Thursday, April 6, 2017

Investor and Mining Millionaire Amasa Campbell [otd 04/06]

Amasa Campbell. Illustrated History.
Mining investor and executive Amasa B. Campbell was born April 6, 1845 in Salem, Ohio, about twenty miles southwest of Youngstown. In 1862, he took a clerk’s job at a firm engaged in grain and wool commission trading. After five years there, he worked two or three years in the west for the Union Pacific Railway.

During this period, Amasa developed an interest in Western mining prospects. For over a decade after 1871, he followed the industry in Utah, Colorado and Idaho. Biographers most often associated his name with activities in Utah, although no specific properties were identified.

It appears that his efforts provided him a solid hands-on knowledge of the business, but generated no substantial income. Accounts strongly suggest that Amasa decided – correctly – that the real money flowed to those on the investment and development side of the mining business.

He therefore returned east in 1882, and took up financial activities in Youngstown. Over the course of about five years, Campbell studied and learned the ins-and-outs of the investment business while cultivating a circle of potential investors. During this period he and another Youngstown businessman, John A. Finch, led the formation of a syndicate of capitalists who were ready to purchase and operate likely mining properties.

With that foundation, Campbell and Finch relocated to North Idaho in 1887 and began investing in the Coeur d'Alene mining district. They started with the Gem mine, located about four miles northeast of Wallace. The partners also developed the Standard Mine, further up the canyon and, in 1891, organized the Hecla Mining Company, which is still in operation today.
Gem, Idaho mine, 1899. University of Idaho Special Collections.

After marrying a Youngstown lady in 1890, Amasa established a home in Wallace. From there, he could oversee his investments in the region and search for other promising ventures. Thus, in 1893, the partners invested successfully in Slocan District mines in southeastern British Columbia.

Amasa’s wife Grace delivered their only child, a daughter, in May 1892. Not long after that, striking union miners fired on replacement workers at the Frisco Mine [blog, July 11], about a half mile from the Gem. Perhaps influenced by growing union discontent, Amasa moved his family to Spokane in 1898. Finch apparently moved there about the same time.

Amasa remained heavily involved in his Idaho properties and was such a fixture there that the governor offered him a position on the University of Idaho Board of Regents. Campbell declined, fearing he could not give that job the attention it deserved.

Campbell owned mines in British Columbia, timber tracts in western Washington, and shares of many businesses in  Spokane. And his Idaho interests were not confined to the Coeur d’Alene lead-silver districts. The Idaho Statesman quoted (January 22, 1902) the Grangeville Free Press, which said the Finch & Campbell gold mine located about forty miles southeast of Grangeville “is remarkable for the ore tonnage that has been exposed.”

When a railroad began an extension toward Salmon, in Lemhi County, it attracted much attention from mining interest. The Statesman noted (July 15, 1909) that “Among these are Finch & Campbell, the well-known Coeur d’Alene operators.”

The Spokane mansion he had built in 1898 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is now a museum open to the public. Campbell died in February 1912.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
Hugh W. Johnston, "Amasa B. Campbell Papers, 1905-1922," Archives Manuscript 38, Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane (1987).
Nelson Wayne Durham, History of the City of Spokane and Spokane County Washington, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago (1912).

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