Updated: Nov 4
My wife and I spent a week in Montana last month, touring Anaconda, Butte, and Helena — current or former mining towns that have West Kootenay/Boundary connections large and small.
The most significant is that the man who built the Trail smelter, Fritz Augustus Heinze, was one of Montana’s three famous or infamous late 19th and early 20th century Copper Kings, along with William A. Clark and Marcus Daly. But while the latter two are well remembered there, Heinze not so much.
The history-types we talked to were actually very familiar with Heinze, but there was no mention of him on any of the tours, nor is there any sign of his name in the area, unlike the other two.
Augustus Heinze as depicted in Prominent and Progressive Americans: An Encyclopædia of Contemporaneous Biography (1904).
In Anaconda, you can drive or walk down Daly Street and stay at the Marcus Daly Motel. The Marcus Daly Co. Bank is still standing, although it’s now the First National Bank of Montana. Daly also built the Montana Hotel in 1889, which partially still stands, and was known as the Marcus Daly Hotel from 1962-76. You can also tour the Daly Mansion in Hamilton, Mont., although we didn’t get there.
In 1907, a statue of Daly was unveiled in Butte at the centre of Main Street between Copper and Gagnon. It was moved to the entrance to the Montana Tech campus in 1941, where it remains. (On top of that, Daly has an avenue named after him in Hedley, where he had mining interests.)
Meanwhile, Clark streets exist in Butte and Helena, and in Butte we stayed in Clark’s palatial residence, now a bed and breakfast known as the Copper King Mansion, which offers daily tours. Nearby is the Clark Chateau, that Clark had built for his eldest son and daughter-in-law. It’s now a community and cultural centre, and you can tour it too. Clark is the namesake of Clarkdale, Arizona, home to a smelter for his nearby mines, and of Clark County, Nevada, recognizing how he established Las Vegas as a stop along his railroad. There’s also a Clark Park in Butte.
The Copper King Mansion in Uptown Butte, built from 1884-88 for W.A. Clark.
But Clark had a very unsavory side. He bought himself a senate seat and Mark Twain called him “as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag” and a “disgusting creature.”
C.B. Glasscock concluded his 1935 book The War of the Copper Kings by noting how the US Senate refused Clark his seat on account of bribery, although he won a subsequent campaign and served from 1901-07.
Twenty-odd years later the leading men and women of Montana gathered in the rotunda of the capitol at Helena, and unveiled a bronze bas-relief of Clark’s shaggy head, and this inscription:
WILLIAM ANDREWS CLARK
Pioneer Prospector and Miner
Merchant Banker Railroad Builder
Benefactor of Children and Philanthropist
This Memorial is Erected by
The Society of Montana and Other Friends
As a Tribute to His Great Achievements
And to Perpetuate His Memory
“That could happen in America,” Glasscock tsk-tsked.
(We toured the capitol building but didn’t see the plaque, so I don’t know if it’s still there.)
Rotunda of the Montana State Capitol
Heinze had an equally chequered career and spent a good chunk of his short life in litigation, but he was also charming and many Montana citizens viewed him as a hero. Yet as far as posthumous recognition … nothing. No street, no statue, no mansion. I’m not sure why.
His biographer, Sarah McNelis, remarked in her 1969 book, Copper King at War, that on the day Heinze was buried in 1914, following a premature death at the age of 44 of a stomach hemorrhage, a meeting was held in Butte to discuss establishing a scholarship or erecting a monument in his honour.
“After the initial shock of his death faded, however, the talk must have ceased,” she wrote, for “no such memorial was established.”
(McNelis’s book was reprinted in 2018 under the title The Biography of Fritz Augustus Heinze, and I bought a copy at the Copper King Mansion. With the exception of the first and last chapters, it’s very dry, as it was originally a masters thesis that explored Heinze’s corporate interests and legal entanglements in excruciating detail. A new afterword, however, profiling McNelis and explaining how the book came to be, is much more readable. McNelis herself comes across as more interesting than Heinze.)
Heinze was not immortalized in Trail either, although the smelter he built continues to be the region’s economic engine. No need to shed any tears for him, I don’t think, but it’s interesting that one of his chief lieutenants, Carlos Warfield, had a siding named for him in 1896 along Heinze’s railway between Trail and Rossland.
Unlike the other Copper Kings, Heinze didn’t built a mansion anywhere. According to McNelis, when he first came to Butte in the late 1880s as a spoiled rich kid hoping to make his own fortune, he rented a shack for more than a year.
Later he made his headquarters in the Butte Hotel. The 1902 Butte directory listed him residing at 58 East Broadway, a building that still stands, although I’m not sure if that was the hotel. I also found a reference from 1895 to Heinze having rooms in the Owsley block. There were two buildings by this name, one of which is still standing while the other burned in the 1970s.
Heinze was further listed in the civic directory in Trail in 1897 (below), but no address was given for him. Presumably he stayed in one of the local hotels, either the Crown Point or the Arlington.
Heinze had a hired gun (or pen?) in both Rossland and Butte, journalist P.A. O’Farrell, who ran a smear campaign against the CPR on his behalf. O’Farrell first visited Rossland in 1895 and wrote about it for the Butte Miner and other papers. Then when Heinze acquired the Rossland Miner in 1897, O’Farrell was placed in charge, although neither the sale of the paper nor O’Farrell’s editorship were formally announced.
O’Farrell continued to assail the CPR until it decided to buy Heinze’s smelter and railway charter. Heinze then departed the Kootenay mining and business scene and went back to Butte. He took O’Farrell with him, and installed him as editor of another Heinze mouthpiece, the Reveille.
(Butte actually reminds me of Rossland in that both are built on hills and have many vestiges of their mining history. But while Rossland’s primary commercial thoroughfare is on a flat, Butte has a couple of steep parallel main streets.)
In addition to the Trail smelter, which began operating in 1896, Heinze built a smelter at Butte in 1893. The fumes it emitted led local sports teams there to adopt a memorable nickname that would later be made famous in Trail. Yes, before the Trail Smoke Eaters, there were the Butte Smoke Eaters. The term was originally 19th century slang for firefighters and first showed up as an unofficial name for a Butte football team in the Anaconda Standard of May 31, 1895. In 1897, the city’s baseball team also adopted the name.
However, Heinze’s Butte smelter closed in 1906 and the skies cleared. As the Butte Miner of Aug. 12, 1906 put it:
Butte is fast being transformed from the barren “smoketown” of other days into a city of flowers, lawns and trees … There is hardly a city in Montana that can boast of more sunny skies than Butte. There is but one smelter in operation here now, and the completion of the 352-foot stack has almost entirely done away with the smoke nuisance from this source. There is a little smoke from the mines on the hill, but this is not of the sulphurous variety that wrought havoc with plants and lawns …
(From then on, most ore was shipped to a large smelter at nearby Anaconda, until it too finally closed in the early 1980s, although its massive smokestack has been preserved.)
The Anaconda smelter smokestack can be seen from a great distance.
With the Heinze smelter’s closure, the nickname Smoke Eaters began fading in Butte. But the name had already spread north of the border, where it was initially applied to a baseball team, first mentioned in the Trail Creek News of April 27, 1901: “After the last baseball game a challenge was issued by the Trail Smelter Smoke Eater Baseball Team to play the War Eagle and Centre Star Baseball Team.”
Aside from a few other references in 1901 and a single one in 1904, the name seemed to go into hibernation in Trail. However, hockey and football teams in the smelting cities of Grand Forks and Greenwood used it between 1913 and 1915.
It was finally first applied to a hockey team in Trail in a subheadline in the Trail News of Feb. 11, 1921: “Smoke Eaters carry off third game in series …” The name was used more frequently over the next few years, but it’s not known when the team officially adopted it.
Ultimately, while it’s a little hazy, both the Trail Smoke Eaters and Butte Smoke Eaters probably got their names thanks to Heinze’s smelters.
Butte, seen from Upper Town in August 2023. The haze is from forest fire smoke, not any smelter.
Butte also had a baseball team called the Neversweats, named after a local mine known as the Never Sweat, so called because its owners thought it would be “rich enough to furnish the daily bread without the decreed sweat of the brow.” Neversweats was also the nickname of baseball teams in Rossland in 1897 and Kaslo in 1900.
Trail owes some other nomenclature to Butte. Butte was home to Dublin Gulch, a mostly Irish neighbourhood, first mentioned in 1881. The name migrated to Trail, where it was applied to Rossland Avenue, and first mentioned in the Trail Creek News of March 14, 1896. However, as Trail’s Dublin Gulch was predominantly an Italian neighbourhood, the “Dublin” part was soon dropped, leaving just the Gulch as it is known today. The last known mention of Dublin Gulch in Trail was in the Vancouver Daily World of March 13, 1902.
Dublin Gulches could also be found on Vancouver Island and in Shoshone, Calif. (the latter specifically named for the one in Butte) while the Yukon had a Dublin Gulch mine. The original Dublin Gulch in Butte no longer exists: it was among several neighborhoods consumed by open-pit mining. But a band there called Dublin Gulch perpetuates the name.
Given that they were both mining regions, it’s easy to find people who spent time in both Butte and West Kootenay, but it’s not easy to figure out who was actually responsible for transplanting these names.
Butte was also home to an area called Columbia Gardens, created by Copper King William A. Clark in 1899 after he bought the 21-acre Columbia mining claim and spent over $100,000 transforming the area into an amusement park, seen below in a circa 1908 postcard.
However, I think the naming of the Columbia Gardens area near Trail in 1905 was just coincidence, as it was meant to connote a fruit growing area. The Columbia Gardens in Butte was beloved by many generations until it closed in 1973 to make way for mining activity, much to residents’ dismay.
So Dublin Gulch and Columbia Gardens are long gone in Butte but their namesakes still exist in West Kootenay.
Many Kootenay townsites also paid tribute through their street names to American cities generally and Montana mining and smelting centres specifically.
Rossland has a Butte Street (sign pictured). Trail has a Helena Street (and I can confirm it is possible to stand on that street and be in its namesake city on the same day). Elko has a Helena Avenue. Rossland, Trail, and Kimberley all have Spokane streets. Trail also has a Portland Street.
Rossland also had a Butte Hotel at 122-126 West Columbia (not sure what address this corresponds to today). According to civic directories, it went through a whole slew of proprietors: Mrs. F.N. Shaw in 1897; Elijah J. Davenport in 1898; F. Pullman and C. Whelan in 1899-1900; Thomas Shanks in 1900-01 (who previously ran the Pioneer Hotel in Salmo); Karma and Nels Swanson in 1901; and Templeton and Crowe in 1902. It doesn’t appear in the 1903 directory, but James Templeton is still listed as a bartender there in 1903-04.
(While there were was no corresponding Rossland Hotel in Butte that I can see, there were Rossland hotels in Nelson, Greenwood, Westbridge, and Vancouver. At the time Rossland was a byword for prosperity, although it would soon become synonymous with dubious stock offerings.)
The most interesting connection, though, which we discussed with history-minded Montana folks we met, is Anaconda, the townsite adjacent to Greenwood that was home to a smelter. It has or had Butte, Everett, Omaha, Tacoma, and Denver avenues — all places with smelters.
Our Anaconda was surveyed in 1896 and named after a local mining claim that in turn was presumably named after the Montana city. But curiously, that was five years before the BC Copper Company opened its smelter at our Anaconda. Was it all wishful thinking by the townsite company?
Colorado mining camps also lent their names to Kootenay towns and streets. New Denver and Silverton are both named after Colorado cities, Silverton has a Leadville Street, and there’s a Leadville Road in Kitchener. In addition to Anaconda’s Denver Avenue, there are or were Denver streets in Howser and Trout Lake.
There’s another interesting connection between Butte and West Kootenay that has to do with Evel Knievel. But that will be a separate post.
Updated Nov. 3, 2023 to add the bit about the Butte Hotel in Rossland.