Venn diagrams kind of annoy me. I mean, I get the concept – the idea of the intersection between two separate sets – but doesn’t it seem like we get a bit carried away with the need to put everything in sets? Despite my aggravation, I’ve done exactly that: when I decided to start blogging, I put my hiking, travelling, and outdoors interests in one blog, and my history and research interests in another. And I’m really not like that; I actually tend to see everything as connected. So, I’m rather pleased that my latest history search turned into a little snowshoe expedition, which seems to me to nicely illustrate the inter-connectedness of everything. The following post is one I wrote for my history blog: The History Trail.
A Winter Search for Estella’s Cabin: Looking for the Belmont Mine
Estella and William Muth lived in the tiny mining town of Belmont, Montana in 1881. Belmont no longer exists, but I did find the Belmont Mine on a map, and today we decided to put on the snowshoes and see if we could find the mine, and maybe even a cabin or two.
We started at Ottawa Gulch, right above the town of Marysville. Marysville was a booming town of about 4,000 in the 1880’s, and in her diary Estella Muth often mentioned heading “downtown” from her house in Belmont. (For more on Estella’s diary, click here.) Marysville had a drug store, grocery, churches, a bunch of saloons, and a post office, and was supplied by a train that arrived each day from Helena. Today fewer than 200 people live there.
We snowshoed uphill, working our way southwest through the forest, and after about an hour of hiking we found a small structure:
Not sure what this building was used for, but right below it was a small stamp mill:
The stamp mill crushed the ore so that the gold could be extracted. Large stamp mills must have been incredibly noisy; the stamps pounded the ore day and night. I’m sure that the pounding of the crushers was a constant soundtrack to Estella’s life in Belmont. Indeed, Estella mentioned in her diary that the mill kept running even after six men were killed in the “Belmont disaster.” The Belmont stamp mill was a large one, with 30 stamps, and I learned after we returned that it was destroyed in 1944 as a training exercise for a demolition team from nearby Fort Harrison. So this little mill that we found was not the one for the Belmont Mine. Nonetheless, it was an interesting discovery. Here are some more pictures of the stamp mill:
We didn’t find any standing cabins on this trip, but plan to return in the summer and continue the search!
If you’re interested in more detail about how a stamp mill worked, Wikipedia has a great article.
Here are a couple more shots of Marysville today: