Grand Encampment Mining District

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About This Site

Two Gentlemen about to duke it out in front of the Blue Ribbon Saloon, Dillon, Wyo., 1904

Slightly south of the Rudefeha Mine on the west side of Sierra Madra was Dillon. The town was formed when booze was banned in Rudefeha. The town was named after Malachi W. Dillon who was involved in various mining ventures beginning with coal in Carbon in the mid 1880's and apparently ending with a gypsite mine in the Seminoe Mountains about 1915. Dillon may have been an itenerant prospector. He was apparently born in California in 1864 and was in Carbon County by 1886. In 1892, a Malachi W. Dillon was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in Utah.

Dillon, Wyo., 1904

Dillon was a companion town to Copperton which was about 4 1/2 miles down Haggarty Gulch from Dillon.

Copperton, Wyo., approx. 1904.

The Copperton Townsite Company was founded in 1900 by former Governor J. E. Osburne, James Douglas, A. McKinnie and J. E. Cosgriff of Rawlins. The area of Copperton was one which was used for pasturing sheep. The development of the area and potential opening of mines was not one which was received well by local sheepherders.Sheepherders invaded the town and shot up the saloons, or as more colorfully expressed by the July 25, 1900, Laramie Daily Boomerang, "mutton whackers," "smoked up" the town. The little town perservered for several years. In 1903, aluvial placer gold was discovered adjacent to the townsite. The town was a convenient stopping point for string teams heading up the gulch to Dillon and Rudafeha. But ultimely a more convient wagon road was built over the divide from Encampment. The mines promoted by H. O. Granberg were all duds. In Dillon, the Doublejack lasted a bit longer with items being printed in the Denver News. One item published in 1906 got the attention of the editor of the Phoenix [British Columbia Pioneer, April 7, 1906:

Western editors are sometimes held personally responsible for their comments upon the doings of the towns in which they live, and they sometimes show that the pen is not the only weapon they can wield. The Dillon (Wyo.) Doublejack is a case in point, as shown by the following dispatch to the Denver News:

"Two Copperton characters, known as Hard Pan Pete and Bedrock Bill, are recovering from the effects of an effort to clean out the office of the Dillon Doublejack, a weekly newspaper published here. The men took exception to a story published by the editor of the Doublelack, entered the office and announced that it was their intention to wipe the floor with him. The editor, not at all dismayed, seized a doublejack, which is kept in the office as the insignia of the paper, and attacked Hardpan and Bedrock so effectively that both were laid out in short order and neither was able to leave the office without assistance. The editor escaped without a scratch."

"Hard Pan Pete" and "Bedrock Bill" was a name occasionally conferred by various writers to aluvial prospectors in the West. The prospectors are looking for hard pan or bedrock overlain by "placer ground," an area of alluvial deposts with a show of yellow. There, one may dig down to a layer beneath which there is either hard pan, an impervious layer of clay, or bedrock. There pockets of larger "chunky" gold particles might be found.

"The Gold Bug" Frederick Remington, 1997. The illustration was used by the United State Post Office on its 1898 Trans-Mississippi issue enttled the "Western Mining Prospector". .

The Reverend Pete Rosen in his 1896 "Pa-ha-sa-pah, or, the Black Hills of South Dakota," Nixon Jones Printing Co, reference one such prospector from the Black Hills, found a claim, sold it and moved on to the Big Horns and came back with naught having lost all.

PECULIARITIES OF MINERS. "Bed-rock Bill" is a good fellow, an honest miner. This is not his baptismal and patronymic appellation as bestowed on him at an early age by his godfather and godmother, but a friendly appellation bestowed on him by his companions in toil, from the fact of his continually talking of bed-rock, working on bed-rock and receiving all the remuneration he acquired from bed-rock. For on that, he says:

"In his claim only lies his pay." Bed-rock Bill had fine prospects; he toiled early and late, and each clean-up increased in value and gave inspiring hope of the future fortune of "the honest miner." His girl, too, was "fair and fat, if not forty," and the hopes of their speedy union inspired Bill to more exertion, till every nerve was strained to make his claim the richest in the gulch. But the true course of mining, like true love, does not always run smoothly. The new diggings were talked of. The big stampede commenced and poor Bill took the fever, a dangerous epidemic that his susceptible nature could not withstand, and heedless of the advice of friends, and the entreaties of his fair one, he sold his claim and made one among the many that numbered the prospectors.

According to the Reverend Rosen, the prospector's return was described by the "muse" of the miners:

: He's now returned all tattered and torn,
By looking for gold on the Big Horn.
He has no malt,
He has no cat,
He has no coat,
He has no hat,
His trousers patched with an old flour-sack,
With ' for family use' to be seen on the back;
His beard is slaggy, his hair is long,
And this is the burden of his song:

The towns of Copperton and Dillon received notoriety as a result of additional sydicated columns written by Grant Jones the editor of the Doublejack for newspapers about the country. Following Jones' graduation from Northwestern in 1897, Jones became a national writer for the Chicago Times-Herald, covering among other events, the national Republican convention at which William McKinley was nominated. He was a popular after dinner speaker. His career, however, went into decline as a result of excessive booze. He first went to Colorado and then to the Encampment District where he founded the Dillon Doublejack for which every miner in town was a "special correspondent." [Writer's note: "doublejack drillings" is a method of hand hardrock drilling. One man holds a steel drill bit while the other grasping a six to eight pound sledge hits the bit. After each blow the first man turns the bit. The one holding the bit must have extreme confidence in the one driving the bit. If the second one misses there is likely to be major injury.] Jones wrote columns about mythical animals, perhaps similar to "pink elephants," including the one-eyed Screaming Emu and the six-legged Coogly Woo. He died in his cabin on June 19, 1903, in an incident involving the injection of morphine whilst intoxicated. The cabin was described by Willis George Emerson in his Treasure of Hidden Valley:

Grant Jones' bachelor home consisted of a single room a hastily improvised shack, as he had correctly called it, that had cost no very large sum to build. It was decorated with many trophies of college life and of the chase. Various college pennants were on the walls, innumerable pipes, some rusty antiquated firearms, besides a brace of pistols which Jim Rankin had given to Grant, supposed to be the identical flint-locks carried by Big Nose George, a desperado of the early days.

Grant's college fraternity, , Phi Delta Theta, Illinois Alpha Chapter, in its memorial politely referred to his death as "sudden."

The Dillon Stage

Because of the depth of the snows in the winter, Dillon boasted of a two-story outhouse. In July, 1909 Episcopal Bishop Nathanial S. Thomas visited Dillon and Copperton. The road from Encampment to Dillon and Copperton was covered in snow. One driver refused to go through. A writer for the Wyoming Tribune, July 29, 1909, p 2, was less than impressed with the two towns. In Copperton there was no room at the inn. In Dillon, the bishop rounded up a congregation of four from the saloon.

The two towns were the alleged headquarters for Stemp Springs Coal & Power Co., formed by Ole Granberg and Henry O. Granberg of Oshkosh, Wisc. Granberg was also involved with the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co, the Anchoria Copper Mining Co.the Hahn's Peak Gold Mining & Milling Co, the Jack Pot Mine, the Royal Flush Mine, and the Pluto Mining Company. Granberg actually visited Dillon, but he told the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, December 1, 1903, p. 10, he did not care to remain there. By 1906, letters to the mining company were being returned "unclaimed." He did stop off, however, in Cheyenne, to see the hanging of Tom Horn.

Granberg is now remembered as having allegedly purchased a fake 1804 silver dollar from a Pinkerton Agent for $100.00. If real it would have been worth a fortune. It was in reality a more common 1800 silver dollar whose date had been altered. In the rush to the mountains to sell stock, another Oshkosh resident who profession was formerly shown as a bartender and propriator of a sample room found himself as the president of the Hahn's Peak Gold Mining and Milling Co. The Pluto Gold & Copper Company did slightly better. It was formed in 1902 and was capitalized at $1,000,000. Although, it actually opened a mine with five shafts, the deepest of which was 100 feet, and had some 2,000 feet of workings and a 40 hp. steam plant. But the glowing reports given by Granberg would seemingly indicate, based on the illustration below, that the mine's prospects were somewhat exaggerated.

The Pluto Mine

By 1909, representatives of Local No. 189 of the Western Federation of Mines, wrote the National begging off from paying the $77.00 national assessment because the mine had closed before the assessment could be collected and most of the men had departed town.

Dillon, Pencil Sketch by Dean Bode, 1909

Other companies attempted to promote themselves by reference to the apparent success of the Rudefeha. As an example, a prospectus for the Great Lakes Mining and Smelting Co., allegedly located five miles south of Encampment, boasted of the number of loads of ore being shipped. What the prospectus failed to advise gullible investors was that the loads were for the Rudefeha Mine and not its own from which no ore was being mined. Thus, promotional material for such companies compared themselves to the Rudefeha even though little more had been done than provide glowing assays. As another example the only developmental work for the Island City Copper Mining Co. was the digging of a 15 ft. hole. Of a similar nature was the Calamet Mining & Milling Co. whose development consisted of a 16 foot hole. The company claimed that its ore assayed out at 70% copper. Most of the companies were gone by 1907.

From the cloudy crystal ball department: in 1907, the State Geologist Henry C. Beeler reported as to the mines featured on this page:

The two mines of the Penn-Wyoming Copper Company, the Ferris-Haggarty and the Doane-Rambler, are in active operation. In the former some' new ore shoots have been opened and the mine bids fair for a greater production than ever, as it has been put in first-class physical shape and the ore handled at a less cost per ton. Diamond drill prospecting has been going on in the lower levels of this mine this year, exploring the adjacent formations for parallel ore shoots, but the results have not yet been given to the public. In the Doane-Rambler mine, work has been confined to reopening the working levels, putting them in shape for a large production and connecting the mine with the sixteen-mile overhead tramway, which transports the ore from the Ferris-Haggarty mine to the Encampment smelter and the railroad. There is no reason, why an active production campaign should not be made, and the management of this enterprise is to be congratulated on what it has accomplished, in the face of what appeared to be almost insurmountable difficulties, in the way of fires, scarcity of labor, financial depression and an arbitrary and needless decline in the price of copper, which occurred just as it had completed its new works and was prepared to produce at a handsome profit.

This new smelter and railroad have made the future of the Encampment district a certainty, as there has never been any doubt as to the ores here, and new work is going on all over the district.

Rambler, approx. 1904

The mines closed the next year. The Penn-Wyoming Company was over extended with the cost of the infastructure, several fires at the smelter and a reduction in the price of copper. In order to promote the sale of its stock, the company resorted to the declaration of dividends when it was making no money. The assets were sold to the United Smelters, Railway & Copper Company, but to no avail. A receiver was appointed and the assets foreclosed upon. When the shafts of the Rudefeha Mine were sealed no provision was made for drainage and the shafts are now flooded with some seepage poluting nearby steams.

Rambler, Wyo., 1898

Rambler, located in the Grand Encampment Mining District of southern Carbon County, was established by Rumsey, Deal, Ferris amd Haggarty as a part of their copper mining operations. The Rudefeha Mine was the most important in the area. The Rambler was the second most important in production followed by the Kurtz-Chatterton.

Bird's eye view of Rudefeha Mine, Rambler, Wyoming. Tramway terminal in tall building at right of photo.

The ore was hauled from Rambler by mule train to the smelter in Encampment.

Rambler, Wyoming, 1907.

Two years later, the town, along with Dillon and Copperton, were esentially abandoned. In the 1930's there was one sawmill still being operated at the former site of Copperton. By about 1939, Copperton was occupied by one abandoned cabin in a partial state of ruin.

Former site of Copperton, approx 1939.

Dillon in 1941 was described in the WPA Guide to Wyoming as consisting of roofless cabins, old iron bedsteads, stoves, can, broken wagon parts and innumerable bottles. The road up the Gulch to Dillon from Copperton where string teams formerly hauled supplies and returned with ore was marked by ruts which faded to a footpath. Most of the building in Rambler were in a state of collapse except a few occupied by Sheepherders.

Next page: Battle continued.