seat in Silver Bow County, was first called Butte City. A post office opened in that
name in July 1868 in Anson Ford's drug store. Miners took the name from a nearby
sentinel-like peak (now known as Big Butte) which is 6,369 feet above sea level. The
first recorded visit to this hill by white men was in 1856. Judge C. E. Irvine and a party
from Walla Walla, Washington visited there on an exploration trip. They found a
prospectors hole that later led to the Original Lode and some elk horns lying about
which they figured had been used to dig the hole.
Gold was discovered in Butte in July 1864 by G. O. Humphrey and
William Allison. The name had been changed to Butte around 1875. Beneath the
city was one of the worlds richest mineral deposits. Copper became
Buttes fortune, and Silver was bringing in riches too. There are some 250 miles of
streets on the surface of Butte Hill, and more than two thousand miles of underground
corridors and tunnels.
Marcus Daly (1841-1900), an Irish immigrant, learned about ores and
mining while in Nevada. He hurried to Butte when the rich strikes of 1874 were
reported. He drilled for silver, but at four hundred feet he found the richest vein of
copper known, not the silver he anticipated. The vein was fifty feet wide, and in twenty
years Daly became the head of one of the worlds most powerful monopolies, the
Anaconda Copper Mining Company.
A townsite patent was issued for Butte in 1876. The city was
incorporated in 1879. By 1885 Butte had a population of 14,000 and the copper boom
was on. The Montana School of Mines (now known as Montana Tech) was established in 1900.
Open pit mining in recent years has scarred the face of the hill and
eliminated hundreds of homes, buildings and even the famous and beloved Columbia Gardens.