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US Mail Dog sled to Stibnite
Dog sled to Stibnite

Dad's winter dogsled connection with outside world 1930      US Mail, personnel and supplies go by dogsled-circa 1930


Dad spoke of his experiences working the antimony mines at Stibnite isolated in the rugged mountains of north central Idaho some 40 miles east (as the crow flies) of McCall. These experiences included travel by dogsled and later by the air service established around 1930.

Forest Service Map taken from the History of the Stibnite Mining Area, Valley County, Idaho by Victoria E. Mitchell in the April 2000 issue of the Idaho Geological Survey.
Area map for Stibnite area of north central Idaho

View Larger Map

It is interesting to compare the two pictures in the header at the top of the page. They are reproduced below and were obviously taken from very nearly the same point on the pass over Warm Lake Summit.

The hand-tinted header photograph on the left above and shown below was in my Dad's collection of pictures and, I think, represented quite an interesting time in his life. He got a kick out of telling about one of the dog sled runs where a near tragic event occurred to a new guy coming in to start working. In comparing the pictures, not only are the features in the valley nearly identical but on close examination the same big Saint Bernard appears in both pictures. He appears to have achieved lead dog status when this photograph was taken.
Tinted photo of US Mail on Dog Sled run at Warm Lake Summit

The other header photograph (reproduced below) is taken from the History of the Stibnite Mining Area, Valley County, Idaho April 2000 by Victoria E. Mitchell.
Dog Sled on Stibnite Route

Air service into and out of Stibnite in seven-passenger Curtiss Robin airplanes was begun in 1930.

Vintage Cutiss Robin 7-pasenger airplane
Early advertisement for Cutiss Robin airplane
Dad mentioned that getting into and out of Stibnite in seven-passenger Curtiss Robin airplanes was pretty exciting especially on stormy days! There is another reason these trips may have been quite exciting... He was courting my future mother and they were getting close to tying the knot!

Tents were the most common living accommodations during those days.

Tents for workers at Stibnite
This can be noted from this excerpt from Where in Idaho is Stibnite? Mining Camp Memories of Patty Anderson Herbel who lived in Stibnite in the '40s. She describes how the tents were constructed. These 12x16 foot tents were pretty rudimentary but according to Patty, "Some had babies living in them during the winter when it hit 42 below zero. No, no one died! It didn't take a very big stove to keep them warm." Photo of tents at Stibnite provided by Patty Anderson Herbel from her personal collection.
Apparently Dad was a bit apprehensive about asking Mom to take up housekeeping in a rough mining camp where, summer or winter, tents provided the main living quarters. These excerpts from a letter Mom wrote to Dad during this time period indicate that she was willing even eager to share a tent, even in the winter, had it not been for other unexplained circumstances.
Opening of July 21, 1931 letter
Talks about tents in July 21, 1931 letter
About a tent in the winter in July 21, 1931 letter
Ending of July 21, 1931 letter
Things appear to be working out as shown by this picture and the information on the back.
Dad comes out to celebrate Mom's birthday

"Driller" at work

The only picture I have of my Dad actually working in a mine may have been taken at the Meadow Creek mine at Stibnite but could have been taken when he worked in the mines around Kellogg, Idaho or later at the Almaden Mercury Mine near Weiser, Idaho. The structure of the rock reminds me of the Mercury Mine but there isn't enough shoring to convince me. Maybe someone familiar with what the rock in the tunnels looked like at Stibnite or the mines around Kellogg will weigh in on this.
Update: Someone did weigh in on this picture. The publisher of the Yellow Pine Times, railroadSue, sent me an email that relates to my picture -
"Howdy Don, I ran across your webpage about Stibnite. I posted a link in the Yellow Pine Times to your page. Great photos! I also wanted to share a letter received today from one of the subscribers about the drill your dad is using."

This is the letter she received:
"Regarding the miner in the Stibnite article: The miner is using a hand crank water leyner to drill with. His right hand is on the crank which pushes the drill steel in as the drill is rotating. His left hand is on the machine throttle. The big hose is for air and the small hose is for water. He is wearing a hard hat and carbide light.
He is drilling at a 90 degree angle to the tunnel so is making the area bigger for some reason. The rock is quite hard, as you can see a lot of drill steel leaning against the wall.
No timber or support is needed so in miner's terminology, he is driving the drift "baldheaded". This is a great picture. I have a drill exactly like the one he is using in my front yard. It came from Stibnite. I would say it would be a good guess that this picture was taken in the Stibnite area.
Best regards,
Ron Smith"
Oh yeah, what happened to the new guy coming in on the dogsled?
He was a young Chinese lad who was hired to help in the kitchen and he was on a sled with some supplies including a box of dried apples. Pretty soon he was helping himself. The driver warned him not to eat too many but he kept digging his hand into the apple box. By the time they got to camp he was quite thirsty and took a big drink. It wasn't long before he was in trouble - his tummy started to swell and he soon was in agony. Fortunately he survived this escapade but had learned a valuable lesson - when those with more experience speak - you would be wise to listen!

Zoom in on the Stibnite Mine

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