Mining History Association

12th Annual Conference, June 14-17, 2001

Montana Tech

Butte, Montana


The 12th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Butte, Montana, June 14-17, 2001.  With its huge Berkeley Pit now flooded and the headframes from famous underground mines standing motionless, but thankfully well preserved, Butte means many things to many people.  It evolved from a 19th Century boomtown mining camp to a mature 20th Century city.  It became a magnet and melting pot for immigrants from more than a dozen countries.  It was considered the “Gibraltar of Unionism.”  And it was the battleground in the War of the Copper Kings, Marcus Daly, William Clark, and Augustus Heinze. 

Its unique geology and scores of intersecting rich ore veins caused it to be called “The Richest Hill on Earth.” Click here for a map of the mining area (Meyer, et. Al., 1976).  Early discoveries of gold in 1864, and silver in 1874, gave way to copper in the 1880’s.  Butte’s mining heyday lasted from 1882 to 1982.  For much of that time the Anaconda Company dominated production.  The Berkeley Pit opened in 1955 as underground mining was phased out.  In 1977, ARCO purchased Anaconda. The gigantic smelting complex in the nearby town of Anaconda closed in 1980.  Mining ceased in 1982. The Superfund environmental clean-up that followed was nearly comparable in scale to the mining and processing operations, but fortunately much of the historic mining landscape has been preserved.  Mining still continues in Butte.  Montana Resources operates the Continental Pit on the southeast side of town.  Ore is processed in the concentrator originally built by Anaconda in the 1950’s.

The program sessions for the conference were held in the Library Auditorium at Montana Tech, originally the Montana State School of Mines and since 1994, Montana Tech of the University of Montana.  From its location on the hill overlooking Butte, one can appreciate the once massive scale of the mining activities.  With an enrollment of nearly 2700 students (2010) the campus provided all the facilities needed for a successful conference.  As attendees entered the campus, they were greeted by a statue of Marcus Daley, one of the Copper Kings.  The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology is also located on campus.

Early arrivals had the opportunity to visit the World Museum of Mining, located adjacent to Montana Tech.  The museum includes the Orphan Girl Mine in which underground tours are given.  On the surface there is a recreated 1890’s mining village, Hell Roarin’ Gulch, with displays of all types of mining equipment in the mine yard. The Welcoming Reception was held at the Montana Tech Mineral Museum in the historic Mill Building.  The collection includes over 15,000 specimens from the Butte mines and other locations around the world.

 Social activities and field trips enabled attendees to see some of the preserved mine yards and headframes and the remains of other mine, mill, and smelter facilities in Butte and Anaconda.  After the Superfund clean-up, all that remains of the Anaconda smelter is the huge stack and slag dump.  The site of the original “Old Works” has been transformed into a Jack Nicholas designed golf course.  The Pub Crawl and informal walking tours provided opportunities to see the impressive architecture of the many historic buildings in downtown Butte and in the neighborhoods surrounding it.

For those familiar with Butte, two other tours ventured farther afield.  The tour of Bannack and Virginia City provided a first-hand look at two of Montana’s early gold placer mining areas.  Bannack is now a state park.  Virginia City is under restoration by the Montana Historic Preservation Commission.  These sites were visited again during the MHA’s 2011 conference in Dillon, Montana.

A second tour, after a short stop in Anaconda, traveled up the Deer Lodge Valley into the high country.  The destination was the Charter Oak Mine and Mill in the Helena National Forest.  This lode mine operated sporadically from 1916 to 1955.  The mill is an example of mid-twentieth century ore processing technology.  The facilities have been stabilized and are open to visitors during the summer months.  The mine and mill were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

For those with a good pair of running or walking shoes, Butte has an excellent community trail system.  Trails located in various parts of town link many of the headframes and other mining-related features.  A 30 square block area of “Uptown Butte” is a National Historic Landmark District.  While a drive-by tour can give a quick overview, there is no substitute for a walking tour.  The substantial nature of most of the multi-story brick and stone structures gives the impression that Butte was built to last.  A few of the notable stops on a walking tour include the mansions built for Copper King William Clark and his son, Charles.  The Hennessy Building built by Copper King Marcus Daly became the headquarters of the Anaconda Company.  The Hirbour Tower was one of the first skyscrapers in the West.  Banks, government buildings, mercantile establishments, saloons, and churches abound.  The Mai Wah & Mah Chong Tai in the Chinatown area is now a museum of Butte’s Asian history.  The old Red Light District is the home of the Dumas Brothel Museum.  Throughout Uptown, visitors will find shops, art galleries, bars, and restaurants to compliment their visits to the historical attractions.

(Adapted from the January and April 2001 Mining History News)

View of downtown Butte with the historic Original Mine headframe in the foreground.  The statue of Our Lady of the Rockies is on the ridgeline to the left of the headframe.


Mill Building on the campus of Montana Tech houses the Mineral Museum.


The historic Belmont Mine headframe with the Montana Resources open pit mine in the background.


Main Street with some of Butte’s favorite watering spots.


(Photo credits: Mike Kaas)






Welcoming Reception, Montana Tech Mineral Museum, Hosted by ARCO, June 14, 2001

Pasty Lunch, Montana Tech, June 15, 2001 

Awards Banquet, Ramada Inn Copper King, June 15, 2001

Presidential Luncheon, Montana Tech Student Union, June 16, 2001

Butte Pub Crawl and Evening Program, Finlen Hotel, June 16, 2001



Open House, World Museum of Mining, June 14, 2001

Anselmo Mine and Butte Neighborhoods, June 15, 2001

Industrial Butte - Anaconda Tour (Fred Quivick, Leader), June 17, 2001

High Country Mining and Charter Oak Mill Tour (Mary Williams, Leader), June 17, 2001

Montana Gold Rush, Bannack and Virginia City Tour (Bob Spude, Leader), June 17, 2001



Montana Division of Tourism

Butte Chamber of Commerce

Anaconda Chamber of Commerce

Montana Tech

Butte-Silver Bow Archives


Michael P. Malone, “The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906,” (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981).

Carl B. Glasscock, “The War of the Copper Kings,” (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1935).

Isaac F. Marcosson, “Anaconda,” (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1957).

Jerry W. Calvert, “The Gibraltar: Socialism and Labor in Butte, Montana, 1895-1920,” (Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1988). 

David M. Emmons, “The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925,” (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989).

Mary Murphy, “Mining Cultures, Men, Women, and Leisure in Butte, 1914-1941,” (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Walter Harvey Weed, Samuel Franklin Emmons, and George Warren Tower, “Butte Special Folio, Montana,” U. S. Geological Survey, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897).

Walter Harvey Weed, “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Butte District,” Professional Paper 74, U. S. Geological Survey, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1912).

Charles Meyer, Edward P. Shea, Charles C. Goddard, Jr., “Ore Deposits at Butte, Montana,” Ore Deposits in the United States, 1933-1967 (John D. Ridge, ed.), (New York: The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), 1968), 1373-1416.



Mary Williams, Local Committee Chair

Ellen Crain

Ann Gilmore

Connie Kenney

Barb Korne

Mary McCormick

Dori Skrukrud

Bob Spude, Program Committee Chair

Elizabeth Jameson

James McBride

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