02 June 2008

Granite Quarry near Butte, Montana

A few years ago, Dave Carter learned about the old granite quarry near Welch's Spur along the abandoned Northern Pacific railroad east of Butte. He's hiked in several times, and recently I was able to join him. We parked along I-90 on the east side of Homestake Pass, hiked north up to the rail bed, connecting with it near mile marker 56 (I think that designates 56 miles from Belgrade?) and continuing east:

Past an abandoned mine:

You know your getting close when the granite outcrops along the grade get slabby:

The loading spur comes in (it connected to a narrow gage track from the mine; its tracks have been torn up):

Lots of wildflowers along the way, including larkspur (Delphinium sp):

Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi):

Mountain bluebells (Mertensia ciliata):

Townsends daisies (Townsendia nuttalli spp):

This elegant, tiny wildflower on a tall stem:

And this cushion plant that I should remember but don't (I don't have a field guide handy at the moment):

As you turn north up the little valley to the quarry, there is a prominent landmark to the east:

And then you're there. Here's a big semi-dressed block left at a finishing/shipping area:

A foundation:

A standing building, with interesting hybrid stone/log construction:

And some sort of millrace or flume:

Though it looks as if there might have been a millpond and waterwheel to provide power, according to what little historical information I could locate, the quarry "used compressed air as the power...[supplied] by means of steam power..." About a dozen men worked at the site, tending the compressor and steam engine, dressing the stone, and handling it. The granite from the mine is a fairly nondescript, black and white, "does not polish well," and was "used extensively in the large buildings of Butte." Perhaps I'll see if I can identify some building around town with granite foundations, and make the connection.

PS: Welch's Spur on the railway was the site of a murder and attempted train robbery at 2:15 a.m., 7 May 1907. Two masked men killed the engineer and wounded the fireman when they refused to stop the train. A suspect was arrested near Woodville, just north of Butte. It was the third time this train had been held up in four years.

Additional information, see:

Jesse Perry Rowe, "Some Economic Geology of Montana" (University of Montana, Bulletin No. 50, Geological Series No. 3, 10 March 1908).

"Montana Train Held Up." The New York Times, 8 May 1907.

No comments: