History of Birch Creek


Birch Creek and surrounding area boasts a unique history. Click for more information: 

Civilian Conservation Corp - 1935

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), designed to provide people with jobs during the depression; while working on projects related to natural resources, such as forestry, soil erosion and flood control. Roosevelt exclaimed that "the enterprise will...conserve our precious natural resources and more important will be the moral and spiritual gains of such work". Men, ages 18 - 25, enlisted in the CCC for 6 months, and received food, clothing, shelter, and an allowance of $30/month, of which, $25 had to be sent directly home to their families. 

Construction of the Birch Creek CCC Camp commenced on April 25, 1935. By May 9, 1935, a company of 200 CCC workers, many from the east coast, were established at "Camp Birch Creek". With the exception of the Bender Center, these men built fifteen facilities at Birch Creek, eight of which are still intact. Under the direction of the US Forest Service, extensive projects were undertaken; including new road construction and reconstruction in the area, camp ground development, fire control, surveying, search and rescue, and the construction of telephone lines. 

In addition, the Birch Creek Camp emphasized educational programs for the resident young men. Classes taught at the camp included bookkeeping, forestry, shorthand, auto mechanics, math, Spanish, English, black smithing, carpentry, song class, road location and surveying and numerous others. The CCC crew remained at Camp Birch Creek until 1941. In 1942, the national Corps was dissolved. The Birch Creek site is presently on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by The University of Montana - Western. 
 

Farlin - 1875

The discovery of gold at Grasshopper Creek near Bannack, as well as the discovery in the drainage near Virginia City and Nevada City got the miners excited and they began prospecting in other areas to find gold. During the search for gold a prospector named J. A. Kline filed the first claim on Birch Creek on July 12, 1864. Kline called it the "O.K. Lode" which produced silver and copper. A few months later on December 11, 1864 O.D. Farlin discovered the Greenwich lode in the Birch Creek area, however, Farlin did not work the Greenwich lode until the late 1870's when he returned to the area with his brother William. It was 1875 when the Farlin brothers began to work the Greenwhich mine as well as a new claim, the Indian Queen Mine. Both mines produced silver and copper. It was at this time that the mining camp of Farlin came into existence. 

The Utah and Northern Railroad laid track to present day Dillon and later to Butte bringing an influx of money seekers to this area. In conjunction with the mining boom (Bannack and Virginia City), the cattle business thrived feeding the hungry miners. A school was built in 1896 at the insistence of Kate E. Van Emon, the first teacher at the mining camp, and this encouraged mine workers to bring their families. 

In 1903 the "Birch Creek Copper and Smelting Co.," owned by Thomas Ellis, Tom Stephens and William Roberts, built a smelter to work the Indian Queen Mine. Smelters are used to separate the economic minerals from the waste rock. Twenty men were initially employed as the Indian Queen Mine developed. After the smelter was built, 12 miners worked inside the mine and the same amount of men processed the ore at the smelter. This number soon rose to 60 men working both the mine and the smelter. A mining camp sprung up next to the smelter to house the workers but quickly blossomed into the town of Farlin, with a population of 500 people. The Birch Creek Copper and Smelting Co. ran the smelter for only a short time, from 1903 to 1904. After the BCC&S Co. pulled out, the smelter changed hands many times and ran off and on until 1923. The smelter's overall production during this time was 22,907 total tons of mined ore. The ore yielded 1,729,404 pounds of copper, 42,219 ounces of silver, and 299 ounces of gold. 

Life during the boom years was good for the residents of Farlin. They had a general store which carried the basic necessities. The owner of the store always greeted his customers with a smile and liked to keep up on the "world news" as well as the gossip of the town. Behind the General store was the butcher shop that always had fresh meat. If the owner of the general store didn't have what his customers wanted, the customers could go to Apex, 4 miles east of Farlin, and send a telegraph to Butte for what they needed. The expected wait for an item was three days. Apex was the main source of communication from Farlin to the outside world because of the telegraph and the Oregon Shortline Railroad that passed right by it. 

The mail was brought by horse from Apex once a week until 1905 when Gertrude Black became the first 'Postmistress' of Farlin. In 1906, the delivery stopped and the residents were responsible for picking up or delivering the mail on their way to or from Apex. 

In the spring of 1906, the three owners of the "Birch Creek Copper and Smelting Co." ran into financial trouble and skipped town with the monthly payroll (around $1400 dollars). Once the miners found out that they weren't going to get payed they promptly made nooses for the owners. The first of the owners who came back to town didn't even have time to hang up his hat. He was promptly taken to the "Hangin' tree" for his deed. Once Ellis, the second partner, found out about his partners hanging, he bought his way back into town. The third partner was never heard from again! 

After the boom years, the demise of Farlin can be attributed to the drop in the production rate of copper and silver, no attractive gold placers like the ones that made the towns of Bannack and Virginia City, and the remoteness of the town in respect to the smelters and markets for the copper and silver which were located in Butte, Glendale, and Anaconda.