Monday, January 3, 2011

Mine Investor and Operator Fred A. Davis [otd 1/3]

Fred A. Davis, long-time mine manager and investor, was born January 3, 1873 in Maine. The family soon moved to Nova Scotia, and Davis began working in the local mines when he was about thirteen years old. The district where he lived in 1891 was, and is, noted for its vast gypsum deposits. Fred may have worked there or in coal mines not far away.

Fred headed west around 1893. There, he worked at a number of properties in the Pacific Northwest, including the Blue Bird Mine in British Columbia. The Blue Bird was the oldest mining district in that province, having been discovered by Hudson’s Bay Company traders.

Salmon River Canyon near the mouth of Whitebird Creek.
In 1902, he became a superintendent for the Idaho Copper Mining & Smelting Company (ICM&S). The properties he managed were located in the mountains a few miles northwest of Whitebird, Idaho. The company hoped for a repeat of the bonanza that had taken off four or five year earlier in Cuprum.

Cuprum (Latin for “copper”) is located toward the south edge of the Seven Devils region of Idaho, about fifty miles from White Bird. About the time the ICM&S set up shop further north, Cuprum boasted numerous stores and restaurants, six saloons, a blacksmith shop, and even a hospital. Developers further north in Copperville, about a mile west of White Bird, surely hoped to duplicate that success.

The ICM&S held eight claims in the area, including one called the Indiana, where they had tunneled nearly 250 feet into a ridge. Describing the mines, the Illustrated History (1903) said, “Superintendent Fred A. Davis, from whom these data were obtained, informs us that all indications point toward the existence of an immense body of ore of average grade, with numerous high grade shoots and stringers. The values are in copper and gold, and the absence of zinc is an encouraging circumstances.”

However, that optimism, if that’s what it was (mine owners and operators commonly gave glowing reports to encourage investors), was misplaced. These mines never produced significant quantities of either gold or copper. (Like Cuprum, Copperville now consists of a scattering of homes, without even as much as a convenience store or filling station.)

The superintendent moved on with the rest. Fred A. Davis appears in newspaper reports of mining ventures and investments ranging from eastern Washington into western Montana. Thus, the Spokesman Review (Spokane) of July 18, 1936 reported that Fred A. Davis had sold his entire block of stock in the American Western Mines company. The paper said, “Davis was formerly president of the company.”

Two years later, the Spokane Chronicle (January 22, 1938) reported that a “Fred Davis” had purchased some claims he had worked ten years earlier under a lease arrangement. A year after that, a state of Washington circular noted that Fred A. Davis was the principal owner of the “King Solomon Mine,” near Okanogan.
References: [Brit], [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951). 
“Directory of Washington Mines 1939,” Information Circular No. 2, Washington State Division of Mines and Mining, Olympia (1939). 
“Site Report - Seven Devils,” Reference Series No. 116, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).