Saturday, December 3, 2016

World Renowned Mining Engineer and Innovator Fred Brown [otd 12/03]

World renowned mining engineer Frederick C. Brown was born December 3, 1867 in London, England. Brown continued a long family tradition of accomplishment in highly technical fields – his father was a naval engineer and a grandfather rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy*. Frederick came to the U. S. in 1883, working first in Dakota Territory. From there, he moved to Leadville, Colorado, where he became known as an outstanding mining engineer.
Poorman mill and tramway, ca 1895. Directory of Owyhee County.

Brown came to Idaho in 1892. He had been tasked to assess copper mining properties in the Seven Devils region, 40-45 miles northwest of McCall. After a brief period as mine superintendent in Mexico, he served as superintendent and general manager of the Poorman Mines near Silver City, Idaho.

In its earliest heyday, the Poorman had been one of the richest properties in the region, but had fallen into disrepute due to mismanagement. Brown served there during a period when, under new management, it began to reclaim its earlier luster.

Brown spent several years after 1897 in New Zealand, where he served as general manager for two gold and silver mines. He also married there, and the couple had two children. Brown soon attained a world-wide reputation as an innovator in the practical business of extracting gold from many kinds of ore bodies. A New Zealand newspaper of the period said, “Few people would dream from his retiring manner and bearing, that Mr. Brown is looked upon today in England and other countries, as one of the leading authorities on ore treatment.”

Brown published regularly in mining journals in this country and overseas. Among other advances, he developed a new form of manganese steel that found considerable use in a wide range of mining applications. In a report to a conference of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, a speaker credited the alloy with enabling major improvements in equipment durability and consequent reductions in cost. That included a four-fold increase in the expected working life of dredge buckets.
Belshazzar Mine.
University of Idaho archives.

Around 1910, Brown and his family returned to Idaho, where they settled along the river south of Boise. In 1918, new ownership of the Belshazzar Mine in the Boise Basin made Brown the Supervisor of a small crew trying to make the mine a paying proposition.

Originally discovered in 1875, the Belshazzar produced good to excellent returns for over thirty years, but the operation shut down in 1909. Brown’s crew finally tapped into a highly productive vein.  The Idaho Statesman reported (June 6, 1919) that, “A handsome shoot of pay ore, more than 500 feet in length and of good stoping width … has been disclosed.”

For the 1927 season, the Belshazzar was the second largest gold producer in the state. (Available records do not show how long Brown continued as Supervisor.) Production ceased in late 1931, but some exploratory work has been performed in more recent years.

Brown continued to live near Boise until his death in November 1931. He is buried there in Morris Hill Cemetery.

* For centuries, large ships – warships in particular – represented perhaps the most complex and innovative technology harnessed for mankind’s use. To some extent, they still do.
References: [Brit], [Hawley]
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
Walter S. McKee, “Manganese-Steel Castings in the Mining Industry,” Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. LIII, published by the Institute, New York (1916).
Victoria Mitchell, “History of the Belshazzar and Mountain Chief Mines, Boise County, Idaho,” Idaho Geological Survey Staff Report 08-3, University of Idaho, Moscow (2008).

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