Copper King: Marcus Daly Left Mixed Legacy in Western Montana
The history of Montana is a rich one. Both figuratively and literally. With some colorful characters helping shape the history of the state, one of the most influential was Marcus Daly.
Born in Ireland in 1841, Daly arrived in New York as a boy and sold newspapers as he worked his way to California where he would seek fortune in the gold rush.
From there he would work in Nevada and Utah, all the while being mentored by those that would help shape him into a savvy businessman, as well as an expert in his field that would result in not only his later wealth, but his knowledge would make others very wealthy along the way.
Daly arrived in Butte, Montana in the late summer of 1876 and took a job as the Superintendent and part share holder for the Alice Silver Mine. During this time, Daly noticed massive deposits of Copper while underground.
He suggested to his employers that they should purchase the mine in Anaconda and when they passed, Daly sold his shares in the Alice and bought the Anaconda mine for himself. This would prove to be a life changing decision for not only Marcus Daly, but for thousands of Montanans for years to come.
Once the Anaconda Mine was purchased, Daly needed financial backing which he found in the form of those he had helped make wealthy prior to arriving in Montana. With the money secured, Daly went forth with his plan, not to mine silver, but to mine copper.
As mentioned, Daly knew the mines around Butte were filled with Copper, so as the silver mining industry started to dry up, he closed his mines. Daly then purchased surrounding mines and put his plan in motion. He would re-open his old mines, plus the ones he recently purchased as copper mines.
Money started to pour in which resulted in Daly building and owning not only mines, but smelter plants and railroads employing hundreds of people and helping make Butte one of the biggest cities in the West at the time.
Daly sold his company in 1899 for 39 million dollars or about 1.2 billion today. He died the next year at the age of 58.
Of course, as the years went by, the damage and contamination from the mining boom in Western Montana would take a toll on the surrounding lands and waterways, as well as the residents of the area. Multiple spots in the area would make the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list in the early 80s.
The Daly summer home is a big tourist attraction and really a lovely day trip if you've never been. The mansion located in Hamilton, is in the heart of the Bitterroot and is available for tours, weddings, and other social gatherings.