Butte, America

POISONED, RUINED, AND self-cannibalized, this city is still the grandest of all boomtowns

It’s spooky up here on the top floor of the Metals Bank & Trust Building. Shards of glass and crumbled plaster crunch underfoot, obscuring the elegant tile pattern of the corridor floor. Heavy oak doors with pebbled windows and missing knobs stand open to the hallway. Inside what used to be plush offices, the hardwood floors are buckling under porcelain washstands flecked with pigeon droppings. At one time this was some of the most exclusive real estate within a thousand miles. Now it gives me the creeps. Read more »

The Real Gold At Bodie

The author leads a search for hidden treasure in the amazingly complete documentary history of a California ghost town

The road to Bodie, California, turns to gravel as it meanders upward from U.S. 395 on a thirteen-mile climb through sagebrush to an elevation of almost eighty-five hundred feet. I paused at the crest of a hill where a small sign marked the entrance to Bodie State Historic Park. The air was still, and the silence absolute; but I was most struck by the intensity of the light and colors. A spectacular June sunrise illuminated the imposing wall of the Sierras to the west.Read more »

The Calumet Tragedy

When copper-country miners went on strike, the owners brought thugs from the slums of New York to northern Michigan. The struggle led to an event that killed a city.

On the surface, there was hardly a more unlikely spot for turn-of-the-century prosperity than the isolated community of Calumet. Located in the wilds of Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, on a windswept finger of hardscrabble land that juts out into the cold waters of Lake Superior, it is a place that annually receives more than fifteen feet of snow, where winter begins at the end of September and seldom lets up until April. Read more »

The Time Of The Great Fever

U-Boom on the Colorado Plateau

Gold is where you find it, goes the old prospectors’ saw. But uranium, according to at least some members of that grizzled and vanishing breed, is where you dream you’ll find it, where your bones and your hunches tell you it hides—no matter what some government geologist or petroleum industry big shot thinks.Read more »

The West Virginia Mine War

BLOOD FLOWED IN THE PERENNIALLY TROUBLESOME COALFIELDS IN 1921, WHEN THOUSANDS OF MINERS DECIDED THEIR RIGHT TO ORGANIZE WAS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

On the morning of August 1, 1921, the Gazette of Charleston, West Virginia, carried under an eight-column banner on its front page the following dispatch from the city of Bluefield:

“Sid Hatfield lies in the morgue at Welch tonight, a smile frozen on his lips, eyes wide open and five bullet holes in his head and chest. On the slab next to him lies the body of his friend and bodyguard, Ed Chambers. Read more »

Books We Think You’ll Like

Ernest Hemingway and His World

by Anthony Burgess Charles Scribner’s Sons, 144 pages, photographs, $10.95 Read more »

Hells Canyon

Man, Land, and History in the Deepest Gorge on Earth

Hells Canyon is awesome. There is no other single word that can adequately describe it. Incredibly deep, austerely magnificent, it slashes between the states of Oregon and Idaho like a raw and gaping wound. To stand on the rim and gaze into that vast hole is to know humility as few places can teach it; to venture into it is to enter a place apart, a separate world-within-a-world where the old scales and comfortable concepts of size and distance fade into irrelevancy. “The grandeur and originality of the views presented on every side,” wrote Benjamin L. E.Read more »

Death Valley

On Christmas Day of 1849 a party of twenty-seven wagons heading through Nevada toward the California gold fields lumbered over a barren ridge and downhill into a desolate place. Before the travellers lay miles of scorched and blasted earth, raw outcroppings of multicolored rock, and stunning heat. The little caravan split up; a group of bachelors who called themselves thejayhawkers piked north, and two families—the Bennetts and the Arcanes—pushed southward along with a few single men.Read more »

Ghost Towns: The Quick And The Dead

Every town is a ghost town in a sense—haunted by the shades of people who were born there, and lived there, and now are sone. In America, where it is generally thoueht that the proper prelude to putting up a new buildins is tearing down an old one, towns are haunted too by the ghosts of houses, schools, stores, churches, hotels, theatres.Read more »

Shoot-out In Burke Canyon

The Idaho mine war broke into flame in 1892 and cast a glare with very long shadows

The road running up Burke Canyon from the little town of Wallace in northern Idaho is not too heavily travelled these days. The town of Burke, where the pavement ends six miles from Wallace, still has a couple of saloons and a small general store, and the Union Pacific branch line that freights out ore from the big Hecla silver mine still shares with Burke’s one and only street a common right of way in the narrow cleft of the canyon. But still, the little mining town is only a weather-beaten relic of its days of glory. Read more »