Butte creek runs under the base of the butte.

No one wants to destroy Soda Butte. It will stand, and Mr. Clark will be glad to show its beauties and wonders to all tourists who choose to make the trip from Mr. Yancy’s to see it. If this Soda Butte bi insisted upon as a detriment to a railroad that will put millions and millions in the national treasury, Mr. Fitzgerald, of Gardiner will take the contract to move Soda Butte over the proposed line into the Park and thus save to the nation’s wonder seekers the inexpressible pleasure of seeing a butte about twenty-five feet high and twenty-five feet diameter of base, which was once deposited by a spring or geyser, now inactive, and which has lost all its attractions by the fact that its original cause has ceased to exist, that men, perhaps goats, have trampled over it till all the original and interesting features have been obliterated—the central vent filled up, and the side next the creek undermined and caved in—the whole will soon follow and there will be but little of Soda butte left for tourists. They will see all there is of it in many deposits from springs and geysers in all parts of the park, at Mammoth Hot Springs and in the geyser basins.

But I have wandered from the mines of Cooke City and will return to them in my next article.

G.C. Swallow


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Cooke City Montana Museum

206 W. Main Street

P.O. Box 1134

Cooke City, MT 59020

Museum Director: Kelly Hartman

Telephone : 406-838-2203 

Email : cookecitymontanamuseum@gmail.com