Deer Lodge County, Montana 1921

Copper has been known since prehistoric times, and there are many who believe that there may have been a copper age before that of bronze. The word copper occurs once in the Old Testament (Ezra viii: 27), the metal was in use in ancient Assyria, and the classical nations were familiar with it, the Greeks bringing it from Cyprus, where the mines were located at Tamassus, near Famagosta. It was left for the New World and a new nation to rise to the peak in the production of this valuable metal, and since the census year 1880 the United States has become the largest copper producer in the world, outstripping by far any other country. Likewise, the State of Montana leads, by a large margin, any other section of the country, and it is in connection with this great industry that Deer Lodge County, while one of the smallest in the state, is at the same time one of the richest, because of the presence at Anaconda of the Washoe smelter, the largest and most modern ore reducing plant in the world.

One of the original nine Montana counties, Deer Lodge was created February 2, 1865, and is situated on the western edge of the Continental divide, in the mid-western portion of the state. Originally of considerable size, as new counties have been formed and lopped from its territory, it has dwindled down to a land area of but 746 square miles, this being largely a mountainous region, agriculture and truck gardening being confined to the Deer Lodge Valley, along Warm Springs Creek and the Big Hole River. The tillable portions of the county, as noted, are in the northern end and southwestern portion of the county, where hay, grain and vegetables are the chief crops, Butte and Anaconda furnishing a ready market for the last named. The remainder of the county is either grazing, mineral or timber land. Considerable timber is cut each year, and there are 305,140 acres of the county included within the Deer Lodge National Forest. Among the smaller industries, a good start has been made in establishing pure herds of sheep and dairy cattle, and the Deer Lodge County assessor's report for 19 19 brought out the fact that there were 152,507 acres of patented grazing and farming land. Prices for irrigated land range from $50 to $100 an acre, non-irrigated farms bring from $15 to $50 an acre, and grazing land is valued at from $6 to $10 an acre. For its water supply, Deer Lodge County depends upon the Big Hole River, forming a portion of the southern boundary of the county, and the Deed Lodge River, through the northern part, and numerous tributaries rising in the high mountains which feed these streams. The county is traversed by the Northern Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railways, whose main lines pass through the northern part of the county, making connections with the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific that serves Anaconda. Many trains are operated daily both ways between Anaconda and Butte and give the former city connection with the Oregon Short Line, Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul. Deer Lodge County boasts among the finest highways in the state, including a highway paved with concrete between Anaconda and Butte, the only hard-surfaced road in Montana connecting two cities.


Anaconda, the county seat of Deer Lodge County, which lies at the mouth of a canyon where plain and mountain meet, is indebted for its existence to the late Marcus Daly, founder of the copper industry in Montana, who was attracted to this region by the presence, so near Butte, of a plentiful supply of water. This community has grown into a handsome city, with one of the most costly hotel edifices in the state, many large business blocks, handsome dwellings, a daily newspaper and a plant for the manufacture of fire and building brick. The county courthouse, the Hearst Library and the Margaret Theatre would do credit to a city of much larger size. From the Montana Fish Hatchery, located at Anaconda, are sent each year thousands of fry to repopulate the lakes and streams of Montana. Naturally, however, the enterprise which gives the city its chief importance is the Anaconda Reduction Works, where about one-fourth of the copper ore treated in the United States is smelted. At Butte, the first mining shafts were sunk in silver ore, but silver became of secondary importance when deeper deposits were found to be rich in copper, and from that time forward the Anaconda Copper Mining Company has been the chief producer in the district. From 1882 to 1884, 37,000 tons of ore averaging forty-five per cent copper was shipped to Swansea, Wales, which was then the world's principal center of copper smelting. In September, 1884, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company began treatment of its ore locally, and in 1892 a full installation of converters was provided, and since then the size and the capacity of the plant have steadily increased. During the past five years the output of this plant has been sixteen per cent of the copper produced in the United States and more than nine per cent of the world's production. The first plant at Anaconda was built on the north side of Warm Springs Valley, while the present site, where operations were commenced in February, 1902, was chosen on the south side of the valley, and is situated a mile east of the residential limits, on a hill-slope. The ores are brought from the mines at Butte, twenty-eight miles distant, directly to the smelter, by the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway, which was built for this traffic and is operated by electricity. An extensive sulphuric acid plant is operated in connection with the smelter, and a plant was erected in 1920 for the manufacture of super-phosphate fertilizer, which is being developed into a big enterprise. A feature of the Anaconda plant always noted by tourists and visitors, is the 585-foot smokestack, the highest in the world.

In the vicinity of Anaconda the scenery is of a character to bring forth expressions of the warmest admiration. Thirteen miles away, up the canyon, lies Silver Lake, a beautiful body of mountain water, from which the city, as well as the big smelting plant, derives its water supply. Georgetown Lake, two miles further on, is seven miles in circumference, and, like Silver Lake, is surrounded by snow-capped mountains whose peaks are reflected in the crystal waters. Georgetown Lake is also noted as a fishing center and in season is the mecca of duck-hunters. The tourist who goes over the hill to the west, passes within sight of the old Cable mine, one of the richest gold mines of the early days, and by the roadside there still remain a number of old arrastres, or waterpower mills of former days, for reducing free milling gold ore to a commercial product.

Montana Counties 1921

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Source: Montana its Story and Biography, by Tom Strout, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, 1921

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