3/31/07

Renewing Old Acquaintances

Today I was reunited with some old friends.

These are books that have to do with the history of the Silver Valley.

In the summer of 2004, I quit my job as a reporter at the local newspaper to start writing a book...an historical fiction novel about the Silver Valley.

A wonderful friend of mine owns two houses in Gem, a small community along Canyon Creek up the Burke Canyon outside of Wallace. She graciously offered me the use of the smaller of her two houses to use as a writing studio. So I moved in and took many of my books up to use for research for the story I am writing.

The house was named "The Swallow's Nest" and many wonderful days were spend there reading books, writing down information, typing it into the computer. It was also wonderful to take my dog Peaches for a walk down the road a ways and see the sight where the Frisco Mine Mill was blown up on July 11, 1892. In the book "Coeur d'Alene Diary" by Richard G. Magnuson, there is a picture on page 160 of the mill before the explosion and one taken right after the explosion.

When you look at the pictures in the book, then go look at the hillside 115 years later, it is amazing what is still on the hillside and parts of the structure you can still make out even today.

The Frisco Mill explosion was the result of labor unrest. The union didn't want non-union workers working in the mines, but the Frisco, Gem and Bunker Hill mines all hired non union miners. Fights between the union and non-union workers were becoming more common.

On July 10th, union men from Wallace, Mullan and Burke gathered in Gem armed with rifles, shotguns and revolvers. On the morning of July 11th, there were men on both sides of the canyon on the hillsides armed with guns. Early that morning, union men started firing at the Frisco Mine and Mill property.

The miners probably didn't plan on blowing up the mill, but it arose as an incident of this battle. Here is how the incident is described happening in "Coeur d'Alene Diary".

The men above the mill swung around, and got to the flume where the penstock goes to the mill. Bullets whistled about these men, but they had only one aim--to get the boxes of powder down the penstock. The pipe was full of water, so holes were shot in it near the wheel. When the water drained out, the powder was sent down, and the last box of powder had a fuse attached. In the ensuing explosion, the entire old mill building seemed to rise bodily from the ground and then drop back, a mass of ruins. How many men were in the mill was not known, most of them had gone into the new mill after the first attempt to send down powder had failed.

This explosion caused damage of about $20,000.

It was a bit of a muse having that site just down the road, or just look out the window of the house and see that historic site. I am fascinated by the history of the Silver Valley, and hope to some day share it with others in the form of a novel.

Now that I have all my old "friends" back, I hope to continue sharing more of the fascinating history of the Silver Valley.

1 comment:

Starr Kelso said...

Your book will be great. Can't wait.