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Chapter Nine
Arizona, 1917

The story of our life at Galconda will be much shorter than the tales of Leadville. It was interesting and different. Quite a change to move from high cold Leadville, where temperatures well below zero were common thing, with eternal snow always in view, to the lowest desert hills of Arizona, with temperatures of 115 and 117 degrees quite common, and water a precious rare thing. We traded the mountain lions, wolves, etc., of Leadville area for the multitudinous scorpions, tarantulas and lizards of Arizona with a few gila monsters and rattlesnakes thrown in. At first, I hated that Arizona country, but after a few months it got into my blood and I learned to love it, and do to this day. Both Florence and I are thrilled to the last degree whenever we are around the true deserts. You never get the real, deep thrill of the true desert in the resort places. You have to actually live in the crude, rough desert to really appreciate it. I do hope each of you will be fortunate enough to actually know both the beautiful Colorado mountains and the true Arizona desert by spending some time in them, far from the resort places where you have most of the conveniences of home, the only change being the climate.

We were in Galconda a very short year, so you might say I saw all the seasons there. The desert in full bloom in the early spring is a thing of beauty beyond description.

Galconda was up on a hill, entirely a company owned town, with the exception of a pool hall that, with a little bare yard surrounding it, was leased out to a couple of fellows. It was an honest to goodness true mining camp. There were about 700 employees, largely, very largely a very rough rather low class group of laborers, foreigners and Mexicans, few of whom had families. They all lived in company owned cabins that accommodated from four to eight men each.

These cabins were not very close to each other, this as a fire precaution in view of the shortage of water. Then, the company had several houses for the staff men and key employees, several of whom had their families with them, such as I. These houses were very plain. Everyone seemed to live with the idea he was just there temporarily, so the homes were not elaborately furnished.

The only store was the company commissary, which kept only staple groceries and working clothes; however, we staff men could order through this commissary anything we desired, clothes, food, etc., and they would have it shipped from Los Angeles and we would get them at cost plus a small charge, such as ten percent for handling. We got into contact with some large store in Los Angeles and once a week regularly arranged for a shipment of whatever fresh fruits were in season, as I recall these baskets cost us about $1.50; they were gorgeous and were our big treats. The only water available was mine water pumped out of the main mine shaft, 1,400 feet deep. Of course this had to be treated and purified for our domestic use, as it was filthy coming up out of the mine where all those men were working. We had large storage tanks for storing and treating this water, then distributed through a system of pipes laying on top of the ground, of course nothing ever froze down in Arizona. Usually when you took a bath, you would draw a tub full a couple of hours before bathing because the water was too hot from the sun bearing down on the storage tanks and those exposed distributing pipes. No ice was available; too costly. The only ice in camp was that in the commissary and pool hall. The latter even had ice cream at times. We kept things cooled with old fashioned desert coolers. These were made by covering a large box with two or three layers of burlap, covering the top and sides; then putting a large can of water on top and have a continuous dripping of water keeps the burlap saturated. This water would then evaporate rapidly and hence keep everything inside the box really cold. The hotter the weather, the more rapid the evaporation and the cooler it was inside the box. Even in the hottest of weather, butter would remain firm and hard in these coolers. Of course such coolers work well only in dry, hot climates.

There was no vegetation around other than cacti and scraggly sage brush. Some three miles from camp there were three or four scraggly old cottonwood trees in a little dry gully, known as Cottonwood Gulch. We would often walk over there with little Henry and Charles, sometimes with other friends, and picnic under these scrub cottonwoods; it was a treat for they were the only trees you could see in any direction for miles and miles.

It was about thirty long miles into Kingman, on a rough desert road that actually was just two wheel ruts. There was only one automobile in camp, the company car for company business. Hence we never went into town. There was not much at Kingman anyhow in those days, only one small hotel, the Fred Harvey eating house at the Santa Fe Depot, a small bank and probably three or four small stores; how different from the Kingman of today?

Under such conditions you naturally strike up some close friendships. Our closest friend was John McIntire. We named son John after Mac, as we always called him. Mac had been born and educated in Canada, went to McGill University. His father had been as early day physician in Arizona, in fact was the first licensed doctor in Phoenix. Mac had married Katherine Sawtella whose father was a wealthy banker in Los Angeles and who owned and developed the Sawtelle residential district there. They then had three little children so Katherine was with her people and John never brought them to Galconda. John, or Mac, was my first or leading helper in the laboratory, a wonderfully good and fine man and immediately came to be the same as a brother to us -- more of him and his family later.

There were two happenings during our rather short Galconda life we should mention. This was during World War I and the notorious I. W. W. labor movement was at its height over the country, especially around mining camps and amongst what you might call the poorer or lower class of labor such as we, by necessity, had so many of them at Galconda. This I. W. W. was a wild cat Union, radical in every sense, using strong arm methods and often showed little or no respect for life, property or law. One day signs and posters suddenly appeared all over the mill and surface working as well as down in the mine; we never knew who put them up. These called for a meeting of all employees at 3 P. M. that day out in the pool hall yard. Almost all of the workmen went to this open air meeting. A few of us staff men did likewise out of curiosity and to keep informed. With the crudest of speeches and several cases of knocking down some of the sensible men who asked sensible questions, they used mob psychology and put over a strike vote. On the spot they voted to refuse to work from that moment on, unless the company granted a raise of one dollar a day to all. Our local manager refused of course. So, with the help of some dozen workers we staff men shut the mine and mill down. Orders came by phone the next day from our eastern head offices, in Boston, to hold out against these strikers at all costs and plan for a long siege. Siege it actually was.

There were seventeen of us staff men. We took turns, in pairs, on shifts around the clock as watchmen and keeping the mine water pumps going. These were electric pumps at the bottom of the 1,400 feet deep shaft, had to be kept running; otherwise, the mine would have been flooded, ruining all heavy machinery down there as well as the timbering; also remember this mine water was our only water supply. All we staff member were deputized as deputy sheriffs and given guns, revolvers. The law sent out a couple of regular deputies from Kingman.

After a few days of this strike, the company ordered all non-working men, the strikers, off all company property. So, all these 600 men moved out of camp and set up a camp across the gulch on the far hill side. Many slept out in the open, but from nowhere appeared a hundred or so tents. They seemed to haul their food and water from Chloride and Kingman, and seemed to have plentiful supply of bootleg liquor. At times, especially at nights, we could hear boisterous parties going on, yelling and shooting, evidently the shooting was only for fun. There were a few times when bullets were reported as hitting our camp, or town, but no harm resulted. Of course daily threats would come to us as to what violent things they were going to do to us and the property.

I have no idea what there is in an ordinary man that inspires him to do what we seventeen fellows did as deputies and armed guard, actually helpless if something set off that motley mob, which might have happened any moment. I am sure few of us felt such an obligation to the company. We were hardly that dumb. I believe men do such things because we basically like a thrill and the sense of dangerous adventure; this added to an instinct to stand up as we did. I must admit there were times when I was nervous to the point of being scared, neither did I enjoy climbing up and down the 1,400 foot shaft, on the wooden ladders, to attend the water pumps, when it was my turn to do so. Of course there were breaks in the climb every 100 feet at the various 'levels.'

Only once was I really scared. One night I was checking on my patrol at the mine superintendent's cabin, when I heard a man coming around the foot path or trail. I hid around the corner of the cabin, pulled my revolver and waited for the fellow to come under the small light at the door. Here he came with his gun in his hand, apparently up to some mischief and seemingly aware that I was somewhere around. There was little I could do. As he came under the light, and I in the dark, I yelled, "Hands up!" Boy, did he throw his hands in the air and then his gun in the air! I started to question him, and Cap Miller, the mine superintendent, came out with his gun. We soon cleared it up. This fellow, was one of those special deputies from Kingman, had been sent to us that afternoon and I did not happen to know he was around, not having met him. We were not too well organized.

The strike finally ended after about two weeks with the company granting them half their demands, or 50 cents per day raise. Oddly, the company did not raise the pay of any of us staff men accordingly, even though we had stuck by them and had protected their properties under unpleasant and dangerous conditions. It is true that after two months or arguing and pressure they did give each of the staff a $15 a month raise. During these argumentative months our local manager even said, "You should realize, however unfair it may seem to be, that what is worth fighting for is worth getting, the men fought for a raise and you didn't." This made a lasting impression on me and I was forever most sympathetic with unions and labor organizations, even though I never could belong to one for my work was part of management's side, supposedly. Unions, like all large groups of people, make terrible mistakes and often abuse their privileges and power, but what group doesn't? I am sure that the American worker never organized nor joined a union by his own choice and desire. Rather it was forced upon him by greedy and short sighted management. Doubtless in your day such things will have been corrected so as the labor-management problems of my time will be nothing but history, I hope so.

In the late fall we had a terrible fire, completely destroying the mill and surface workings. The ore deposits were already somewhat depleted of the higher or richer grades and the price of zinc had been declining due to foreign imports. Almost everyone left the camp excepting the staff, who remained until the decision was made to whether to rebuild or collect the insurance and abandon the place entirely.

Florence then took little Henry and Charles to Idaho Springs to be with her people until I knew what I would be doing. In December 1917, our third child was born whom we named William Eugene. Florence was still with the Jaynes' at Idaho Springs, but went to St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver to have the baby. I was in Clifton, Arizona.

After about a month of waiting at Galconda, during which time I was working with the engineers surveying the many outlying properties, the company decided to abandon the place; which they did. Doubtless the Indians, who were a lazy wandering lot, profited thereby as much was left in the camp, such as the houses and furniture that did not justify moving. They then transferred me to the Shannon Copper Company at Clifton, Arizona, in the far south-east corner of the state. This was a large old established copper mine and smelter and was another subsidiary of the American Metal. There I was more or less of a temporary chemist. In short time I returned to Colorado to be the first chemist for the newly formed Climax Molybdenum Company, another subsidiary of the American Metal.

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