Cover Preface TOC: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12   ©

Chapter Eight
Leadville, 1912-1917

At this time Leadville was a town of about 12,000 people, mining was still flourishing, but on a business like level mostly large company operations, excepting for a few score exceptions, the days of the individual prospector were gone. The large smelter of the Guggenheim American Smelting and Refining was in full operation. The city was in a state of flux, passing from the rough tough days into the stage of being a modern normal town, so we had all classes of people, mostly normal law abiding citizens yet a sizable group that was far from accepting the law. Leadville's then liquor, gambling, women of ill repute district, known as State Street, was still famous all over America for being the last of the wild districts in America, more on this later.

On the other hand Leadville was ultra modern and cultured. Many of the early day families had made their fortunes and either remained in Leadville or at least maintained their summer homes there. So there was a cosmopolitan phase of life, what would be termed real society and money spent lavishly. One thing was particularly interesting, all the early day people had erected their homes as they made their first moneys, largely with the idea of haste and little permanency. At the time of this story, one could go around the streets, upon the hill, and see many, many rather large houses that were far from attractive on the outside, appeared more like large barns, but once you stepped inside you were astounded. The interiors were so beautiful and lavishly furnished. Often entire rooms would be furnished with articles, picked up at great cost by the owners as they traveled in foreign countries. No large city homes excelled some of these.

As a result of all these factors it was natural that there would be rather sharply defined social groups. There were the rough and tough lawless groups left over from the very recent early camp days, the good sound working people who worked in the mines and smelters and did some small scale mining on their won, and the well-to-do group which was the small so-called '400' which not only included the very wealthy, but also included the more prosperous merchants and several of the old families who had made comfortable fortunes and were generally nice people. This latter large group was cultured and interested in travel, art and the finer things of life. There was also a very distinct and self sufficient crowd made up of young unmarried mining engineers from various engineering schools all over the United States who were just getting started in their professions, all in their twenties or early thirties. For many odd reasons, Florence and I had entree into all of these groups, queer as this may be. Our most interesting life in Leadville resulted entirely from these group contacts, which is why I am explaining this, also you could never picture Leadville, or any large mining without understanding the necessity and influence of these various groups.

We had immediate contacts and acceptance into the so-called '400' society through distant relations. Mrs. Fannie Stilwell was a third cousin of mine, on the Duchess' side and had been very close and chummy with the Duchess for their entire life. We had often visited Cousin Fannie in Leadville when I was a boy, and she us. Cousin Fannie's husband, John Stilwell, now dead, had been one of the real early comers to Leadville and had made considerable money both as a merchant and in the early mining stocks. So, the Stilwell's were in this old exclusive group, even though John lost the larger part of his fortune in poor investments just before he died. Of course Cousin Fannie took us in just like family, so we were accepted, but this group did not appeal to us very much as they were considerably older than we, but we maintained appearances with them. As always, Florence's church singing helped us into this group.

In my line of work with the miners, I of course made friends and therefore we had friends and interesting contacts with the working or middle class groups, to which we in fact belonged for the moment at least, but never realized or admitted it. Of all the interesting people I have ever known, the working miner, as a group, is by far the most interesting. In groups of them there is always someone who has been to and worked in such places as Alaska, Korea, South America, Africa, India, etc., so they are a well traveled lot, rough, ready for a fight at the drop of a hat, but at heart the most friendly of peoples in times of distress. They, more than any group I have ever known, represent what we like to think of America representing.

We had entree to the tough more or less lawless group as well, again in an odd way. One of our first, and certainly dearest, friends was a young bachelor lawyer just out of Colorado University. At this time, he was Assistant District Attorney. His name was Eugene Bond. He was Sigma Nu and soon became part of our family. In fact, we named our boy Bill after him, as William Eugene. Gene's boss, Barney L. Whatley, District Attorney, was a young attorney from Alabama, came to Colorado for his health, had a little money of his own, lived on a beautiful mountain ranch over the pass just below Breckenridge. There he kept, and supported, his mother and father as well as one of his sisters who had made an unfortunate marriage, her husband abandoning her and her little baby. Whatley's home being over by Breckenridge and his office as District Attorney by necessity being in Leadville, meant he lived as a bachelor during the week in Leadville. Through Gene we soon struck up a friendship with Whatley and soon Barney became the same as a member of our family. I used to say Gene and Barney did everything but pay board at our house. Yes, they'd come up any time, even ask themselves in for meals, even breakfasts, we were just a happy family, and both of them were fine southern gentlemen. However, being in politics they had to have their contacts, so they had connections down around tough State Street district. Florence and I, just for the heck of it, would often go around the dives on State Street with Barney or Gene. And, of course all the tough owners would cater to our group. We got to know several of them in this manner, some, at least two, nationally known gamblers.

Then, by our very age and my profession, and having attended college we fell in with the young group of mining engineers and school teachers. We, being the only married couple in the group, seemed to furnish the headquarters, having the only house. Also, the need for such people, especially school teachers in those days, for chaperon on late parties, etc., was filled by Florence and me; just so you were married qualified you as chaperon, how silly? I'll assure you we often needed a chaperon more than the others. In general, the major part of our social Leadville life was built around this young group and particularly Gene and Barney. How we did so much, kept up a home, Florence with her babies and me working regularly, is more than I can conceive, but we did it. Of course, household help was very cheap, for quite a while Florence had a young Irish woman come every day, do all the cleaning, washing and ironing, baby sitting and simple help with the cooking, for a grand pay of $15 per month.

Upon first arriving in Leadville, I stayed at Cousin Fannie's, Florence remaining in Idaho Springs until I located a suitable house. Cousin Fannie often had groups in to eat and frequently invited Silver Dollar Tabor, who was a comparatively young woman then. I would guess in her early or middle thirties. She was the famous Silver Dollar, daughter of Senator H. A. W. Tabor and the famous Baby Doe Tabor. Remember, I told you earlier about the other side of the Tabor family. Silver Dollar and her mother Baby Doe, were then living up at the famous Matchless mine, no money, Baby Doe never went out, but the old timers often invited Silver Dollar, partly for old times sake, but I fear, more for amusement. Silver Dollar was a very good looking woman and in a way charming, however, I thought she was just a little off in the head, and most others agreed. She could play the piano a little, also wrote poetry as a hobby, or tried to. We would often sit around at Cousin Fannie's and ask Silver Dollar to play and sing. Usually she would try to sing some song of which she had written the words and out them to some popular tune. Later she got the idea she could make a career in the theater back East, so she went to Chicago. Within a very few years she went lower and lower, finally died and was buried by charity in Chicago. As I recall, in later years a group, for sentimental reasons, moved her body to Leadville for re-burial, but I am not sure of this. Poor Silver Dollar, as well as her mother were to be pitied. They were victims of their money mad, glory seeking, unprincipled father and husband. It seems so very odd that modern writers and entertainer have built these people up so falsely and the public so willingly accepts such lies and misrepresentations. There were plenty of fine, worthy people of that day who could have been pictured for posterity as typical of the romance of those days.

Our near five years in Leadville were a thrilling and exciting period of our life. Our sons James Henry and Charles Jaynes were born while we were there, Henry in Leadville and Charles in Idaho Springs. Having these two wonderful little boys did not seem to curtail our life with the young married groups we went with, rather the two babies just had that many aunts and uncles. I will try to confine the story of our Leadville life to only the very unusual happenings and characters. At the same time, I want to convey somewhat of a picture of life in those days, in a large romantic mining community, all of which has long gone and is now a memory and subject of books, so many of which are false for one reason or another.

We rented out first Leadville house from a Mr. Harrington, cashier of the large American National Bank, whose wife and daughter Ruth were spending the winter back east, as did many Leadvillites, because the winters were so severe; Leadville being just two miles above sea level. Later Mrs. Harrington divorced him and then married Jesse McDonald who was, or just had been, governor of Colorado, and for years was the absolute dictator of the Republican Party in Colorado, in fact we always spoke of him as 'Mr. Republican.' He had made his millions in mining and banking, was president of the American National Bank at this time, Harrington being cashier. After the divorce and Mrs. H. marrying McDonald, I often wondered how the governor would greet Harrington in the mornings. Do you suppose he would say, "Good morning, Harrington, how is our wife this lovely morning?" We knew the McDonalds fairly well, as I played with Ruth Harrington as a little boy visiting Cousin Fannie, who lived next door; also the governor, or Mr. Republican, was somewhat of a friend of the Duchess because his brother Sim McDonald for several years was somewhat of a suitor after the Duchess' hand.

Our first 'couple' friends were the Eddie Nicholsons who were close to our age, lived across the alley from us, were newly married and Mrs. N. had her first baby at the same time our Henry was born. Mrs. N. had been Beldine Brooks of Denver, whom Florence had known very well; I knew her then only slightly. So, it was a natural that we chummed closely with these Nicholsons. Eddie was the only son of the famous U. S. Senator Sam D. Nicholson, who had made his millions in the more recent days of Leadville, he being the one who developed the great zinc mining in Leadville, and finally spent almost one half million dollars to get into the U. S. Senate. Someday someone should build up the romance of the Nicholson's to replace the sordidness of the Tabors; certainly the Nicholson story is just as interesting and a little more decent to say the least, even though old Sam was a little foolish at times and spoiled his son Eddie and daughter Ruth.

For many years no one ever thought there was any zinc in commercial quantities in the Leadville area, in fact in the late 80's the U. S. Geological Survey wrote a book on the Geology of Leadville and gave two long chapters on the geological reasons why there were no deposits of zinc carbonate in that area. Of course there was plenty of zinc sulfide in the deeper ores, but not in paying quantities, in fact these zinc sulfides were what was known as a penalty constituent, because it interfered with the smelting of the ores of lead, gold, and silver. This Sam Nicholson had been a prospector and miner in Leadville for many years, had made two or three fair, but comparatively small, fortunes, but always put it back into the ground in the hopes of hitting it really rich. In the very early 1900's Sam was operating on entirely borrowed money; was actually broke. At this time his son Eddie, just a lad, having a large bump or curiosity, picked up some of the 'red limestone' from one of the mines dumps up on Iron Hill, and sent it to an assayer in Pueblo without telling his dad or anyone. The report came back, "About 40 percent Zinc as the carbonate." Shrewd little Eddie still told no one, but sent another sample to a Denver assayer, who confirmed the Pueblo findings. Then, he told his dad. Sam immediately tied up a few of these dumps on lease terms, telling everyone, "He hoped to develop a market for the red limestone." For many, many years the miners and mining companies had dumped this carbonate ore as being just waste limestone stained with iron, hence always called red limestone. There were hundreds of thousand of tons laying out on these dumps.

Sam, after tying up what he was able to do with his limited borrowed money, went to the Guggenheim interests and they joined with him to really tie up more dumps and mines. As a result, Sam became the last of the big Leadville millionaires, rated at somewhere between ten and twenty million. Of course he spent and wasted a great deal of money, but when he died in the twenties he left an estate of several million. Friend Eddie inherited a trust fund paying him $1,500 per month for life, plus some two million dollars in the residual estate; all besides similar settlements to his sister Ruth and a couple of million to the Children's Hospital in Denver. Senator Sam was a handsome man, of decent worth while habits and loyal to his wife and children, as well as to his brother Mert. However, there were naturally wild stories about him from time to time.

While we were so chummy with Eddie and Beldine, Eddie received a comfortable monthly allowance from his dad, on the promise that he, Eddie, was supposed to be looking after some of his dad's mining interests. The four of us would get together at least once a week for dinner and cards and believe me Eddie entertained lavishly the first part of the month, but always was broke before the next check came in. I am sorry to say they were divorced some years later, both married again. Eddie became the power behind the throne in Colorado Republican politics and is now Vice President of United Airlines, having invested heavily in it when it was first organized. Years later, when Florence was in St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver, having son Bill, she heard a lady in a room across the hall cry in pain and recognized it as being Beldine's voice; which was fantastic. Beldine was also giving birth to a baby. Of course Florence and Beldine had plenty of gossip about then. Nuff of the Nicholsons, but to know the Leadville of that day, one must know of the Nicholsons.

One little aside, about the time of Henry's birth our doctor prescribed a new medicine, Aspirin, for one of us for a bad cold. He instructed us to use it very cautiously and with plenty of liquid, preferable milk, because the doctors feared this new drug would hurt ones stomach!

While being chief assayer at the Yak, I had several unusual experiences. One of my helpers, a young Irish lad, had a donkey and a cart. A few times Johnnie and I would go out in the hills overnight on Saturdays and Sundays with this donkey and cart carrying ore equipment. We were neither hunting nor fishing, just enjoying the beautiful great outdoors. Remember, this was long before the days of automobile roads or highways. I recall one trip we made over Tennessee Pass, the Continental Divide, to Pando on the Eagle River. On this trip two large eagles kept trying to attack our donkey's head; Johnnie and I were kept busy for possibly 30 minutes fighting them off with long sticks and rocks. It was still rather wild up in those mountains in those days.

My boss, Superintendent John R. Champion, was a hard boiled character of the old school. In the early days he had come over from the mines in Cromwell, England, and worked his way up to the biggest mining job in Colorado and was nationally known, especially as a timber man, meaning the skill of timbering up tunnels and shafts to avoid cave ins. These miners from Cromwell were known as 'Cousin Jacks'; why, I have no idea, but they were all generally mighty good mining men, but known to be a mean, intolerant group.

Champion was despised and feared by his men, a payroll of some 600. He tried to rule with an iron hand and was very intolerant about little personal things. As an example, he was a heavy pipe smoker, but hated cigarettes to the point that he posted notices that anyone seen sneaking a cigarette at any time, any place would be immediately discharged. Believe it or not, he applied this rule even to when a man was off duty down town, as if that was any of his business. He also had the habit of cursing his men violently for little or no provocation. One day, the assistant superintendent was blown up and killed, away in one of the drift tunnels. Everything indicated it was a plant to have killed Superintendent Champion, but by mistake the assistant came along first. Nothing was ever proven one way or the other, but I ask you to remember this incident as I will mention it a little later.

Naturally, with Championbeing so hard-boiled and intolerant and abusive, and I being young and hot tempered, we soon clashed. However, before we had serious differences, I had established myself with him as being a good assayer. At Florence's insistence, I am going to take time and space at this point to explain what an assayer really was, because none of you will otherwise probably ever know. It was an odd 'profession' or 'art.'

An assayer had two basic functions. One was to analyze ores to furnish the miner with necessary data to guide his operations. Not only was it the duty of the assayer, if he was a good one, to tell the miner whether or not an ore was commercially valuable in the metals the miner requested as assay on, but the assayer should always closely watch all ores for possible metals of value that the miner was not familiar with or did not suspect. In other words the assayer was always the miner's only eyes, whether it was small or large operations. Many a fortune was made and lost as the result of sharpness or skill of an assayer, and obviously an assayer was in a beautiful spot to be crooked as well as careless.

Then, the second function of an assayer was to control the price settlements of ores as they were bought and sold. All ores were sold under agreed upon contracts that not only outlined the various values and penalties of the different metallic constituents, but also specified the so-called 'splitting limits' of each constituent. Take my job as chief assayer at the Yak as a concrete example where I always represented the sellers. We sold our various ores to various smelters all over the West, also to steel works. We would ship a carload of ore to a certain smelter. There it would be crushed, mixed, and carefully sampled under the watchful eye of an ore watcher; hired by us to see a fair sample was taken. Then, the sample would be divided into three parts; one for the smelter's assayers, one set aside carefully sealed to be used as the umpire if necessary, and one for me. Let's say this particular ore carried values as gold, silver and 0.5 per cent on lead. If we could not agree within these limits, then the reserved 'umpire' sample was sent to some previously agreed upon well know assayer to act as the umpire, usually one in some city or town, usually Denver or Salt Lake City, sometimes on rarer metals back east. Then, the settlement would be made per the umpire's analysis. However, often the umpire's figures would not be between the smelters and mine. In which case the settlement would be made per the middle figure, never the average. The side furthest away from the umpire had to pay the umpire.

This was much more complicated than appears. It became quite a game. Chemistry is far from being an exact science, so differences were always coming up. Different assayer-chemists used different procedures and equipment. Then a good assayer would try to protect his employer's as well as his own personal interests. As an example, if I would frequently report less gold or silver in a sample, than did the smelter, you can really see how quickly my company would get another assayer. On the other hand, if I was to consistently be so much higher than the smelter that I list most of our umpires, I would get a bad name personally and the Yak would have gained a reputation as being tricksters, etc., so not only did I have to be very careful analytically, but I had to meet the human factor. Maybe experience would show smelter A had an assayer who consistently got high results, then smelter B might generally report low figures, while smelter C might be especially accurate. I would therefore have to gamble and shade my results accordingly. Due largely to my fortunate basic training from Jones and Wiley in Idaho Springs, I soon built up a good reputation along these lines and Superintendent Champion thought I was the tops as an assayer, which was all he actually wanted of me, and rightly so.

As I stood up to Champion and let him know I would not take any of his abuse, we agreed to disagree. The last year or so I worked there, we never spoke, not even hello. He never set foot in the assay office. Whatever words we had to pass on to each other were by informal notes or via his man secretary; childish, but true. However, underneath it all, I liked and respected Mr. Champion, and later I was convinced he felt the same towards me.

In the winter time it was rough living in Leadville. Seems as if they had more snow and cold, the years we were there, than in recent years. While we were there, in the winter time everyone removed the wheels from their wagons and buggies and put on sleigh runners for probably three months or more. The few who then owned automobiles, as I recall there were not more than six, put them inside and jacked them up for the entire winter. Temperatures as low as 20-30 degrees below zero were common, often going to 40 below. However, you dressed for it as well as got used to it and we actually did not suffer any more than we have down here in Johnstown. However, I must admit it was often rather rough walking the two miles up California Gulch to work at the Yak some mornings with the wind blowing in your face at 30 degrees or so below zero and the snow from one to six feet deep. Obviously all this meant many sleigh ride parties and bob-sledding over long and thrilling courses.

Into our lives at this time came Thomas H. Garnett, Monk Garnett as we affectionately called him. He had been Sigma Nu at Mines and one of my close friends. He was a bachelor then starting out with the Empire Mining Company, a division of the New Jersey Zinc Company. He became just like a brother and we named our son John Garnett after him. Monk went on to considerable success with his company, eventually was in charge of their large zinc mines and mill at Gillman, Colorado, the largest zinc mine in the United States. Florence and I along with son Bill and Marjorie visited the Garnett's at Gillman a few years ago. They had a son Tom, Jr., who went to the University of Colorado at the same time our son John was there. Monk is now retired living in Boulder, Colorado. We see them now and then, not so often as we should.

There was then seven public, or 'custom' assay offices in Leadville; the ones who did the work for the small miners and companies whose operations did not justify the expense of their own assay office. The two largest ones were Mandy's and the Howard E. Burton Office. During our third year in Leadville, Howard Burton died and in settling his rather large estate to protect the interests of his minor children, the courts put the office up for sale. I was distantly related to Burton's first wife who had been dead many years, so knew Burton and a little about the property of his assay office. A year or so before Burton's death I had stuck up a business relationship with a semi-retired elderly man by the name of Harry Norton. He had made a comfortable fortune, not great, through the many years by financing prospectors and shrewd business tactics, was a director of the American National Bank and owned an ore buying company in Leadville. I had gained his friendship and confidence by promptly paying him a note, a small one, which I had foolishly out of sentiment endorsed for Mr. Morris who borrowed the money from Norton. When Burton's office was put up for sale, Norton contacted me and offered to put up the money, all of it, if I agreed to run the place. We were to pay all bills including $150 base pay which he had to pay me whether we made money or not; then we were to split all the profits a straight 50/50. I was to have entire charge and he was to be strictly a silent partner, it was not to be publicly known that he owned it or had any interest in it, although the place was legally his. It certainly looked like a wonderful deal for me so I immediately agreed. However, my lawyer friends Gene and Barney begged me to insist that the agreement in full should be put in writing, they were right and later I found out to my sorrow.

So, I quit the Yak and took over the Burton office, maintaining the name Burton as Howard through some thirty years had built up a wide reputation by elaborate advertising throughout the mining world. Remember I told you of my personal hard feelings with Superintendent Champion of the Yak. I went into his office, the first time in over a year, told him I was quitting to take over Burton's office, but would help break in a new chief assayer if he so desired. He blew up and raved like a mad man, said, "I always knew you would do me dirt, now you are suddenly quitting and leaving me helpless." After a bit of cursing, by both of us, I said, "Just what in Hell got into you a year ago, Champion, and made you hate me so?" He replied, "As if you didn't know. If you don't, I wish you to know that I found you out for what you are and what you think of me." He then pulled out a penciled note out of his drawer which read something like this, "I am writing you as a friend, but dare not name myself. You should know that you were supposed to be the victim of the dynamiting that killed your assistant. Your assayer knew of it all the time, and is now telling the fellows to go ahead again and get you." I finally convinced champion of my complete innocence and that it was just a damnable malicious lie. It was queer that a man such as he didn't face me with the letter at the time, a year before, rather than let it worry him as it must have. Odd what anonymous letters lead to, even when there is no foundation for them.

As a result of all of this, Champion had me locate and hire his new chief assayer and I agreed to spend my mornings up there for several weeks breaking him in. I too benefited because Champion gave me, the Burton office, all the Yak's control assaying, that which I explained had to do with ore settlements. Champion thought I was the best and would not trust his new man. This was a good account while it lasted, however, after about three months the Yak Company, insisted that Champion have their own assayer do all of his work.

Now being in business for myself opened another life in a way, especially as to meeting people. One of the customers I inherited from Burton was Baby Doe Tabor. She lived up on the hill, just out of town, in a little log cabin, all by herself; excepting her daughter Silver Dollar would be with her at times for short periods. The Matchless was the only thing left when old Tabor died and Baby Doe lived her life out trying to find more gold, with her won hands, but the mine had long been worked out and nothing was there. Baby Doe then actually lived on charity. One of the prices of being in business in Leadville was to let Baby Doe say "Charge it," and you knew she never could pay. This applied to drugs, groceries, clothing, doctors and assaying. She was not a young woman when I knew her at this time.

She would come into town once or twice a week, usually with several ore samples for assay. She would come into my office, in the winter, with a big black man's coat on. Underneath, if it was real cold, she would have layers of old newspapers. She would stay around my front room, where I had a large old fashioned pot-belly heating stove, warming herself and visiting with the other miners and me who happened to be in the office. This front office of mine, by tradition, was sort of the prospectors and small miners headquarters. In this way I got to know poor Baby Doe very well, she really was just a little cracked or odd at this time. I would estimate that she ended up owing me five or six hundred dollars for assaying.

Another character and fellow who made my office was the well known, Big Jim McDonald. He was a Scotchman from Nova Scotia, had come to Leadville in the early days, knew all the Leadville characters from start to finish, had made and kept a comfortable fortune, never was married. He ordinarily dressed in good, but rough corduroy suits and high laced miners boots, typical of the practical miner of that day. He in a sense was a rough spoken man, had little, if any formal schooling, but was well read on things that interested him. His hero was the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, he actually could recite from memory all of Burns' poems, if you would listen he would entertain you by the hour with Burns' poetry, and it was wonderful to hear him do so with his thick Scottish brogue and big booming voice. His other reading hobby was the Bible. I never knew of his going to church, excepting at funerals and once or twice to hear Florence sing, but he knew and constantly studied the Bible. More than once I saw him deliberately get some preacher into an argument over something in the Bible and invariably Big Jim was right. He was probably the largest man I ever knew personally. He was quite active in the Hibernian order, a national lodge of Scotchmen. Through this order he was known to be third largest Scotchman alive, and I thoroughly believe it. He had always been a very close pal and associate of Howard Burton, so when I took over he continued to use my front office, just the same as if it were his own. This actually helped my business, because Big Jim was probably the best known miner of the Leadville area and just his word could throw lots of business my way. He took a liking to both Florence and me, treated us as if we were a couple of crazy, dumb kids and he was our dad. He would often give us thunder and spare no words, but the Lord help anyone who in any way hurt us or talked about us. Jim had a few close friends, his friendship was far from being cheap, but once he gave you his friendship he was as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. We actually loved Big Jim dearly and felt real sorrow when we heard of his passing long after we left Leadville. It was a privilege to have known so intimately such a grand, unusual character, the last of the old school of early day Leadville miners.

Somewhat typical of the odd or unusual characters met in such mining communities was Bob Coates. He came to Leadville right after I took over the Burton office and took up a lease on part of the famous, but then worked out, Little Johnnie Mine, up in the hills some five miles from town. He, with his wife Minnie, lived in a cabin up there and drove in to town with their horse and buggy two or three times each week. He brought his assaying to me and we became very well acquainted with Bob and Minnie, who were several years older than we. The Coates were very inclined to keep to themselves, during the two years we knew them, they made no friends other than us, just kept to themselves. They were charming nice people, seemed to be well educated and certainly had traveled far and wide. Eventually we felt we ascertained why they were hibernating away up on the hill almost as if they were dodging the law. It seems that some years previously Bob had been a Pinkerton man and, as such, had been involved in coal mine strikes where several miners had been killed. Eventually, the tough coal miners had let it be known they were out to kill Bob amongst others, so Bob was hiding out, in fact I sometimes wondered if Coates was his real name. Anyhow, we enjoyed them, as they were so different and came almost from another world. After we left Leadville, I have no idea what happened to them other than they suddenly left for places unknown to anyone.

Now to a really thrilling experience, one so fantastic that it almost sounds like a wild west play. Barney Whatley, as District Attorney, should have always carried a gun in those days, but did not, although he was an excellent shot. He was the lone Democrat around Leadville, otherwise it was a strong Republican camp, ruled by the sheriff, Harry Schraeder of western fame. Harry was a rough, tough, big fellow, but you could not help liking him; at least I did. Colorado then had just gone dry to liquor, before national prohibition, but not Leadville. Leadville, forever, refused to recognize prohibition, state or national and were quite open about it, not the cheap speak-easy way of the East. The wild tough State Street area was running wide open, gambling, red light women and liquor, all on a large wide open scale. Big money was known to be behind these operations and it was generally accepted that the sheriff was furnishing them with all the protection they wanted. Of the many big time establishments down there were two notorious dives of the West and Jackson's not quite so nationally infamous, but also tough and big. Each of these places had probably twenty girls and big card games. It was not unusual to see several thousands of dollars on the table at one time. However, they did respect the law enough to usually use chips rather than cash. Usually there would be from twenty-five to fifty customers at these large places, mostly rough characters along with professional gamblers from far and wide, and now and then a few supposedly decent business men, local and from Denver, etc., up for a spree. Each place of course had one or more bouncers; tough fighters hired to maintain order according to their standards.

For some time, Barney had been trying to clean up State Street; not that he was any sissy or goody-goody, far from it; but he took his obligations as District Attorney seriously and always tried to honorably enforce the law. He had repeatedly ordered the sheriff's office to clean things up, but each time Sheriff Harry would officially report back that his men were unable to find anything illegal, could not see any gambling, drinking or prostitutes. This in spite of the fact that anyone at any time could walk down there and see all this for himself. However, in the face of these requested raids the big smart places began being careful whom they let in.

One afternoon Barney dropped into my office and asked to borrow a revolver, I told him I had no revolver, but I knew where I could barrow one from a friend, the assayer who had taken my place at the Yak. Barney asked me to have it for him about 8:00 P.M. that evening, to which I agreed. I always kept the office open evenings, seldom opening until noon. I got the gun, but when Barney came for it my curiosity was aroused, also I thought I'd have a little fun with him. I told him, "I don't know whether I'll give you this gun or not. Even if you are a law officer, how do I know whom you might shoot, and get me involved for furnishing the gun." We kidded back and forth a while. Finally, he gave up, saying, "Give me that damn gun. Keep your mouth shut and be at my office promptly at midnight tonight, if you want some excitement, but tell not a soul." Of course I was all for that, but he told me not to bring a gun for myself, but to bring a good flashlight and warm clothes.

At midnight, I sat in the meeting in his office, along with Barney, Gene and several strangers. These strangers were state officers from out of town whom Barney had persuaded the governor to send to help clean up State Street, all secretly. Everyone was in civilian clothes. Plans were already set up to raid the principal dives simultaneously at 1:00 A.M.. Barney was to be in charge at the Pioneer, Gene at Jackson's, each along with two or more state men; other state men would raid some of the smaller places. I was assigned to going along with Gene. Barney had ascertained the proper doors and knocking, to gain admittance into the Pioneer and Jackson's, now that they were a little on their guard. I'll tell you the running story as it happened; all as planned in Barney's office.

I walked into Jackson's with Gene and one state man behind me. Being admitted by one of the gals, upon my proper knocking, having been properly briefed. We walked down a hall and entered the main gambling room. There a seven hand poker game was in progress, with Jackson, the owner, dealing. Around the table, in this rather large room, were standing probably fifteen men and six or seven gals. Gene and our state man worked their ways to a wall while I edged and pushed my way right up to the table. They had chips not money on the table. Gene and the state man suddenly pulled their guns and Gene dramatically hollered, "The house is under arrest, District Attorney's Office."

I immediately threw my hands on the table and told everyone to sit still and not touch any chips. Just then, a big tough appearing guy pulled a gun and stuck it in my ribs, yelling, "Keep your hands off, fellow." I was plain scared. That gun felt and looked as big as a cannon and he was really pushing it hard. I was too scared to speak. It seemed like hours before anything more happened, where Gene finally saw through the crowd and hollered to this gun pusher, "Hey, Jack (or whatever his name was), he's one of us, leave him alone." I never felt more real relief in my life than when that gun pulled away from me, and I'm not ashamed to admit I was plain scared that time. It developed that this fellow was also a state officer, having been planted in Jackson's all evening to see and check on whatever he could. Hence he had not been at the meeting in Barney's office and had no idea who I was or what I was doing.

I took the names of all the seven playing poker and counted the variously colored chips in front of each player. Surprisingly, all willingly gave their true names. Either Gene or I knew most of them. We arrested all players, bartenders, the gals and several men who evidently had been drinking and were with gals in various rooms. We piled them all in wagons, old express wagons we had arranged for, and took them to the city-county jail. Then, we went up to the Pioneer and helped Barney clean up that place. All in all we filled the jail to overflowing with many wagon loads of men and gals, many of them drunk. They kept half of the town awake, breaking jail windows, singing and yelling. It was a wild and exciting night. The rest of the story is a little fantastic and shows what happens to justice when clever lawyers are involved.

Jackson and five of the players pleaded guilty and were given heavy fines, Jackson a short jail sentence. Prior to the trials, Jackson and Barney fixed up an odd deal, I imagine Barney forced him into it. Jackson furnished the money and Barney paid all the players for the chips they had, several hundreds of dollars, and the players gave Barney signed receipts. All excepting one player, an Italian who owned the large Rosemont Cafe. He engaged a very clever criminal lawyer, Jim Hogan, and plead "Not Guilty." Hogan later went to Texas and on to New York and gained a national reputation as a criminal defense attorney. There was a jury trial and Hogan built his case entirely on sentiment, the fact that it was just a friendly little game similar to what almost every man often played, including the jury men and law officers. Under cross examination he certainly made a fool of me as a witness. As I identified myself as being assayer-chemist, he sarcastically said, "Are you sure you are not an amateur detective, and a poor one at that?" He also forced me, as well as Gene, to admit I frequently played poker for small stakes. With all that evidence, none of which was contradicted, the jury let the Italian off completely. For a long time afterwards, people called me, "Mr. Amateur Detective," sometimes for fun, sometimes viciously. Surprising how this affair affected my assay business. I lost several customers, yet gained some others, probably was neither hurt nor helped. Even though I became involved, only as a lark and adventure, many people labeled me as being a crack pot reformer. It all added into our exciting, full and unusual life in Leadville.

Now, back to the assay business -- Remember Norton actually owned the place, yet the agreement was that I was to run it completely and he was to stay in the background entirely as a silent partner? Of course he would stop in several times a week and check the books and talk things over, and rightly so. He was an old fashioned man and had made his money in the completely non-competitive business of backing prospectors, therefore had never spent a dollar on advertising. Burton had built a large part of his business by spending several thousands of dollars annually for a quarter of a century in mining journals and gimmicks going all over the world, hence had quite a foreign and out-of-town and state business established. This outside business was the financial basis of the office. The rates on this outside work were much higher, from two to four times the charges for local assaying. This because there were just too many custom offices in Leadville and from time to time competition would cut local prices down to ridiculous rates. The first year our profits were good, very good, far more than either Norton or I had ever hoped for, but then, things began to change, two things beyond my control.

Our large competitor, Ed Mandy, had made quite a fortune through the years, supposedly in questionable ways. He was known to be a high-grader. In brief, a high-grading assayer was similar to a fence for jewel thieves. Miners would steal extremely high grade gold ores and take it to such as Mandy who would buy it, work the gold out of it and sell the gold to the U. S. Mint. The modern laws controlling gold were not then in existence. Mandy had such a bad reputation that he was not allowed on the premises of many of the larger mines. At this time he figured he had made his and wanted to move to Chicago and retire, he had large real estate holdings there. He knew of my hook-up with Norton and that Norton had plenty of money, so he tried to talk me into persuading Norton to buy him out and combine the Burton and Mandy offices. Mandy even went so far as to show me the books he kept on his high grading operations, and I assure you he was making plenty. His actual assaying was largely a front, yet he had a goodly share of the local business, more than I did, because Burton had largely concentrated on the outside work.

I wanted to take over the Mandy office, though I had qualms about the high grading end of it. In all fairness to myself, I did not plan on having to carry it on. At first, I thought I had the idea sold to Norton, but eventually he backed off. I think largely on account of the high grading reputation of Ed Mandy's. So, I had to tell Mandy the deal was off. Mandy got mad and threatened to squeeze me out of business, and I assure you he succeeded to a large degree. He began cutting prices from the already ridiculously low rates. Unbelievably he lowered them to the point that they did not begin to pay for the needed chemical reagents, to say nothing about other expenses such as labor, rent, etc., he could well afford to forever, since he made his on his high grading, also he was already a very wealthy man.

This meant that we were actually loosing money on our local business; three of the other custom offices closed their doors.

Added to this trouble was the gradual decline at that time of small time prospecting and mining. Such was rapidly going entirely into the hands of the great mining companies who naturally, maintained their own assay offices. History now proves these mentioned days were the beginning of the end of opportunities in the public assay business.

Now we were entirely dependent upon our outside business, which in turn was so largely dependent upon advertising to old and to prospective customers. As I would renew annual advertising contracts, following Burton's established patterns that had paid off so well, Norton would take devious ways of canceling them. It all added to an outstanding lesson of how important and touchy advertising is. We ended up the second year with no advertising and our business dropping unbelievably fast. Where before I was one of the largest clients of our post office, it got to the point where there were days when we would not receive one sample through the mails. Unless I had actually seen it, I would never have believed advertising to be so vital to a business. Son John, take note since you are in the advertising game.

It all added up that I had to make a move, so we left Leadville in early 1917 and I obtained a job as chief assayer-chemist for the Union Basin Mining and Milling Company, at Galconda, Arizona. This was a small town, company owned, about 30 miles out on the real desert hills from Kingman; over towards the Chloride district. It is entirely abandoned now. The company was a subsidiary of the great American Metal Company which in turn was the American division of the great German cartel, the name of which I have forgotten. They controlled similar great mining companies all over the world, such as the Canadian Mining Company, The Mexican Mining Company, etc. They tried to avoid publicity, but this cartel was then the largest corporation in the world, much larger than the great fully American corporations, such as Standard Oil; it was before the days of our great automobile industries. Few people, however, knew of the connections of these various subsidiaries on up to this mother cartel, but the government did of course and took them over during World War I. We, at Galconda, mined zinc and concentrated it in a large floatation mill, with a payroll of about 700 men.

Before taking up our Arizona life, I must tell you of a most unfortunate tragedy in our friend Barney Whatley's family. If it were not a matter of public knowledge and record I would not disclose it, but it was, by necessity known, though I am not certain if it all came out as it happened. I have mentioned that Barney was a bachelor, supported his mother and father as well as his sister and her little baby whose father had deserted them, all over on a lonely mountain ranch home near Breckenridge. Mr. Whatley senior was a large man, usually a nice fellow, but subject to terrible spells of temper and rages when he would act like a madman. Barney could usually handle his father during these spells, even though his dad was much larger than he; Barney was the only one who could. Barney slept alone, when at the ranch, in a log cabin about a hundred feet from the main house, which was a large two story home; he did this for his health thinking he had weak lungs. This would be the one time when he carried a revolver, doing so because that was then wild country with occasional mountain lions, wolves and bears bothering. It was a lovely place, which we frequently visited and came to think a great deal of the entire family. The daughter's little baby would frequently get on old man Whatley's nerves and he was known to sometimes threaten his daughter with physical abuse and would scare her telling her he would kick her and the baby out; even though it was Barney's place, not his.

One night Barney was up in his mother's room bidding her good night, they were very close, and the daughter with her baby was down stairs with Mr. Whatley in the large dining room. They heard the old man yelling and his daughter and her baby crying; the old gentleman was going into one of his rages. Barney rushed downstairs and found his dad threatening the girl and baby, one moment yelling he would put them out in the snow, the next that he would kill them. Barney tried to talk to his dad, but for once to no avail, the man had gone completely berserk. Remember that Barney was quite small compared to his dad. Finally, the dad picked up a chair, swung it at Barney, pinning him against the wall and by this time was yelling that he was going to kill the whole damn family. Barney pulled his revolver and shot over his dad's head to scare him. The old man rushed to the outside door by which they always kept a loaded shot gun. I should mention here that Barney was a crack shot, quite a remarkable one, having made target shooting a hobby for years.

As Mr. Whatley started to pick up the shot gun, Barney realized this was it, the family or his dad, so he shot and winged his father's right arm. This did not stop the man, using his left arm he picked up the shot gun, then Barney shot him, hitting him, intentionally or otherwise in the heart. The old man was dead. Mother Whatley rushed downstairs crying, "Thank God it wasn't you Barney." Barney immediately called the sheriff and gave himself up. The sheriff in Breckenridge kept him in custody his, the sheriff's home, refusing to put him in jail. The family of course telephoned Gene Bond over in Leadville and he along with Florence and I went over there.

The district judge quickly appointed a special prosecuting attorney, the Republican whom Barney had twice defeated for the District Attorney's office and opened a special session of court. Trial was held with the daughter, Barney and Mother Whatley being the principal witnesses along with many character witnesses in favor of Barney. The jury immediately cleared him.

This was one of the most tragic happenings I ever knew of, a fine young man having to kill his own father. I have told you the story exactly as told in the courtroom, also as Barney, his sister and his mother told us personally, however, we and Gene always had a vague, very vague, suspicion that the daughter may have shot her father and Barney insisted the story be told as it was told. Such would have been true to Barney's fine character, to take the blame and shield his sister.

I wonder if there ever was another murder trial such as this, with the District Attorney on trial for murder, the Assistant District Attorney, Gene, being the defense attorney and the defeated candidate acting as the district attorney!

Of course many people were openly critical of Barney as a patricide. Barney was in a quandary and almost resigned his office, but faced the music and stuck it out for just one reason. He wanted to know in his own mind how 'people' as a whole felt about him, he just had to know if they condemned him or not. Election was just a few months away, so he remained in office and announced his candidacy for reelection. Surprisingly he won by the largest majority he had in three terms of office. He then, immediately resigned and Gene Bond was appointed to fill out the term.

Barney went on with a prosperous legal practice, married a fine girl whom we had known for some time; she had inherited a little money. Through wise and fortunate investments, largely in original Climax Molybdenum stock picked up for a song, he became quite wealthy, is now supposed to be worth two or three millions. He remained in politics continuously, as a power behind the throne, but never ran for elections for many years. For a long time he was State Democratic Chairman and really runs the Democrats in Colorado. Finally, they persuaded him to run for United States Senator, which he did about fifteen years ago. He lost by a narrow margin. It unfortunately was a landslide for the Republicans in Colorado that year. We had a pleasant visit with him and his wife and son in Greeley during that campaign. I have given much space and time to Barney, obviously because he, in many ways, was the most interesting man and life I ever knew intimately, also he was involved is so much of our life at that time.

It is just as well to also close out Gene Bond, after whom we named son Bill, and who in some ways might be said to have been one of, if not the first, closest friends of our lives, and whom we love as a brother, even though our lives have drifted apart, as is so often the case with those dearest to you. Gene married one of the school teachers, Betty Clark, who had been a Denver girl. They did the larger part of their courting in our home. He was district attorney for several terms, later county attorney for some reason or another. He was a lieutenant in World War I, and a colonel in World War II, in the legal end of the army. He was one of the judges in the famous Nuremberg war criminal trials in Germany, where the Allies tried the Nazi leaders after World War II. As such, Gene was written up in national magazines along with his pictures in such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, etc. He then returned to Leadville to his law practice. Betty died a few years ago. Now Gene maintains law offices in both Leadville and Denver. About the time our son John was attending Colorado University, Gene was Regent of the school.

It has been a real regret of mine that it never happened that Gene and our son Bill could not have really known each other as they should have; Bill being his namesake. It always amused me that Bill, as he grew up, seemed to dislike his name Eugene or Gene, and thought it was sissified; how differently he would have felt, if he had the privilege of knowing Gene, a he-man and a true southern gentleman.

back - continue

©1958 James H. Zisch, ©1974 James H. Zisch, III