The Conrey Placer Mining Company: A Pioneer Gold Dredging Enterprise in Montana, 1897-1922
Clark C. Spence
Publisher: Montana Historical Society; 1 edition (May 1990)
Format: PDF / Kindle / ePub
Size: 9 MB
Downloadable formats: PDF
Placer mining companies revolutionized the mining industry during the late nineteenth century when they first put dredges to work on previously unprofitable ground. Dredges would so effectively mine gold-bearing grounds, one forecaster predicted in 1903, that the world would "not only be saturated with gold, it would be nauseated with it." In The Conrey Placer Mining Company, historian Clark C. Spence describes the optimistic hopes of the dredge miners in Virginia City, Montana, and the hard realities of this new industrial placer mining technology. Since 1863, miners had pulled millions of dollars in gold out of Montana's Alder Gulch using pans and Long Toms and later tunnels and ground sluices. But dredging was a dramatically different process. The most costly of all placer mining techniques, dredging was a highly industrial and technological enterprise. Spence describes how the dredges, as large as ocean freighters and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each, dug their own ponds as they moved ponderously down the gulch, ripping up paydirt from bedrock as deep as a hundred feet below the surface. He shows how the efficiency and power of this revolutionary, "mass production" technology changed the mining industry and how it irrevocably altered the western landscape. Using corporate papers held by Harvard University's Baker Library, Spence recounts the story of the Conrey Placer Mining Company. In many ways, it is the story of the early years of the American gold-dredging industry. As the pre-eminent Montana placer firm of the early twentieth century, Conrey's operations showed a continuity common to only a handful of multiple-dredge concerns. The company tested different types of dredged, innovatively adapted them to the special conditions of Montana's climate and terrain, and later adopted state-of-the-art California-type dredges. Spence takes a penetrating look at this unique company, which operated so successfully in the isolation of Montana's southwestern mountains. This volume is at once a corporate history, a technological history, and a local history that takes readers through the intricate workings of an innovative mining company and examines the lives of the executives, the engineers, and the workers who made it possible.