19 November 2010

Intermission, Pt 3

It is time to pack this project up for awhile. I have a stateside family-visit trip coming up and all the preparations that go with it. Each chapter you see here takes about a half day to set up, mostly due to the need to locate and re-scan the original images and find other images that are relevant to each chapter.  With 25 chapters now on line I feel that I have done enough for the time being. I note that these writings are already been found through Google searches.

It is my sincere wish that many people gain access to these chapters which cover a fascinating period in Alaskan history within the Copper Valley. The images themselves make it worthwhile to view these 25 chapters and the preface. 

You all have a happy Thanksgiving.

My regards,

Ron Simpson

NOTE: Since I wrote this post I decided to add one chapter well ahead of the others because it is so timely: "Frank's Thanksgiving Letter," Chapter 46.

UPDATE: almost midnight of Feb 10: I have finally caught up with Chapter 46, "Frank's Thanksgiving Letter." As of now the entire first 46 chapters plus the Preface are finally on line. I now have only 14 chapters to go to complete this book on line.

My regards,

Ch 25, Pt 2: "Buckner to Goodlataw"

Legacy of the Chief, Chapter 25: "Buckner to Goodlataw-1924"

click on picture for
larger image: some of these images appear in the book for
this chapter.


           Green Butte / Mother Lode / McCarthy Creek Road tunnel and bridge:

By the time the two Indians arrived back in McCarthy it was
after 10 a.m.   John Barrett dropped them off at the
Golden.  They walked down to the Row.  She was there. 
Rose practically threw herself all over Johnny. Cap could see
that this might take awhile.
“Maybe I should leave you two alone?  I can always go up to
the Mecca, I suppose.”
“No, we both need to walk up to the railroad station and
telegraph Kennecott.  Rose, can you take my dog,
Kay-yew-nee for a while?”
“What do you think I am, Johnny, your wife?   This not
really my place, you know.  Madam Kate might not like it,
then I’d have to let him go.”
“Do your best. We have work at Kennecott.  If it comes to
that, the dog will take care of himself.  He’s been on his
own even when he’s been with me these last eight years.  
He’ll do fine, but I still am hoping you will keep him here. 
It’ll give me an even greater reason to visit you.”
Rose looked at him, placing her hands on her hips.  “You
mean to say I am more valuable to you as a dog watcher than as a
woman?   Johnny, I don’t know . . .”
“I’m sorry, Rose, I didn’t mean it to come out that way. 
But can you keep him here?” He was determined to get her to
“If you two party with us girls tonight.”
“Now you’re talking.”
“Rose, we have to go up to the station and telegraph a fellow
named Frank at Kennecott to let him know we’re coming. We’ll
come back after that.  Can you get us a couple bottles? We
got paid.”
“See you back there Johnny.  You too, Cap.  I’ll get
Bubbles for you !”
“We can’t do this more than one night, Johnny.”
“We won’t.  I’ll let Frank know to expect us tomorrow.”
Cap found Rose’s cabin to be cleaned up compared with the last
visit.  The place still had a cluttered look, but nothing
much different than many of the Chittyna village homes. 
Cap did not concern himself with the next day and neither did
Johnny.  The liquor was rough, but it did the trick. So did
the women.
Cap’s eyes opened.  The sun was shining brightly through
the partly-torn window shade.  He focused on a
stale-smelling room.  He was on a small bed wearing
nothing.  Bubbles had already left.  He couldn’t
remember very much.  He pulled himself up from the bed. 
There was an empty bottle lying on the floor along with his
rumpled clothes.
It smelled of booze and stale
cigarettes.  He pulled on his heavy pants and wandered out
of the tiny room.  There was another next to it.  He
pulled the dirty curtain aside.  Johnny was still in there
with Rose.  Neither was moving. 
“Johnny ! The sun’s out bright !  We better get ready to
head for the station.  They’ll be expecting us.”
No movement.  He climbed over the discarded clothes toward
the bed and shook Johnny’s shoulder.
Sla’cheen !  We have to move !
His eyes opened.  Johnny did not appear too pleased to have
Cap there yelling in his ear. 
“Go away !  Go to the station and send another telegram.
I’m not leaving today.”
“Great, Johnny.  Same as last time.”
“Don’t worry, Cap.  Bubbles will bring back another bottle. 
She had other business.  Had to leave after you passed out
last night. Had to make money. Kate got her.”
“Oh, I have a headache, now !  That’s not what I needed to
hear, Johnny.”
“We’ve got plenty of money.  Might as well enjoy it, Cap. 
Relax.  We’ll get there later.  Not now. It’s been too
Cap turned and left the cramped room.  He walked out into
the sitting area.  There was a card table out there. 
A bottle on the table still had liquor in it.  He took a
seat and then had a swig from the bottle. 

  He can walk up there
himself and send his own telegram. If I have to be here, then
here is exactly where I’m going to be.  I need to get over
this hang-over anyway.

Cap began playing solitaire.  The table was a mess. 
Cap was angry.  He swept everything beyond the cards and
the bottle off the table.  Cups, a candle stick and several
plates with unfinished meals went flying. 


There.  That’s better.
Now I can concentrate on my private little card game. 
Someone else can clean up the mess.  That’s what the women
are for.

He took another swig.  The door opened, letting in more
bright light and cool, fresh air.  It was Bubbles. 
She had two large bottles with her.

GB road tunnel

Bradford Washburn 1938 aerial of
McCarthy along McCarthy Creek

“Cap, you want to party?  Your buddy paid for this booze.
We might as well enjoy it.”
“Might as well.  Join me in a game of crib?  I think I
knocked a crib board onto the floor?”
She looked down.  Her face showed some distress.  Then
she looked at Cap.
“You’re a very good-looking man.  Muscular and handsome. 
Let’s have some fun. I’ll clean up this mess later.”
Cap looked up at the well-formed, if somewhat plump young lady. 
No doubt about it, she was worth the money.
“You mean in the back room?”
“Where else?”
Johnny finally stumbled into Cap’s small room.  He found
Cap passed out on the mattress.
“Bubbles ! What happened to Cap?”
“I’m up front playing solitaire.  What did you say?”
“Cap.  He’s passed out.  What happened?”
“What do you suppose?  We had fun. He passed out. 
Just when I was getting there, too. Typical man.  He’s a
real sweetie, though.  Not rough like I thought he’d be.”
“But did he make it to the railroad station to send a telegram?”
“I don’t think so.  I got here with the bottles and he was
right here where I’m sitting playing cards.  He was so
cute, too.”
“I better get up to that telegraph station. What about the
bottles?  I know you must have brought them, or Cap would
be awake now.”
“I brought two. He didn’t need much.  Three shots and he
was gone.  The rest is over there by the wash stand.”
Sure enough.  Only one of the bottles had been tapped. 
It still was almost full.  Johnny looked at the open one
and then thought about Rose.
“Rose, you up?”

Abandoned houses at McCarthy, 1960  
--Jerry Cleworth photo

“I’m getting ready for tonight, Johnny.  Kate wants money. 
You’ll have to pay me to stay here.  I need money for Cap,
“Sure, Rose, if that’s what you want.  Got a bottle of
whiskey up here.  Want some before I head up to the
“No wine?  Bubbles, why don’t you get us some wine? 
Let the men have the whiskey. We’re on duty here, you know.”
“I know, sis.  I’ll be right back.”
She stood up from the table, leaning so Johnny would notice her
full breasts. 
“You boys are staying another night or two, aren’t you?”
“We’ll be here, Rose.  We still have money.  I just
need to get to the station. Need to let the company know . . .”
“The company can wait.”
Bubbles poured Johnny a large glass.
“Here’s to you and that sweetheart in the back room, dearie. 
We always love to have you stop by.  Rose, I’m off !”
“Johnny, don’t go off, yet.  I’ve got some records to put
on the Victrola.”
The two of them sat on the coach.  Rose handed Johnny his
whiskey glass, then got back up and primped her hair in the
mirror.  She intended to keep the two men there as long as
the money held out.
It was two days later when the two Indians finally showed up at
the Shushanna Junction depot. 
“What’ll we do, Johnny?  You never sent a telegram. Neither
did I.”
“All we can do is show up, Cap.  After all, his letter gave
us five days.”
“But you sent a telegram saying we’d be there three days ago.”
“I did.  I sure hope Frank and the others have a sense of
humor.  I’m sure we’re not the first men to do this. 
McCarthy is a very enticing place.”
“Rose only kept us there for the money, you know.”
“No she didn’t.  She loves me.”
“She does not.  She took all your money, didn’t she?”
“Not all of it.”
“Not all of it?  We don’t have enough for a night’s stay. 
Good thing the train ride is free to all us Indians, or we’d be
walking all the way to Chittyna.”
“Rose has to live too, Cap.  It’s just business. Madame
Kate. You know how she is.  Tough old broad.”
“No, I don’t know how she is.  I never met her.  But I
have Rose figured out.”
“You enjoyed it, didn’t you?”
“Well, yes I did.”
“Then quit complaining, Cap. If we still have the jobs, great. 
If not, we can always get back on the railroad.”
“Now you’re sounding more like a drunken Chittyna Indian and
less like the white men you seem to like so much.”
“Cap, I’m not feeling well enough to argue with you.  Too
big a hangover.  Let’s just get to the train. You’re the
one who said you heard the whistle. It’s got to be out there
“I can hear that whistle for miles, Johnny.  It’s probably
still a long wait.”
The two entered the station at the rail junction and found the
telegraph operator busy at his desk.
“Are you the two from Green Butte going to Kennecott?”
“How did you know? ”   Johnny asked, completely taken
by surprise.
“You evidently have a friend in high places,” the telegraph
operator said somewhat sarcastically.
“One of the engineers--a Frank Buckner--sent a telegraph message
authorizing passage for two Indians coming from Green Butte. 
There you are.” 

Kennecott after abandonment in
  --W.A. Richelsen

Ch 25, Pt 1: "Buckner to Goodlataw"

Legacy of the Chief, Chapter 25: "Buckner to Goodlataw-1924"

click on picture for
larger image: some of these images appear in the book for
this chapter.


Kennecott fire

Fire takes
out the power plant at Kennecott, July, 1924
--Special Collections, UW

“I expected this letter to come sooner, Cap.
“Barrett won’t be happy, especially since other men had been
leaving as well, but it’s time to go, Cap.”
“What about Kay-yew-nee?  They probably won’t allow him at
“I know they won’t.  Dad already told me.  I’ll have to leave
him with Rose.”
“Will she take him?”
“I don’t know. I can only ask.”
“We’ll have to let the boss know in the morning.  Then we can
walk the nine or ten miles into McCarthy tomorrow.”
“Dad will never get any better.  I’ve seen him so little in
these last few years.  At least now I will be able to be there
to help.”
The two ate a last late meal served by Harry.
“You two leaving tomorrow.”
“I never told anyone. How would you know?”
“Harry know. Fix something special for you.”
“What have you got cooking for us, Harry?”
“Salmon and rice with tea. Fix veal cutlet for others earlier. 
This just for you.”
“I’ll miss you, Harry. You’ve taken good care of us.”
“No miss Harry.  Just appreciate good cook. You work hard in
mine. Deserve good food.  Bosses happy.”
“I haven’t told them yet. They won’t like it.”
“Barrett and Harrison will understand.  Happy to get month work
out of you.”
“We’re out of here early, Cap.  We’ll need to work our way down
the goat trail. The tram won’t be operating that early.”
“I figured as much.  Steep drop, but it looks like the trail
goes all the way down.  At least Kay-yew-nee can follow.”
“I want to be at the boss’s office by seven to sign out.”
“So, you two are quitting?”
“Jacob ! How did you know?”
“I could tell. Seen it dozens of times.  The men get restless. 
Next thing you know, they’re gone.  Harry always knows.  He
tries to fix them a special last meal.”

GB manager's house

Manager's house at Green Butte

--Special Collections, UW

“Harry’s amazing.”
“We think so. Wouldn’t trade him for anything.”
“Let us tell Barrett ourselves, if he doesn’t already know.”
“He doesn’t. Leaving early? The tram doesn’t operate until
eight, you know.”
“We’re taking the goat trail down. Want to be there at his
office by seven.”
“Good luck.  It’s tricky. Good working with you guys.  You did
fine here.”            Johnny could hear Cap sleeping in the
overhead bunk.

least he’s handling it well. Nothing seems to ever bother him.
Wish I could sleep like that.  Hope we’re not walking into
something we can’t handle.  Oh well.  Been there
before. Just nothing quite this big.  What could be larger
than Kennecott?

The two were up earlier than the rest of the crew.   At about 5
a.m. they tortuously worked their way down the dangerously steep
bank.  It was not really a goat trail, but a bear path.  The dog
was happily following along, sniffing the air from time to time
checking for predators.   It took nearly two hours,  but the
pair showed up in time to find Barrett in the lower mess hall
having coffee. waiting for breakfast. He knew right away that
the Indians were leaving.
“I hope this is not because of something we did to you?” I can
see that you are on your way out of here. We’ve been happy with
your work.  If anything, you’ve helped our production by shaming
some of the others into working harder.”
“You have a good camp here, Mr. Barrett.  The other workers have
been fine, especially  Jacob and Harry.  No reflection on you or
the camp.  The both of us have been happy with the work here.  
It’s just time to move on.  We have jobs at Kennecott.”
John Barrett raised his eyebrows.

That can’t be right.  It’s
been an unstated policy from the beginning over there that there
won’t be any Indians hired.  Something strange is going on.

“Well, you two are really going places.  What an accomplishment
to land work up there.”
“We thought so. It helps to know one of the engineers.”
“You do?  Which one?”
“No one important. He just seems to have the ear of the
superintendent there.”  
“You can always come back here, if things don’t work out.  I
don’t blame you for moving on to Kennecott.  I have to admit
they pay better and I hear the food is excellent. I hope it
works out for you.   I have a feeling it won’t be easy, but then
both of you have proved to be an unusual team, so who knows?”
“I feel badly about leaving like this.”
“I’m sorry to lose you two, but that’s nothing new around here. 
Even Kennecott has a tough time holding onto help for very
long.  That’s just how it is.  No point in any of us getting
upset about it.   
“Sit down and have some coffee while I go to the office and work
out your pay.  You can have your breakfast here before you
“Josephine!  We have two more for breakfast here.”
“Your wife’s still here?”
“Oh, she’s been in and out.  Can’t seem to keep a good cook down
here.  I need Harry in the upper camp.  He keeps the crew well
“We know.  He’s special.”
“How was the trip down the bear trail?”
“It doesn’t go where we thought. It wound around that creek. 
Went way upstream before turning around. Took a long time.”
“So I’ve heard, Cap.  East Fork trail winds a long way. No
“Not with Kay-yew-nee along.”
“Oh yes.  The dog.  I hear he’s kept the bears away from the
upper camp.  They’re real pests up there.  Down here, too.  We
have to watch the horses carefully.  Don’t want to lose any to a
bear.  So far, so good. Well, I’ve got to get at the paperwork. 
See you a little later.  Don’t plan on walking out, by the way. 
I’m taking you into McCarthy.  Have to go in anyway.  Might have
a new cook and some new crewmen coming in on the train.”
They were alone at the large dining table.  Mrs. Barrett was in
the back preparing breakfasts for them.  The others had already
“What do you think, Cap?”
“About Barrett?  He really surprised me.  This has been a good
camp.  I have good memories from here.  Good place.”

Above: lower Green Butte
Bunkhouse, c. 1925.  Below: GB bunkhouse ruins, c.


Continue with

18 November 2010

Ch 24, Pt 4: "Green Butte Copper"

Legacy of the Chief,

Chapter 24: "Green Butte Copper-1924" , pt 4, conclusion

click on picture for
larger image: some of these images appear in the book for
this chapter.

Green Butte upr bunkhse

North face
of the Green Butte upper bunk house, circa 1980.

          “This is the real country of Nicolai.  He
probably climbed this very ridge looking for debae.”

          “Sheep?  Yes, we’re close to Tsedi Denyii.  It
was his favorite place.”

          “I feel close to him and all those who came before him
up here.  It’s like they’re right here with me.  Maybe they are.

          “But being up here at Green Butte or down there in
McCarthy, I still can’t help feeling like I have an intruder in
my father’s house.  I try not to let those feelings enter, but I
am always reminded of how those graves at Eskilida Camp were
disturbed.  What would keep any of these men from doing
something like that?  They have no understanding of where they
are or who we are.  We’re the Native people. but they don’t

          “I think some of them do, Cap”
        “Not in the same way we do. They have no roots.  They
are lost.  Lost men who do not know where they are from or where
they are going are desperate men.  I think any one of them would
turn on us in a moment.”

          “My Dad is one of those men, Cap.”

          “Did he raise you?  No, he did not.  Did he live in
your village? No, he did not. He

lives in the white man’s world. He always has. It is the world
of the syndicate.  It is Kennecott.”

          “Kennecott is just a name.  Don’t give it power it
does not have, Cap.”

          “Kennecott is those men who let our graves become
disturbed and even robbed.  It is the men who tried to cheat
Nicolai and Billum and who still try to take from us what is

          “Cap, you cannot create a monster like that.  It will
eat you if you let it.  Like the hex.  Nicolai’s Curse.  It
feeds on itself and its creators. Kennecott is also people like
Frank.  Frank is with us. I know he is.”

          “Frank is with Kennecott.  He works for Kennecott. He
answers to Kennecott.”

          “I sure hope you don’t let any of them hear this,

          “I only say this to you, Sla’cheen.  I would
not even say this to the other Natives, because they would only
see the hate.  We have to take part of what the white man has
brought here for ourselves.  We can’t fight them by staying away
from them.  They can try to ignore us, but we can’t ignore them.
We have to face them as one. We were born to walk together,
--you and I--so we could help our people.  Together
we have power.  If we are separated, we are doomed. Nicolai said

          “You knew all along that I would insist you come with
me to Kennecott, didn’t you Cap?”

          Johnny smiled, then knocked Cap off his seat.  Cap
leaned up on his elbows from the rough, wooden floor and laughed
at Johnny. 

          “I did not know. I only hoped.  Since McCarthy, I have
not been so sure if we could keep working together.  We’re still
here. We need to go there.  To Kennecott. It waits for us.  I
can’t tell you why, but we both have to go there.”

          Johnny helped Cap back off the floor. 

          “You didn’t hit me back, Cap.  You could have knocked
me over easily. You let me knock you down, didn’t you?”

          “I did.  No point in proving something you already

          “You’re a boxer, Cap. That’s what you are.  That
Cordova promoter wanted you to travel to the states to fight. 
You’re that good. We all know it, too. You need to go there.
You’d make us all look good.”

          “This land around us is  part of what we once were and
still are.  But out there is a strange world I do not
understand.  I choose to stay here in ‘Atna’  tuu Ts’ itu’.

          “Someday you may go out there to box.  But if you
never do, I’d sure understand, Cap.  I feel the same way about
Chittyna and Nicolai’s land of Denyii Tsedi, but a part
of me wants more than just this.  Going to Kennecott may be the
key. It may be the way to get wherever it was I want to go.  I
just don’t know where that place is yet.”

          “At one time the Great Man made me an offer to see
that I get more education. At least I think that’s what he
meant.  He mentioned it once again when we were playing
billiards at the Mecca.   He did not forget after eight years.”

          “I know.  I guess I’ve known that ever since you told
me about your billiards game with him just before you got the
railroad job. I wonder how Schee’ ya would have felt
about that.”

          “Grandfather?  He never told me in so many words, but
Stephen Birch did.  Grandfather wanted something more for me. 
He made some kind of arrangement with Birch. I just don’t know
exactly what was in the deal.  I’ve often wondered about that,
because I’m not so sure I’m up to it.  Many of our own won’t
listen to a half-white anyway.  What good could I do for them?”

          “He’s Stephen Birch, not the Great Man.  I wish
you’d stop calling him that.”

          “Birch?  He is the Great Man.  He brought the
railroad, developed the mines, changed everything.  Maybe it did
not work out that well for us, but he knows how to make things

          “That’s very white of you, Johnny.”

          “I just admire people who make things happen. We can’t
live in the past, Cap.”

          “We can’t forget it, either.”

          “We won’t Cap.  I promise you that. Anyway, Schee’
  seemed to like Birch, but he was no fan of the
syndicate.  He was intrigued by the railroad, but not pleased
with everything it brought in.    And he seemed to be impressed
by the way they built Kennecott, while resenting all that ore
leaving without benefiting us.  So it’s not like it was a matter
of black and white for him, either. 

          “All I’m sure of is that he wanted us to remember  who
we were and do the right thing by our people, including getting
a white man’s education.  He pushed me into that, just like I
shamed you into learning how to read well.  I’m still who I
always was. I’m Johnny Gadanski, grandson of Nicolai just like
you.   I may be half-white, but I still feel 100 percent
Indian.  It’s not easy being a half-breed, you know.”

          Cap  stopped playing cards and looked at Johnny

          “I know it’s been tough for you all your life.  I
sometimes wonder how you can possibly know who you are.  Yet I
know where your heart was.  You don’t have to tell me.  I
wouldn’t be out here at all if not for you. You probably saved
me from becoming another drunk by insisting that I come along.”

young Cap

Goodlataw as a young man, c. 1910

          “Hey, Cap, you started this yourself by convincing
George Brown to hire you.  Then you followed me to Cascade
Station.  You can’t know how much that meant to me.  I almost
gave up on myself until you showed up.  You gave me the power I
needed to continue being who I am.  I enjoy challenging these
white men.  Maybe you haven’t noticed, but many of them aren’t
nearly as smart as either one of us.  I notice you keep silent
to hide your intelligence, but you’re every bit as smart as I am
and probably a lot wiser, which was why you’ve never bored me.
 I wish the women I have known were as smart as you.”

          “Smart women?  I don’t know about that, Johnny.
Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.”

          “Anyway, that fellow Frank over there at Kennecott is
one of those more intelligent white men.  He doesn’t seem to
have any prejudice in his heart. He even stuck out his own neck
to get me hired there.  That’s probably never been done before.
for an Indian.  Imagine what it would be like if the two of us
could work there--if only long enough to prove the point that we
can work anywhere in our own country--and just as well or even
better than anyone else.”

          “You’re asking a lot from Frank.  He’ll probably be
tearing his hair out when he gets your letter.   But I don’t
want the white men to feel too secure that they can run all over
us in our own country, so I guess I’m still with you on this one
as well.”

          “You better be, because we’re going.”

          “Haven’t you guys eaten yet?”

          “Harry!  Cap, look who came up the stairs to check on
us.  It’s the Chinese cook himself.”

          “I’m an American just like you.  You boys need to
eat.  I have pot roast on  stove.  Never mind me.  I fix you
dinner. You keep talking.”

          “No moose meat, Henry?”

          “It is moose meat. How you know?”

          “Henry, I’ll love you forever.  How did you get your
hands on . . .”

          “We Chinese have our ways.  You two need to eat. Hard
work in mine.”

          “Cap, you haven’t said anything!”

          “Okay, Johnny. Harry, good to see you!  Let me help.
You need Indian to fix moose meat.”

          “No Indian.  Chinese-American cook well trained.  You
just sit. I fix!”

          Cap looked out the window to the west. The far canyon
wall was now black.  Overhead the stars were coming out. 
Somehow the time had slipped by.  It was hours past dinner time.
Since the men had first arrived in mid-July, the daylight hours
had diminished considerably.  The time had arrived where it was
getting dark at night again.  It was also one of those rare
August nights when the Aurora Borealis makes an early

          As the two young men carried on their conversation
while enjoying a late dinner of moose roast, the lights began to
dance overhead, just as they had fourteen years before when Cap,
Johnny, and Charlie  sat on the grassy hill at Taral listening
to their

Schee’ ya
tell them Nicolai’s Raven Story of Creation.  The two men were
too busy eating to notice it.

          “Harry, this is great.  You make a tender moose roast
that might just put my mother’s to shame.”

          “Sla’cheen !” 

          “Well, it’s good, anyway.”

          “No need to tell Chinese-American.  Harry knows he is
good cook.”

          Harry brought over two tin cups and filled them with
hot tea.

          “I leave you now. Hot tea in pot on stove.  Dessert on
counter. Chocolate cake tonight.  Very good. Almost gone. Don’t
love Harry. Just appreciate good cook. Good night.”

          Harry disappeared down the stairs to the cook’s

          “Johnny.  No one beats your mother’s cooking.”

          “It’s not that good, Cap.  That Harry really did a
great job with this meat.”

          “Can’t say that to the whites.  Can’t admit someone
else can do it better.”

          “Harry’s Chinese.”

          “You know what I mean.”

           Cap glanced outside and finally noticed the Aurora

          “Yaykass ! It’s the Yaykass,
.  Just like at Taral, except it has come early!”

          “You mean when grandfather told us the story?”

          “Yes, that’s when I think it all started.  He told us
the story and it’s never been the same since.  Maybe it’s
Schee’ ya

View of a rock glacier on
Porphyry Ridge from above the upper Green Butte camp
--HAER-American Memory

Continue with Chaper 25: 

Ch 24, Pt 3: "Green Butte Copper"

         Legacy of the Chief, Chapter 24: "Green Butte Copper-1924" 

click on picture for
larger image: some of these images appear in the book for
this chapter.

Green Butte lower bunkhouse view 2

bunkhouse at the Green Butte Mine, McCarthy Creek

Green Butte lower bunkhouse

          The fog began to lift by the time the three men left
the two-story log building which both housed and fed men at the
creek level.  The Indians were now officially working for Green
Butte Copper Company.

          “I had no idea the line would be this high, Cap.”

          “We don’t have a fear of heights, remember, Johnny?”

          “Yeah, Cap.  I just can’t believe how far up this line
runs.  Look up there.  You can barely make out anything.”

          “It’s still foggy, but I can see a building hanging on
the cliff wall, Johnny.  Strange place to put a building.”

          “That’s a snowshed, Cap.  It covers a portal that
leads to the center area of our mine.  We have a back-up
generator in there.  Don’t want to lose our lights or
compressors, you know. So, which one of you goes first?”

          “I’ll go first, boss.”

          “Okay, Johnny.  I’ll follow Cap.  Wait for me at the
tram head.”
        Up they went, a cable distance of 2,800 feet to the main
level of the mine.

          “Cap, look at this! The view up here is spectacular,
even through the fog.  I wonder when it will clear up enough to
see across the canyon?”

          “Should be soon. The fog is lifting quickly, now.”

Green Butte tram

Green Butte
tram view of lower camp on McCarthy Creek
--University of Washington Special Collections

          “Oh, hi again, boss.  Great view up here. I have to
wonder what possessed those prospectors to work their way up to
nearly inaccessible places like this one in search of gold.”

          “Copper.  It was copper.  But it could just as well
have been gold. Good question, Johnny.  Let’s head toward my new
barrack toward the south and I’ll try to explain it to you.

          “All the paying copper in the Nizina district seems to
occur only at these higher altitudes.  The good copper runs in
almost a straight line from the Erie to the Nicolai Prospect and
possibly even beyond.  It was those early prospectors over at
Nicolai who figured that the Nicolai probably was just an
indicator of a much greater copper pay streak which had to lie
somewhere in the area.”

          “We know that only too well.”

          “Right, you’re grandsons of old Nicolai himself, you

          “You mean, Chief Nicolai, Tyone of Taral.”


          “He was the supreme chief, boss.  The tyone was the
chief of chiefs in the Copper River.”

          “I’ll bet he regretted ever showing the location of
that place.”

          “It wasn’t really his to give, Mr. Barrett.  We needed
to save ourselves from starvation.  Grandfather bought our
people some time.  He ended up getting a lot more than that,

          “Well, you two are here.  Some of you Indians
obviously survived.  And you learned to read our English
language.  Not bad.”

          “And write.”

          “Yes, Mr. Barrett.  We’re here.  We wanted to see what
the big deal was about all this copper.  You white men have gone
to a lot of trouble to get at it.  Was it really worth it ?”

          “I don’t know.  This mine never really did much more
than provide a living. I  realized that this particular spot lay
along the line.  I hiked up here the hard way back then in
1906.  Sure enough, there were exposed copper veins along the
cliff.  I  staked these claims.  But the real heroes were
Clarence Smith and “Tarantula” Jack Warner who found the other
end of this long line of copper vein at Bonanza.   They were
also the ones who staked the Mother Lode, which is three miles
up this creek.”

          “Not to take it all away from you pioneering
prospectors, but I hope you realize that the Nicolai Prospect
was in my grandfather’s old sheep hunting country.  Your copper
mining activities ended that.  Our people never come up this way

          “These claims fall under federal mining laws.  They
are rightfully mine.”

          “Rightfully?  How can you say that?  No one gave any
of you title to this land.

          “As for Smith and Warner, they’re the only ones who
became famous.  It all really started with us--the Natives. If
we’re not going to benefit from all this, at least you should
give our grandfather more credit for his part in making you
white men rich.”

          “Us white men? All of us?”

          “I mean you white men.”

          “Cap, he wasn’t one of them.  I’m sure Barrett doesn’t
appreciate this.

          “Don’t let Cap get you too upset, Mr. Barrett.  We
still want to work here.”

          “That’s all right.  I understand, I think.  I can’t
promise you anything special. But you have jobs here now. I’m
not one of those rich white men like Cap thinks I am.  I’m just
another small business owner who’d really like to get rich off
this mine.  That’s why I still have it.”

          “We came here for the work and the adventure, Mr.
Barrett.  We’re following the words of our grandfather. He and
others before him long predicted the coming of those of you from
other lands.”

          “He did?  That was easy to predict.  The Russians were
here before us for a good century.”

          “Yes, but we drove them off.  Nicolai told our people
it was useless to stand in the way of the white man, but he
meant you Americans.  But we’re not letting you miners and the
rest of you settlers run wild up here, either.  It’s still our
country.  We won’t leave.  This is the home of our ancestors. 
They are all buried here.  Someday we’ll be buried here. 
We’ll see that when you’re done here that you will leave us a
land we can still live in.”

          “Seems fair to me, Johnny.”

          “Don’t take us for granted and we’ll try not to
disappoint you.  We know that in some way things have changed
forever. We’ll survive this.  It’s our way to adapt to change. 
After all, we’ve lived here thousands of years. No one else can
make that claim.”

          “What Johnny says speaks for me as well.  We’re not
your cigar-store Indians, Barrett.  We’re real people. Treat us
the same as anyone else and we’ll show you and your other men
what real work is.  We can follow directions and we can work. 
We worked hard on the railroad for eight years.  We’ll do the
same for you--for a while.”

          The three of them arrived at the new, two-story frame

          “Jacob, these are our new workers. This is Johnny
Gadanski and Cap Goodlataw.

Meet the foreman.  This is Jacob Harrison.  Jacob, I’m going in
to check progress on the main stope.”

          “I’ll go with you, Mr. Barrett.  Harry!”

          The Chinese cook appeared from a lower stairway.

          “Harry, set these guys up with a room, would you? 
I’ll be back for them soon.”

          “Guys, wait here at the barrack while I accompany Mr.
Barrett.  Have some coffee from the pot on the stove over
there.  I’ll be back shortly.”

          The two bosses headed up the hill through the covered
walkway to the main portal, leaving Johnny and Cap in the rustic
mess hall with the Oriental cook.

          “Boys, pick up your bedrolls and follow.”

          He led them up the stairs to a single room with two

Green Butte bunks

Green Butte kitchen

TOP: bunks in the
abandoned upper Green Butte camp; LWR: GB upper camp
kitchen, both shots taken  ~1984        

          “It’s all yours. Set yourselves up.  The coffee is on
downstairs, just as the boss said.  See you for lunch.”

          Harry turned and swiftly headed down the stairs,
leaving the two Indians alone.

           “Sometimes I think you say too much, Johnny.  You
were sounding almost too white.  I’m not sure I want them to
know all that much of what we’re thinking.”

          “Cap, I sometimes wonder myself if I’m saying too
much.  But I need to draw some kind of line without scaring them
off.  That would do nothing for us.   Right now we need men like
Barrett just to let us in the door. Remember, George Brown?”

          The two new Indian miners began their first day of
underground work as apprentice powder men and muckers
immediately after Jacob Harrison returned. The Green Butte
copper, like that at Kennecott, was found in the Chitistone
limestone on a bedding plane  angle of about thirty degrees
tilting toward the northeast. It followed that the  main haulage
tunnels were thirty-degree inclines, cut along the base of the
bedding plane where the productive Chitistone limestone
contacted the basalt base of the Nicolai greenstone.   As in
most mines which use incline tunnels, the Green Butte haulage
tunnels were tracked for moving the ore to the surface in skips
pulled by electric motors.  Alongside the skip tracks were
wooden stairs leading to the various levels.  Green Butte had
eight levels at hundred-foot intervals.

           The two apprentices absorbed much about mining and
miners during the month they worked at Green Butte. It became
obvious to the two that there was little likelihood that the
Green Butte would become a major producer.  It seemed a miracle
that it was operating at all, given the small amount of
production which occurred while they were there. As a result,
working at the Green Butte did not hold much interest for the
Indians for very long.  

          They were joined the second day by the Siberian mutt,
just as Johnny had predicted.   This was grizzly bear country.
Most of the crew was quite happy to have a large dog at camp who
would help to keep the bears at bay. Kay-yew-nee never lacked
for scraps.  It was a small and friendly camp, but the Native
team found themselves getting restless after only two weeks.

          On the beginning of the third week,  while Cap was
pushing an ore bucket out the main adit just above the upper
camp barracks he looked toward the sky to see a large amount of
heavy black smoke coming from the northwest.

          C’eyuuni lede’! No. Too close for that.  Must be
Kennecott. They’re losing something they value. Nicolai always
told us to look toward the sky for the smoke.  It is a sign. 
Something is changing.   Soon it will be time to leave.

          Cap ran back into the tunnel.  Johnny was at the top
of the incline.

          “Sla’cheen! It’s smoking heavily out there! Come,

          He rushed down the tunnel toward the entry at the
covered stairwell. 

          “I thought at first it must be Wrangell smoking, but
it’s too close.  It has to be Kennecott!”

          “I hope it’s not the whole camp, Cap.  Maybe it’s a
nearby forest-fire.”

          “Look! The smoke is already clearing.  Someone is
knocking down the fire already. It can’t be that big.”

          “Let’s hope not, Cap.  Father still works there.  I’d
like to have a chance to work there, too.”

          It was three days later when Jacob brought in the

          “Cap, it’s from that man I met last year at Smitty’s. 
Frank the geologist.”

          “The one you beat at pool?”

          “I beat everyone at pool, Cap even you.”

          “Don’t get too cocky, arrogant one.  I just might
surprise you one day.”

          “Was Frank that Kennecott engineer?”

          “Yes, he writes that he works for a man named William
C. Douglass.  Name sounds familiar.  Now that I think of it, he
mentioned that name to me back in Chitina. He writes that Father
is growing too ill to work much longer.  I knew that already. We
saw him, ourselves.

          “Listen to this, Cap. Frank wants me to work at
Kennecott where I can be closer to my father.”

          “What about the smoke?”

          “I’m getting to that, Cap.  It reads: ‘Due to a
recent  fire which took out the power plant and one cottage
there is now plenty of extra work available.  The superintendent
has agreed to hire you.’

          “He means me.”

          “What about me, Sla’cheen?”

          “I’ll send back word that you’re here.  He doesn’t
know you, but I’ll ask him to hire you as well.”

          “You sure?  What if they say no?  They may not want
any other Indians there. If you ask them to take me, they may
not want you there, either.  Your father’s dying.  You need to
be there.”

          The two were resting at the top of the covered
stairwell, which led down to the upper barracks.  The dog was
beside them as usual. The sun was going down over the ridge but
the sky still had bright streaks of color as the canyon below
fell into cold, deep shadows.  

          This was a one-shift mine. The day was over. The
others were down in the barrack having dinner.  

          Since the sken’nie first arrived the crew had
been driving the main incline farther down into the Chitistone
layer in search of ore which was not to be found except in
disappointingly small showings.  Rumors of an impending camp
closure were rampant, but management remained adamant about
continuing the search for copper.

          Cap focused on the rock glacier facing him from along
the west wall of the canyon.  There were no formations  like
this anywhere near Chitina, but Jacob told them rock glaciers
existed everywhere in this part of the country, especially up
and down Bonanza Ridge.  This one extended from nearly the top
of the east face of Porphyry Mountain, which was 6,375 in
elevation, all the way to the creek bed--a vertical drop of
about 4,000 feet. The leading edge of the glacier was being cut
by the action of the fast moving waters.   The McCarthy Creek
road crossed over the top of the rock glacier toe as the trail
worked its way northward up the canyon. There was no room
elsewhere to place the road. 

Green Butte pano

View of
upper Green Butte looking WSW toward Porphyry Mountain
just beyond McCarthy Creek canyon
--HAER-American Memory

          “You don’t really need me here, Sla’cheen, but
I’ll go along if you can find a place for me. I’m not yet ready
to return to Chitina. I like it way up here.  Very peaceful.  No
family arguments.  No drunks lying all over the place. ”

          Johnny’s eyes followed the rock glacier to the narrow
part of the steep-walled canyon in the direction of Mother
Lode.  It would soon be dark enough to see the lights from the
upper camp reflecting off the south face of Marvelous Ridge. 
The camp itself was masked by Independence Ridge. In the
distance above Mother Lode camp was the nearly 7,000 foot-tall
Bonanza Peak--the tallest point on the ridge.

          “Cap, if you and I were to stand up there, we could
probably see hundreds of miles.  That’s the peak we saw above
Kennecott from the tracks.  It overlooks this area like Spirit
Mountain watches over Nicolai’s country from Bremner to
Chitina.  We need to climb that peak one day just to see what’s
up there.

          “I said we.  We’re a team. Inseparable, I hope.
Do you think I came all the way up here in the middle of the
white man’s world to work by myself?  You’re my Sla’cheen
We’ve always worked together.  It wouldn’t seem right for me to
be up here without you.” 

          “I wasn’t sure, Johnny.  You know I wouldn’t be
here by myself.  These men at Green Butte seem reasonable, but
Kennecott’s different. It’s huge.  I’d never go there without
another Indian to back me up. But it’s a lot more than that. 
I’m too used to working with you to work way out here without

          “I’ll write Frank a letter and see if I can get you
hired along with me.  If not, I’ll try to get Dad to just come
back home to Chitina.  Maybe Mom will take care of him there.  I
don’t want him to die alone at Kennecott.”

          The two pulled themselves up from their sitting
position on the waste ore dump. They slid their way down the
long pile to the back of the barracks. In the process, they
knocked several small rocks loose, which began catapulting down
the hill toward the buildings below.  A number of them smacked
into the back of the barrack. There were no windows at that
level on the back side of the structure.

          “I guess we could have taken the covered stairs, but
this was faster and more fun. We sure sent a lot of rocks

          “I wouldn’t want to try to climb back up that loose
pile, Johnny.” 

          “Cap, I’m gong to pen a letter to Frank Buckner.  I’ll
bet he’ll take you.”

          They entered the mess hall. The dining table had been
cleared off already.  It was too late for dinner.  The two
usually ate their meals after the others were finished.  The
cook was used to their habits and did his best to accommodate
the two.

           Johnny sat down at the long table to compose the
letter while Cap pulled out a deck of cards and began playing

          “You know, Sla’cheen, maybe I should just go
back home.”

           “Not just yet.  Once we’ve tried Kennecott, then
we’ve done what we set out to do.  What else is there up here
except the goldfields of the Nizina?  Those are just small
operations, like this one.  Maybe even smaller.  But Kennecott
stands alone.”

          “Have you thought about leaving the country, Johnny?”hnny?”

          “Yes, Cap, I have.  I think someday I will.  Maybe
soon.  This is a great experience being up here.  All the better
that you’re here to keep me company and work with me. But who
wants to muck rock or set rail all their lives?  I know you

          “No, not really.  I have often wondered what’s really
out there beyond those mountains.  I know what I’ve read, but
reading about it and seeing it are two different things.”

          “But would you go, Cap?”

          “Probably not.  I belong here.  I’d climb that peak
with you, but that would be about it.  I can take just so much
of white society.  Then I get upset. This was the only land I
know and I feel very attached to it, even out here.  Maybe more
so here.”

          “Here?  Really? Chitina is so far away from here.”

Green Butte Mine adit. In the
distance is Bonanza Peak and Potter (Mother Lode) Gulch.

Continue with 

 " pt 4, conclusion